Jun 28, 2016 5:11 PM
“The consumer wants to have confidence that when they review these sites, what they’re getting is honest feedback.” - Jim Steiner, Attorney
With technology at our fingertips, chances are you rely on customer reviews—the good and the bad—to help to you decide what to buy or who to hire. One New Hampshire woman says she was scared into silence by a contractor she says took her money but didn’t do the job.
Turns out, the woman signed a contract, which—in the fine print at the bottom—states that she can’t say or post anything negative about her experience–even if she’s telling the truth.
If this non-disparagement clause sounds familiar—like you’ve seen it on TV recently—it may be because Donald Trump used it with at least one of his campaign workers. Here's a clip from a CNN story:
Jeanne Moos/CNN: “Some have speculated that Corey Lewandowski couldn’t say anything bad because…..”
Lewandowski: It’s been an honor and a privilege.
Trump: “I think Corey is terrific…”
Lewandowski: “I am so thankful for this chance….”
Jeanne Moos/CNN: “Because he signed this confidentiality agreement with a no-disparagement clause, you hereby promise and agree not to demean or disparage publicly the company, Mr. Trump, any Trump company.”
Afraid of being sued, the New Hampshire woman called us hoping to find a way to warn others who may be looking for a contractor do home renovations. We went through the contract with our legal expert Jim Steiner. While you may think this woman is protected by the First Amendment, Steiner says this unscrupulous person’s right to free speech would likely cost her a lengthy legal battle.
“This kind of clause might be deemed enforceable because it has at least been written to go both ways between a customer and the contractor,” says Attorney Jim Steiner.
Fair or not, these contracts can stand up in court.
“Both of us agree to this so there’s valid consideration, so when you contract away your right to say negative things about me, I have contracted away my right to say negative things about you,” says Steiner.
And even in the right, this woman could still be a lawsuit target.
“Could that person sue her for defamation? The answer is yes. Unfortunately, after months and months, could she be found not to be liable because what she said was substantially true? That answer is yes, but nobody wants to go through either hiring a lawyer or trying on their own to prove the truth,” says Steiner.
That’s why we’re not identifying the woman.
We are sharing what we can because this no-negative review clause is a serious issue.
So serious, that the United States Senate recently passed Senate Bill 2044 – The Consumer Review Freedom Act – that would make those clauses illegal if they muzzle fair comment.
“It would free consumers to make honest reports on an Angie’s List, other kinds of filtering reporting service, free from any potential liability,” says Steiner.
It went to the House in December 2015. That’s where it remains tonight. The House introduced a bill with the same purpose in April. While lawmakers hash this out, Steiner says consumer review sites should do more to educate people on businesses that have—and enforce—these clauses that stifle negative customer reviews.
“Maybe the filtering company – like an Angie’s List – ought to indicate that we will not allow vendors who require these non-disparagement clauses in their contracts to be included,” says Steiner.
I contacted Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor, Amazon, Yelp and the Better Business Bureau to find out what their policies are on hosting reviews for businesses who operate this way.
If you’ve had a negative experience with a contractor—or any business—and you want it made public, Steiner says you can file a lawsuit.
“When you initiate a lawsuit against a defendant in court, you have an immunity for being sued for defamation. As long as what… it’s assumed what you’re saying is truthful. Substantial truth will win out over the clause,” says Steiner.
We will continue to follow this story for you. We also want to hear what you think about the non-disparagement clause. Take the poll on NH1.com. Also, send me an email me or send me a message on Facebook or Twitter to keep this important conversation going.
14 hours 40 minutes agoThe three officers present in the conference said they have never saved a life before, nor have they been forced to use an AED...
23 hours 21 minutes agoSpring may be upon us in the Granite State, but the weather still has some snow in store. (More)
16 hours 10 minutes agoPresident Donald Trump announced that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will take on a leading advisory role on a soon to be formed commission...
Mar 28, 2017 4:45 PMNew numbers from NH Secretary of State’s office indicate that 458 people who voted here on Election Day may have possibility committed voter fraud....
21 hours 9 minutes agoA man lived to see another day, and it's all thanks to a few officers at the Manchester Police Department. (More)
19 hours 9 minutes agoA Barrington man died after his car crossed over the center line, striking an oncoming vehicle on Route 16. (More)
22 hours 10 minutes agoThe masked man allegedly went behind the counter, stuffed an undetermined amount of cash into a paper McDonald's bag and pushed the employee to...
Mar 28, 2017 4:37 PMNeighbors who live near the scene of a homicide in Manchester say they're 'unnerved' that something that serious happened so close to home. (More)
Mar 28, 2017 7:29 AMA Massachusetts woman who pleaded guilty in the fentanyl overdose death of a 17-year-old girl at a New Hampshire motel is scheduled to be...
Mar 27, 2017 2:38 PMA Manchester woman allegedly threatened to poop on an officer's leg following a domestic assault incident. (More)
Mar 27, 2017 11:58 AMSupporters of convicted murderer Pam Smart launched a Twitterstorm to support her release after she coerced her teenage lover into killing her husband. (More)
Mar 28, 2017 2:48 PMThe New Hampshire Attorney General announced an ongoing investigation into the untimely death of an adult man. (More)
Mar 28, 2017 9:23 AMThe Manchester Police Department was on scene of an 'untimely death' Tuesday morning. (More)
Mar 27, 2017 10:20 PMA Florida woman was charged after crossing the yellow line and colliding with another vehicle head-on in Rochester. (More)
Mar 27, 2017 1:02 PMThe Manchester Police Department awarded a man - who recently evicted the tenants from his Derry home following a shooting - officer of the...
