John and Jen Palmer of Layton had a bad experience with an online retailer named KlearGear.com. His wife wrote a negative review on the consumer review site ripoffreport.com. KlearGear sent them a letter stating their Terms Of Service has a non-disparaging clause that forbids any customer from writing a negative review and informed the couple they owed the company $3500 and sent credit reporting agencies a report of non-payment.
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.
I talked to John Palmer on Facebook and he said I could share some of his remarks and clarify one thing that has been in the news. It has been reported in the news that rippoffReport.com offered to remove the negative review for a $2000. He said that ripoffreport.com does not remove reports for money but will offer mediation services for a fee and will redact any libel or untrue statements, but will never pull a report down.
The Palmers could not afford a lawyer to fight back so they used the best weapon in any arsenal and that is the court of public opinion. They contacted Get Gepheart of KUTV to publicize the story. The story has now gone viral around the country and KlearGear.com has circled the wagons and are clearly in serious trouble. The publicity has brought the story to the attention of pro-bono lawyers that are now defending them.
Mr. Palmer says he has been following the story on the Internet and has watched it quickly evolve into a national story. The story has exploded on social media and is being widely reported in local and national news outlets including tech blogs, Techdirt and Techcrunch. They are now getting request for media interviews including the Today Show which they are in discussions with their producers.
KlearGear.com faces the full wrath of the Streisand Effect which is a phenomenon that occurs when an attempt is made to censor or silence causes wide-spread attention that normally few would have been exposed to otherwise. This negative report would have had negligible impact on KlearGear’s bottom line but by inserting such outrageous language in their Terms of Service, demanding payment, and damaging the Palmer’s credit the company has shown themselves to be nothing but corporate bullies and validates any negative review given to it.
The Palmers hope by shining light on this fiasco that other companies will think twice about inserting clauses in their Terms of Service that violate free speech by attempting to silence critics and try to mask service failures.
We have seen far too many examples of companies using bully tactics to silence people. KlearGear.com would be smart to pull out their checkbook and write the Palmer’s a big check and make a pubic apology and never engage in things like this again. It may be too late for them but hopefully other companies will see the folly in KlearGear’s actions and this trend of corporate bullying will come to an end.