Public Citizen Suing On Behalf Of Customers Whose Credit Was Ruined By KlearGear's $3,500 'Bad Review' Fee
from the how's-that-plan-to-eliminate-negative-reviews-working-out-now? dept
KlearGear’s decision to charge a customer $3,500 for writing a negative review has finally paid off for the company. Whoever was in charge of inserting a non-disparagement clause into the site’s Terms of Sale back in June of 2012 set in motion the worst of all possible scenarios.
KlearGear’s reputation is now thoroughly destroyed. Its social media presence has been shuttered. The search results for KlearGear are unflattering, to say the least. The BBB has yanked Kleargear’s rating and opened an investigation into its tactics. Its supposed Truste validation is nothing more than a “sticker” applied to the site without the approval of the validation company. As Ken White at Popehat puts it, KlearGear is reaping the whirlwind.
The company was doing $40+ million in sales per year, if this Inc. profile is to be believed. Without reservation, I can say sales have dropped off appreciably in the wake of its stupidity being exposed.
KlearGear has become even more uncommunicative than it was back in 2010, when it decided to wreck a former customer’s credit in return for her negative review. Even back then, even before the non-disparagement clause, it was in the wrong. Jen Palmer’s (the customer who wrote the review) order never showed up and as she states, it was “impossible” to get ahold of a human being to get this fixed.
The costs of this self-made whirlwind continue to mount. Public Citizen is now suing KlearGear on the Palmers’ behalf, seeking monetary damages for the havoc wreaked on the former customers’ credit by the company’s moronic attempt to extract $3,500 from its detractors.
Public Citizen is representing Jen and John Palmer in seeking redress from KlearGear. Today, we sent this demand letter seeking three actions from KlearGear: first, clearing up John’s credit; second, paying $75,000 in compensation for the Palmers’ ordeal, which has lasted more than a year; and third, agreeing to stop using this non-disparagement clause to extort money from their customers.
As Public Citizen’s blog post points out, efforts to shut down negative reviews are far from rare, even though nearly every incident only garners these censorious entities more negative press.
KlearGear’s conduct is part of a troubling trend of businesses trying to deter negative reviews by muzzling their customers. Another example is Public Citizen’s case against a New York dentist who tried to make her patients agree, as a condition of treatment, that they would not criticize her. And TechDirt has reported about the use of such a clause in vacation rental agreements.
While a settlement would probably be preferable, it would be interesting to see this run through a trial. For one thing, it would uncover who actually runs KlearGear, something that has been carefully obscured.
Kleargear identifies itself as a division of both Chenal Brands Inc., and Havaco Direct Inc., both business entities based in San Antonio, Tex. The website itself is registered through Domains By Proxy, a GoDaddy.com site that sells private domain hosting and administrative services.
Furthermore, it would possibly shed some light on its decision to drop this catastrophic non-disparagement clause into its Terms of Sale back in 2012. That question certainly deserves an answer, considering all possible outcomes of enforcing the clause are completely negative.
Other companies, who are considering ways to curtail negative reviews, would do well to view this as a cautionary tale. If you’re fielding a lot of negative complaints, the issue is very likely with your own company, not the customers airing their grievances on the internet. Fix those problems and save your company. Any attempts to “fix” the complaints will only hurt you more.