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New California Law Allows Consumers to Write Negative Reviews without Fear
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New California Law Allows Consumers to Write Negative Reviews without Fear

Summary: Governor Jerry Brown has signed new legislation that prohibits restaurants from fining or taking legal action against customers who leave negative reviews online.

Channel3000 reports that a new law has been established in California that allows users to post honest reviews of restaurants on Yelp without fear of retaliation from the website. Governor Jerry Brown signed the law this week, which will prevent restaurants from pursuing legal action against customers who give them negative reviews online. The legislation appears to be the first to offer such protections to consumers.


The legislation specifically addresses “disparagement clauses,” which have been included in businesses’ terms of service. These provisions prohibit customers from posting negative comments about the business.

Now, any business that includes such a clause will be fined $2,500 the first time the business attempts to enforce it and $5,000 for each additional attempt. Further, an additional $10,000 will be added if it is determined that the action is “willful, intentional or reckless.”

Many consumers have been shocked as restaurants have punished customers for negative reviews. They argue the reviews are speech that is part of their First Amendment rights. Union Street Guest House in Hudson, New York, attempted to fine wedding parties $500 last month for each negative review written online by anyone in their wedding party. Angered, hundreds of people complained about the restaurant on Yelp in mostly fake reviews.

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Yelp stated, “Trying to prevent your customers from talking about their experiences is bad policy, and, in this case, likely unenforceable anyway.”

A French blogger was recently fined the equivalent of $3,200 after his negative review of a restaurant began appearing repeatedly in Google searches of the restaurant.

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