Utah couple hit with $3,500 fine for leaving negative online company review
John Palmer told CNN that in 2008 he cancelled a gift order meant for his wife Jen because it was never delivered. Frustrated by the customer service, or lack thereof, the Palmers explained their situation in a post on Ripoff Review, a complaint site where dejected customers warn others to stay away from certain companies.
In response, Klear Gear contacted the Palmers earlier this year and warned them to remove the review, claiming it violated a company “non-disparagement clause,” or else face a stiff fine. Jen Palmer’s review reads in part “there is absolutely no way to get in touch with a physical human being,” also noting “horrible customer service practices.”
“In an effort to ensure fair and honest public feedback, and to prevent the publishing of libelous content in any form, your acceptance of this sales contract prohibits you from taking any action that negatively impacts KlearGear.com, its reputation, products, services, management or employees.”
“This is fraud,” Jen Palmer told KUTV.com. “They’re blackmailing us for telling the truth. I have the right to tell somebody else these guys ripped me off.”
“It was bad enough that when we went to get a second car, it took them a month to find a bank that was willing to finance us, because of the huge ding that this puts on our credit,” she told WDAM.com.
“As of November 28, 2012, the BBB became aware that the company’s website is displaying a BBB Accredited Business logo and BBB Rating A+,” it reads. “However the company is not an accredited BBB business and the BBB rating is not A+.”
“The First Amendment does not protect certain kinds of free speech and you can sign a contract giving away your free speech rights if it’s a fair contract,” legal analyst Paul Callan told CNN. “This contract is not fair and frankly it would be thrown out by any court.”
Hidden in the fine print in Klear Gear’s terms of sale conditions is a statement that reads:
It goes on to warn customers they have 72 hours to remove any such material or the company will levy a $3,500 fine. If that fine is not paid, the sale terms indicate, Klear Gear will report the failure to the necessary credit card companies.
The couple did try to have their post removed from Ripoff Review but that site demands a $2,000 to review removal fee, according to Yahoo News.
Klear Gear then carried out on its threat and notified the Palmer’s credit company that their action constituted a “failure to pay,” which in turn have hurt their credit rating. Mrs. Palmer now says they are denied offers for which they certainly would have been accepted if not for the discrepancy.
Along with taking heat on social media, Klear Gear has also been put on notice by the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Klear Gear is accused of claiming to have been given an A+ rating, something a statement on the BBB website indicates is untrue.
Much like that BB assertion, experts think it unlikely that the $3,500 penalty designated to the Palmers will stand.