California governor Jerry Brown signed the so called Yelp Bill yesterday, which effectively puts an end to non-disparagement clauses; i.e., clauses that prohibit customers from writing negative reviews.
It turns out, some businesses have resorted to special verbiage in consumer contracts — often the kind of fine-print terms of service that no one reads — prohibiting negative reviews. These clauses were used by some businesses to basically intimidate customers from writing reviews, which is how I imagine Joseph Stalin would do reputation management.
The new law follows a trend nation-wide of anti-SLAPP statutes that penalize businesses for using the threat of legal action to stifle reviews. California businesses found to be in violation face civil penalties of up to $2,500, so the legality of intimidating consumers from writing reviews is quickly coming to an end.
And, though their motives may be more self-serving than a love free expression, Yelp deserves credit for doing their part in this crusade.
But, what’s most interesting to me is the idea that transparency can or should be avoided. It can’t and shouldn’t.