In the age of social media, you might not think twice about signing a contract and then posting reviews of that service online. However, more states are finding it necessary to pass laws protecting your right to speak your mind via social media. They are also passing laws dictating to businesses what a contract cannot contain, as well as stipulations for paid reviews. This guide explains the legal ins and outs when it comes to online reviews.
What the Contract Cannot Say
Read the contract for a service carefully before you decide to hire someone to do the job needed. According to 28 state laws, contracts cannot contain language preventing you from leaving negative feedback on any social media site. This includes blogs and other websites as well.
A company can face hefty fines in states such as California if it interferes in any way with your freedom to post any type of feedback, as long as you're speaking the truth.
Preventing a Libel Lawsuit
As an online consumer, you have the right to know the truth and to share the truth about businesses and services online. You don't have the right to speak negatively about a company just for the fun of it, or if you're trying to get out of paying the bill.
If you feel the need to post something negative about a service, make sure you have the proper documentation. Take photos along the way so that you'll have additional backup as well. Should the company sue you for libel, an attorney like Kane Funk Poch & Van Massenhove PC can defend you properly with this material.
How to Know a Real Review
Inspect existing reviews of a company online carefully. Many companies hire people to write reviews for them, all positive of course. But more and more states are joining the cause of protecting customers from fraudulent reviews.
Some states are passing laws stating that if a writer receives payment to write a positive review or endorsement, or they received a free product or service for doing so, then the review must disclose this information. Take the review for what it's worth. If someone posted a positive review about a product or service because they tried it themselves, you're getting an honest overview.
The best reviews come from actual customers. It is here that you'll get the best information, even if it's not what you had hoped to see.
Inspect a contract carefully before you sign and remember that you have the right to free speech when posting reviews or providing feedback via social media. Contact a law firm to have the contract reworked if you see confusing language or any indication that the company is trying to stifle feedback you might have. Don't be afraid to speak your mind if you receive bad service. After all, word of mouth advertising is still the fastest way to spread the word, good or bad.