Fashion Law: Online Retailer Tried To Silence Its Customer’s Speech
In our column on Fashion Law today, we are discussing the legal consequences when a shopper is not happy with a retailer’s services or goods, and the retailer retaliates against that unhappy shopper. It begs the question, whatever happened to the motto, “The customer is always right?”
Kleargear.com, a company that sells products catered to “geek enthusiasts” such as programmers, IT professionals and gamers, is being sued by a Utah couple after the online retailer fined the couple $3,500 for a negative online review the wife posted. The couple decided to pursue proceedings against the company three years later after the unpaid fine dinged their credit score.
Back in 2008 the husband had purchased items for his wife through the online retailer. Becoming skeptical after the products never arrived at their home, Pay Pal then cancelled the transaction 30 days later. After repeatedly trying to call the company to seek answers as to why their purchased items were not delivered and after continually being ignored, the couple decided to turn to the web posting a review of the Kleargear company on RipOffReport.com, a site dedicated to complaints by dejected customers as a means to warn other consumers. The couple accused Kleargear.com of “horrible customer service practices.”
In May 2012, more than three years later, the husband received an email from the company demanding the review to be deleted within 72 hours or risk having to pay a fine of $3,500. The email further cited the company’s terms of sale, indicating a non-disparagement clause that prohibits such reviews from unsatisfied customers that can negatively impact the company. According to TechDirt, the clause read, “If the content remains, in whole or in part, you will immediately be billed $3,500 for legal fees and court costs until such complete costs are determined in litigation.”
The lawsuit claims the clause was not included in the terms of sale when the couple’s order was placed and is seeking approximately $75,000 in damages attributed to emotional distress and a violation against the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, a law that regulates the collections, dissemination and use of consumer information to include credit information.
Do you think that customers have the right to speak their mind about customer service in such capacity, provided its the truth or their genuinely held opinion?