Mar 27, 2017 10:34 AMA local carpentry company was slapped with a fine earlier this month by OSHA as they investigate a truss collapse that occurred last year...
Mar 27, 2017 9:55 PMA snowmobiler was found dead on a trail Monday from an apparent collision with a tree after failing to return home Sunday night. (More)
Mar 26, 2017 9:35 PMPolice said a sex offender kicked down a door and then assaulted a man. He is charged with burglary, simple assault and possession of...
Mar 27, 2017 9:00 AMThe advisory warns of mixed snow, sleet, freezing rain for central and northern areas today. A brief period of freezing rain will occur closer...
Mar 25, 2017 7:52 PMA South Carolina man who wrapped electrical tape around a dog's muzzle to stop her from barking has been sentenced to five years in...
Mar 26, 2017 5:59 PMOfficials transported a young child to a local hospital with minor injuries after they allegedly ran into a moving car. (More)
Mar 26, 2017 10:40 AMA Hooksett man faces charges after he allegedly pushed his girlfriend twice and choked her, impeding her breathing. (More)
Mar 26, 2017 12:29 PMChichester Fire and Rescue extinguished a heavy kitchen fire, leading to the death of household pets. (More)
Mar 26, 2017 11:43 AMPolice allegedly found crack cocaine and heroin on a man wanted on an arrest warrant. (More)
Mar 25, 2017 9:34 AMA Tilton felon is facing drug and gun charges after police allegedly saw him slumped over the wheel of his car Saturday around 1...
Mar 24, 2017 5:19 PMWhile executing a search warrant, police seized what is believed to be psilocybin mushrooms, marijuana, and butane honey oil. (More)
Mar 25, 2017 4:30 PMPolice arrested a woman after she left her 2-year-old in her running vehicle while she shopped at Target Saturday. (More)
Mar 25, 2017 2:54 PMThe newly appointed deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee says the Democratic party can't spend all of its energy focusing on Republican President...
Mar 24, 2017 9:33 AMNew Hampshire State Police arrested to wanted fugitives after stopping a van full of people who entered the United States illegally. (More)
Mar 24, 2017 3:59 PMTwo influential members of New Hampshire’s state Senate predict that a bill to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana possession will pass their chamber. (More)
Mar 24, 2017 3:51 PMSnow fell faster than expected today, accumulating a few inches in parts of central and northern New Hampshire through late-afternoon. (More)
Mar 24, 2017 12:39 PMA woman is facing drug charges after being found in possession of heroin during a parole check-in. She was arrested for possession of a...
Mar 23, 2017 4:16 PMState Police rearrested a Wales man for stealing electricity from a Central Maine Power pole and transformer. (More)
Mar 23, 2017 4:59 PMA Stafford County corrections officer allegedly tried bringing thousands of dollars of drugs into the jail was supposed to get deployed. (More)
Mar 24, 2017 11:09 AMIt's the first Friday of spring, but Granite Staters will have some snow to deal with. (More)
Mar 24, 2017 9:02 AMThe effort to crack down on drug-related crimes - known NH-wide as Operation Granite Hammer - led to the arrests of 2 suspected heroin...
Mar 23, 2017 3:02 PMA Keene man was indicted for allegedly strangling two of his then-girlfriend's cats. (More)
Mar 23, 2017 1:28 PMDemocrats filed a complaint with the ethics committee arguing Sununu violated rules against using his position to secure advantages for himself or others. (More)
Mar 22, 2017 5:27 PMNicole Guida, owner of Chic & Unique, a boutique shop located in Littleton, is requesting a jury trial against a former customer who caused...
Mar 22, 2017 6:02 PMA Strafford County corrections officer allegedly attempted to bring heroin into the jail before being detained by police. (More)
Mar 22, 2017 11:01 AMChelsea Blais plead not guilty to abusing children in her care at the Alpha Bits Learning Center, where police say she force fed and...
Mar 22, 2017 10:15 AMNYPD seized over $4.1 million and over three kilograms (6 pounds) of heroin, unraveling a multi-state drug ring — involving New England. (More)
Mar 22, 2017 4:06 PMNew Hampshire is often in the 'weather battle zone' this time of year, which isn't a good thing if you are looking for spring...
Mar 22, 2017 10:45 AMNew Hampshire’s top public officials Wednesday marked the death of state Sen. Scott McGilvray. The first term Democratic state senator from Hooksett and president...
Mar 22, 2017 7:33 AMThe National Weather Service has issued a wind advisory from 10 a.m. Wednesday to midnight. (More)
Mar 21, 2017 10:29 PMA report released on Tuesday by the state agency that licenses childcare centers revealed multiple incidents of verbal and physical abuse committed by a...
Mar 21, 2017 6:40 PMA mother and her friend who injected her with heroin while she was in labor in September 2016 will not be facing felony charges...
Mar 21, 2017 4:09 PMA 74-year-old Mass. man living in public housing for the elderly faces drug trafficking charges after police say they found cocaine valued at about...
Mar 21, 2017 12:09 PMDerry Police say a home was shot at and struck at least 6 times early Tuesday morning, but no one was hurt. (More)