Everything You Need to Know About Consumer Reviews

August 09, 2017

Last week, a Texas couple was ordered by a judge to pay $1 million to a wedding photographer for spreading negative reviews about her business. That might sound unreasonable, but the couple did a lot more than posting a single online review. According to the lawsuit, Andrew and Neely Moldovan were upset that their wedding photographer, Andrea Polito, was charging them additional fees for photo packages. However, the photographer showed the court that the couple was well aware of her prices upfront and had the email correspondences and contracts to back it up. Polito took the Moldovans to court after the two contacted a local news station to slam the business and enlisted friends and family to cover her web pages with negative reviews. The Moldovans all but ruined Polito’s business after the stream of negative press coverage and Polito was forced to shut down her business. She drained her savings and retirement for two years before winning her court battle against the couple.

Customer reviews are helpful for both businesses and consumers. However, BBB warns that there are a number of factors to take into consideration before submitting an online review. Businesses also need to know what their rights are when it comes to dealing with customer reviews.


What Consumers Should Know About Customer Reviews:

As a consumer, it is your right to post positive or negative reviews about a business. The Consumer Review Fairness Act (CRFA) was passed in 2016 to  protect people’s ability to share their honest opinions about a business’s products, services, or conduct, in any forum, including social media. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website, the Act was passed “in response to reports that some businesses try to prevent people from giving honest reviews about products or services they received. Some companies put contract provisions in place, including in their online terms and conditions, that allowed them to sue or penalize consumers for posting negative reviews.

The law protects a broad variety of honest consumer assessments, including online reviews, social media posts, uploaded photos, videos, etc. And it doesn’t just cover product reviews. It also applies to consumer evaluations of a company’s customer service.”


What Businesses Should Know About Customer Reviews:

“The Consumer Review Fairness Act makes it illegal for companies to include standardized provisions that threaten or penalize people for posting honest reviews. For example, in an online transaction, it would be illegal for a company to include a provision in its terms and conditions that prohibits or punishes negative reviews by customers. (The law doesn’t apply to employment contracts or agreements with independent contractors, however.)”


What can a business do to protect itself from Inappropriate or Inaccurate Content? The law says that it’s ok to remove a review that:

  1. contains confidential or private information – for example, a person’s financial, medical, or personnel file information or a company’s trade secrets;
  2. is libelous, harassing, abusive, obscene, vulgar, sexually explicit, or is inappropriate with respect to race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, or other intrinsic characteristic;
  3. is unrelated to the company’s products or services; or
  4. is clearly false or misleading.


However, it’s unlikely that a consumer’s assessment or opinion with which you disagree meets the “clearly false or misleading” standard.

The internet is a great a platform for businesses to directly interact with their customers and for letting consumers share their marketplace experiences with each other. For consumers, the best policy for posting reviews is to Start With Trust and leave honest and truthful statements about marketplace transactions. For businesses, let people speak honestly about your products and their experience with your company while being aware of your rights as a business.

For more information on customer reviews and the Consumer Review Fairness Act, visit the FTC website here.


ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2016, people turned to BBB more than 167 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org.. Incorporated locally in 1954, BBB Serving Central & South Alabama serves over 4,100 accredited businesses in 50 counties with offices in Birmingham, Mobile and Dothan. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for the local, independent BBBs in the United States, Canada and Mexico, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution, advertising review, and industry self-regulation.