Published On: Thu, Jan 5th, 2017

What You Need to Know About the Consumer Review Fairness Act

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I’ve teamed up with Consumer Reports and am proud to be one of their paid brand ambassadors; my personal opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Consumer Reports.

Dream Catchers are money savvy.

We cut costs. We budget. We save.

Whenever we do go shopping we search for deals and read reviews to find affordable, high-quality products.

While holiday shopping for Supergirl and Superman the past few days, scanning reviews is something I always do before pressing the “buy” button.

But, what if I told you the product reviews we rely on may be influenced by the manufacturer?

It’s true.

Until recently, some companies added “gag clauses” in the small print of purchasing contracts that allowed them to retaliate against shoppers who left bad reviews about their experience with a product.

Sounds a little problematic, right?

We use customer reviews to help us decide whether or not to buy a product or service.

Allowing companies to sue customers for negative feedback is giving them the power to control the vital information we depend on to make buying decisions.

Not cool.

Here’s an example:

A couple in Utah bought a $20 item at an online store. The product they ordered never arrived.

Understandably, they left a negative review about the site. In response to the negative review, the company sent them a $3,500 bill.

The couple refused to pay the bill. The bill was sent to collections, and their credit score took a hit. When the dispute was taken to court, the judge sided with the Utah couple, and the situation was resolved.

However, this scenario is still concerning even if the final result was in their favor. It seems unfair that a company can provide poor service and then act in retaliation when a customer tries to warn other shoppers.

How the Consumer Review Fairness Act Protects Consumers

Consumer Reports worked hard to shine a bright light on the unfairness of this practice by warning consumers and our government.

Thankfully, President Obama and Congress agree that this tactic is problematic and companies shouldn’t be allowed to silence consumers with the threat of retaliation and legal action.

President Obama signed into law the Consumer Review Fairness Act on December 14th. The Act makes it illegal for companies to sue customers for a bad review. Companies that do still try to retaliate against consumers who leave unfavorable reviews can face action by the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general.

The benefit of this Act is twofold.

If you write an honest review about your experience, you don’t have to worry about going through legal woes and drama like the Utah couple. Instead, you are protected to submit feedback without fear of repercussion to help others make well-informed buying decisions.

The second benefit is you can buy with confidence knowing that the reviews you read tell the whole story. You can trust that reviews will include the good, bad, and ugly because reviewers are not influenced by fine print “gag clauses.”

Consumer Reports’ Role in Supporting Shoppers

Consumer Reports’ work to ensure consumers’ right to be heard is only one example of the organization’s work. Consumer Reports also tests products that millions of consumers use every day to provide unbiased reviews and ratings that you can trust.


The organization buys every product it tests and does not accept any advertising; this ensures it remains independent of any corporate influence. Consumer Reports is dedicated to empowering consumers, like you and me, to make informed choices every day.

Having both consumer reviews and products tested by Consumer Reports allows consumers to buy with more confidence. Consumer Reports relies on public support to continue this work.

Your contribution will allow Consumer Reports to continue providing us with valuable information, protect our health and safety, and hold businesses and government accountable on issues that matter to consumers. Donate to Consumer Reports here and you help make this work possible.

Latest posts by Tiffany "The Budgetnista" Aliche (see all)

About the Author

- Tiffany aka The Budgetnista, is America’s favorite financial educator and is often referred to as “The Black Suze Orman”. Tiffany is the bestselling author of The One Week Budget (#1 Amazon) and the creator of the Live Richer Challenge.

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Did you know?

African Americans are significantly more likely to have some type of debt (94%) compared with the general population (82%). Credit card debt, student loan debt, and personal loans are all significantly higher in the African American community.

Source: Prudential’s 2013 "African American Financial Experience" study