Rep. Darrell Issa at a House meeting. Photo courtesy Issa's office
Rep. Darrell Issa at a House meeting. Photo courtesy Issa’s office

Rep. Darrell Issa and a bipartisan group of Congressmen from California and Texas reintroduced a bill Wednesday that would make it illegal for businesses to penalize customers who write negative reviews on sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor.

Issa, a Republican who represents north coastal San Diego, fellow Republican Blake Farenthold from Texas and Democrats Brad Sherman and Eric Swalwell from Los Angeles and the Bay Area reintroduced the Consumer Review Freedom Act.

Issa said the bill was motivated by several examples of companies attempting to dissuade people from writing honest reviews by slipping non-disparagement clauses into their consumer contracts. The legislation would declare such non-disparagement clauses in consumer contracts unenforceable.

“The Internet is a critical economic engine, increasingly used for all types of commerce and communication, including for consumer reviews. Some organizations have sought to stifle customers’ abilities to express their opinions online by threatening punitive action if a customer leaves a negative review,” Issa said.

“The mere threat of monetary penalties or fines for writing honest reviews would chill the free exchange of opinions we expect to find on the Internet. The Consumer Review Freedom Act would put a stop to these outrageous attempts to silence free speech online.”

Supporters of the bill include Public Participation Project, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, National Consumer Law Center, Consumer Federation of America and Public Citizen.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.