Defamation and libel are things we often ignore when ranting on sites like Yelp, but we should take more caution when leaving online reviews. Today’s tragic story is about an unhappy customer, Jen Palmer, whose credit was ruined when an angry retailer wrongfully billed her for posting a disparaging review. Evidently, it was in violation of their user agreement, which, to be fair, no one ever reads.
The ordeal began serveral Christmas shopping seasons ago when Palmer’s husband purchased a few gifts from Kleargear.com. The gifts never arrived so the Palmers’ orders were automatically cancelled by Paypal.
According to the Palmers, Kleargear was unreachable and had “horrible customer service practices” which included this appalling user agreement clause:
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.
Should you violate this clause, as determined by KlearGear.com in its sole discretion, you will be provided a seventy-two (72) hour opportunity to retract the content in question. If the content remains, in whole or in part, you will immediately be billed $3,500.00 USD for legal fees and court costs until such complete costs are determined in litigation. Should these charges remain unpaid for 30 calendar days from the billing date, your unpaid invoice will be forwarded to our third party collection firm and will be reported to consumer credit reporting agencies until paid.
The Palmers, like most online shoppers would not have read through the user agreement to make a few small gifts. They did, however, decide to warn others about Kleargear by leaving comments on Ripoffreport.com, who refused to remove the injurious comments unless the Palmers gave them $2000.
Since the Palmers did not pay to have the comment removed, Kleargear went on to fine the Palmers $3500 for the negative review. According to the Internet Archive, the questionable defamation clause did not even exist in 2008 when the Palmers made their purchase, making the fine illegitimate. since the story was covered by KUTV in Salt Lake City, Kleargear has since tried to hide their user agreement webpage by redirecting the link to “Bestsellers” page. Shady much?
Let this be our lesson for always reading the user agreement and buying from reputable websites.