Online Appliance Shop Makes Customers Sign Agreement Threatening Criminal Libel Suits For Negative Reviews
from the that's-called-lying dept
We’ve seen all sorts of retailers and service providers trying to cope with the fact that anyone can post reviews of their service online. In fact, we’ve seen doctors try to use contracts that assign the copyright (ahead of time) of any review over to those doctors, so they can issue a DMCA takedown on any review they don’t like. Apparently, some others are simply making up laws. The NY Times covers how an online appliance retailer called Full House Appliances, has not only added a long, and legally questionable, terms of service to anyone who makes a purchase, but it also threatens those who make a negative review with felony libel charges.
Of course, as the article notes, these terms of service are all bark and no bite. Washington state, where the retailer is located, does not recognize libel as a criminal issue, so there is no “felony libel” there, despite the claims to the contrary. Furthermore, just because you agree to a terms of service like that, it still doesn’t make a negative review libel unless there’s actually libelous statements in the review.
The guy who runs the site (who wouldn’t give his real name to the reporter) doesn’t seem to care. He’s just trying to scare off anyone who writes a negative review. Of course, all that should really do is scare off anyone from bothering to order from him. If someone presents you with a terms of service that threaten you with criminal charges for writing a negative review, it seems that would be a pretty clear sign that it’s time to find a different retailer. Those terms seem like a bigger negative review than anything else out there. Of course, I’m also wondering if he’s violating the law himself in threatening people with criminal charges based on absolutely nothing…