Federal Statute Barring Non-disparagement Clauses Is Enacted

by Paul Alan Levy

An announcement from the White House today listed the Consumer Review Fairness Act as one of several bills that President Obama signed into law yesterday.   Here is my public statement on the development.

And today I learned of a significant development: DC United is breaking with the forces at the headquarters of Major League Soccer which, I have been hearing, was the reason why the team put out language in a new form contract for season ticket holders. That document, read literally, would have forced fans to agree not to describe games or post photos or short video clips of games. As I explained last week, although the Consumer Review bill was designed to get at non-disparagement clauses, the language is broader and forbids any form contractual limits on consumers posting a “written . . . or pictorial review, performance assessment of, or other similar analysis of. . .  the goods, services, or conduct of a person . . ..” I have yet to see DC United's new language, but from what I have been told by the team there is reason to be optimistic.  It will be now up to soccer fans in other cities to press for changes — and fans of other sports, because language like this has been cropping up in teams in the National Football League, National Basketball Association and elsewhere.  It was on the way to becoming industry standard, but can no longer be.

It’s been a long haul for us at Public Citizen, litigating these cases one by one.  Many thanks to Robert Lee for standing up to Stacy Makhnevich, to John and Jen Palmer for taking on Kleargear, and to Robert and Michelle Duchouquette for staring down a lawsuit by Prestigious Pets seeking the deliberately intimidating amount of up to a million dollars in damages.  Eric Goldman and Jason Schultz deserve credit for their web site Doctored Reviews calling attention to a sleazy company whose business model involved charging medical professionals for form contracts barring criticism by patients.  And thanks as well to Yelp which was one of the main forces lobbying for this bill to protect its users — so active on this subject that many people were calling it the "Yelp bill."  Thanks to Eric Swalwell, the original House sponsor (whose tweet this morning provided my original notice of yesterday's signing).

We should no longer have to go state-by-state to litigate these cases.  Attention to Claude and Violane Galland!

0 thoughts on “Federal Statute Barring Non-disparagement Clauses Is Enacted

  1. Matthew Chan says:

    This is good news indeed. I thought that President Obama might sign the bill into law this month. After all, he doesn’t have much time left in office and who knows if President Trump would have signed it.
    It’s unfortunate that there even has to be a law on the matter. I would have thought that people’s freedom to criticize and share opinions on a business interaction is a “universal right” in the U.S. But it is clear there are parties who do not respect that right. Hence, the law is now in effect.
    I would say that the individuals who you named and boldly stood up to their opinion oppressors made a HUGE impact into helping make this law come into effect. That is amazing indeed. They deserve kudos for making a big difference for the rest of the nation.

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