BOSTON (CBS) – Online reviews are a great resource, whether you’re going out to eat or booking a vacation.
Businesses can take a hit from negative reviews, and now some are fighting back with legal challenges.
Karina recently switched photographers for her wedding because she was unhappy with the service she was getting as she planned her event.
“I was just kind of uncomfortable with their lack of responses and their kind of run around,” she said.
Like many consumers today, Karina went online to warn others of her bad experience.
It didn’t take long for her to receive an email from the photographer asking her to remove her post. He pointed out she could face legal action for breach of contract.
Karina didn’t realize her contract contained this clause: “Neither party will disparage the other.”
“I was livid,” said Karina. She didn’t realize this clause existed and felt she was being bullied into silence.
Anja Winikka of theknot.com is seeing more wedding vendors trying to stop couples from speaking out negatively.
These clauses are now used by contractors, plumbers, and dentists to name a few examples.
Some online merchants are making “Non-Disparagement Clauses” part of their transactions.
The stakes are high for businesses as they try to protect their online reputations.
A Harvard Business School study found an increase of one star in a Yelp review could increase a restaurant’s sales by 5 -to-10 percent.
Attorney Noah Davis is alarmed by the growing use of these clauses, and isn’t sure how the courts will interpret them.
“Don’t sign those agreements if they don’t allow you to take those clauses out of the contract,” advised Davis.
Karina removed her online review to avoid legal headaches, but she worries this trend will result in consumers not getting fair warnings.
“It’s a huge game changer if you really can’t speak freely about your experiences with some of these businesses and vendors.”
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