How Does the Consumer Review Fairness Act Affect You?

The Consumer Review Fairness Act was signed into law in November 2016 and takes effect this month. It’s Congress’ response to the problems surrounding the growing role of online reviews in business-consumer relations. It’s no longer legal for companies to bind consumers to any type of contract that restricts their right to review their products or services.

get online reviews

This new law will have a broad effect on companies of every size, in many industries. The growth of online review platforms shows that consumers consider reviews important, and that importance is only going to expand with the passing of this federal law.

What Is It?

The Consumer Review Fairness Act specifically prohibits companies from threatening consumers or penalizing them for posting their honest opinion about their experience. It includes protections for a wide variety of platforms, from online reviews to social media updates to posting photos and videos.

The new law gives both the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general enforcement authority. If a business violates the terms of the law, they could face fines or legal action.

Before the passing of the Consumer Review Fairness Act, businesses could include non-disparagement clauses in terms of service agreements, essentially silencing any unhappy customers from speaking out about subpar service. Many consumers affected were unaware that they had agreed to this clause, and were surprised when they were fined or sued.

Businesses Have to Earn Their Five-Star Rating

The passing of the Consumer Review Fairness Act levels the playing field. Instead of issuing gag orders that effectively prevent or eliminate negative reviews about their products or services, those businesses now have to strive to earn a five-star rating just like every other company.

When consumers are allowed to exercise their First Amendment rights and speak clearly and plainly in public forums about their dealings with a business, it effectively holds businesses to a higher standard.

Customers Will Continue to Trust Online Reviews

This new legislation is good for business, especially if you have many happy customers willing to share their thoughts on online review sites. Currently, 84 percent of consumers rely on online reviews as much as personal recommendations. And the trust of online reviews is only going to grow. When customers know the reviews posted about your company are real and honest, they’re going to choose you over the competition with confidence.

You Can Still Protest False Reviews

While this legislation offers many protections for the consumer, it also allows businesses to contest or remove reviews that contain damaging, irrelevant information. For example, if the review contains discriminatory speech, confidential information or obscenities, it can legally be removed. Also, if the review is simply false or completely unrelated to your business’ products or services, it’s acceptable to take it down.

Are you ready to take control of your business’ online reputation? Get information on the Consumer Review Fairness Act and how Accrue Reviews can help prospective customers learn about you through unbiased, honest reviews — call us today.