If you’ve ever stopped to read all the fine print when purchasing or leasing certain products or services, you would notice that there are often ‘non-disparagement clauses’ built in. These clauses are written to prevent you from writing a negative review about a product, or even attempting to discourage people from purchasing it by telling them about your dissatisfaction.
Of course, these laws are rarely enforced or even brought to courts because of the fact that they would almost certainly be found unconstitutional. The fact that they are there at all, however, can be a discouragement for many people to share their opinion about a product.
According to a law that was just signed by California Governor Jerry Brown, however, it will be illegal to have this non-disparagement clause in place. Whether or not other states will follow suit is not yet clear, but it seems like it would make sense.
It is important to note that the law doesn’t simply make this type of contractual clause illegal. It states that in order for the clause to be valid, it must be entered into ‘knowing, voluntary and intelligent.’ This essentially means that the person signing the contract needs to be well aware of the agreement, and it has to be in their best interests.
Some people think that retailers and others may begin offering some sort of discount or incentive for this type of agreement, but to me that seems unlikely. The public backlash could be quite significant when people hear that a company is trying to ‘bribe’ customers into not writing negative reviews on sites like Yelp.
Whatever the case, all marketers should take note of this new law. If you have anything in any of your legal agreements that says that customers can’t write negative reviews, it may invalidate your entire contract.
You can read more about the specifics of this law HERE.