It doesn’t matter what type of business you’re in, your company is increasingly likely to be affected by online reviews. Consumer ratings are everywhere.

For businesses that enjoy the positive reputation that many happy customers create, the growing prominence of online reviews is a good thing. However, for companies that have some very vocal and unhappy former customers, online reviews can put them on the defensive, and sometimes even push them to seek retaliation.

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While that’s not an especially prudent response in the first place, Congress has now passed a law making it illegal for businesses to retaliate against customers who leave negative reviews.


Prevent Retaliation Against Unhappy Customers
The Consumer Review Fairness Act was recently passed with bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate. The act was introduced in 2014 and was signed into law by President Obama this past December.

The Consumer Review Fairness Act makes it illegal to prohibit or restrict customers from posting or publishing reviews on a product, service, or experience with a company.

The act also makes it illegal to impose fees or penalties on customers for posting reviews online or requiring that customers surrender any intellectual property rights in the process of leaving a review. The consumer protection granted under the law also applies to offline reviews, such as those published in print.

Protecting Individual Consumer Rights
A number of companies have filed defamation suits and sought retaliation against individuals who have left negative reviews.

This legislation would make it much harder for companies to pursue such suits and other actions against online reviewers, which legislators like Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii think is an important part of protecting the rights of consumers.

“Every consumer has the right to share their honest experiences and opinions of any business without fear of legal retaliation, and the passage of our bill brings us one step closer to protecting that right.” said Sen. Schatz.

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A Wake Up Call For A Bad Reputation?
If you’re concerned with how this type of legislation might affect your business and the way you respond to negative reviews, it could be a sign to reflect on the type of online reputation you wish to foster.

If you are worried about what customers say and how you can stop them from saying negative things, it may be time to examine certain aspects of your business, including the reputation marketing efforts you have in place.

The prevalence of honest online reviews is a good thing for businesses with happy customers, and the more web users trust online reviews, the more powerful marketing asset they can be.

Rather than trying to fight negative reviews, perhaps businesses and consumers will benefit from improvements that inspire more positive feedback.

If companies can’t beat the online reviewers, maybe it’s time to start embracing them and aiming higher to win over more customers.

Do you agree or disagree?

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