Bill to ban terms of service that say you're not allowed to complain

Introduced by Eric Swalwell (D-CA), the draft Consumer Review Freedom Act bans the "un-American" practice of making people agree not to complain as a condition of using websites.

It follows such high-profile abuses of these clauses as the Kleargear debacle, where a complained online after not receiving their order, and the company made good on its terms-of-service threat to fine them for "online disparagement," then putting a black mark on the couple's credit record for not paying it, which led to them being denied a mortgage.

Other notorious cases include the Union House hotel, where couples must pay $500 for each negative review posted by their wedding guests; and Roca Labs, who are suing for operating a forum in which Roca's dissatisfied customers have complained about Roca's snake-oil "supplements," on the theory that since all those customers are contractually prohibited from complaining about their purchases, websites that allow such complaint are engaged in "tortious interference."

California's recent "Yelp Bill" is similar in structure to this one.

As is always the case in stories like this, I'll remind you of my tried-and-true "reasonable agreement" sigfile, which I invite you to use in your own communications:

READ CAREFULLY. By reading this email, you agree, on behalf of your employer, to release me from all obligations and waivers arising from any and all NON-NEGOTIATED agreements, licenses, terms-of-service, shrinkwrap, clickwrap, browsewrap, confidentiality, non-disclosure, non-compete and acceptable use policies ("BOGUS AGREEMENTS") that I have entered into with your employer, its partners, licensors, agents and assigns, in perpetuity, without prejudice to my ongoing rights and privileges. You further represent that you have the authority to release me from any BOGUS AGREEMENTS on behalf of your employer.

Congress's Fight for Your Right to Yelp [Laura Ryan/National Journal]

(via Ars Technica)

(Image: Gay pride _ Gagged, David Rosen, CC-BY)