Anti-Review Contracts and Clauses – The Next Step in Social Media Management?

By: David Ensing

I hope you had a wonderful holiday season. My family and I did. We live in Ohio so we went south to Florida for a week in search of a little warmth. We rented a house using Vacation Rental By Owner which I’ve used several times. If you are not familiar with it, it is a place where private home/condo owners list their properties for short-term rentals. Among other things, VRBO has descriptions of the properties, rates, and reviews from past renters. I’ve had very good luck with the properties I’ve rented.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you about the place I rented this time because I found this notice on the refrigerator:

“We agree not to post on any web sites regarding this property or other property owned by this owner. All postings, reviews, and use of web sites or links on Twitter, My Space, Facebook, VRBO, Home Away, or any other public publication or internet server are prohibited and must be approved by the owner. Violation of this policy will be deemed Tortious Interference of Business….”

It then goes on to say where the lawsuits will happen. Apparently this was part of the contract my wife signed. She didn’t have a problem with it but I certainly do. Is this the future of social media consumer reviews – managing social media reputation through intimidation of lawsuits? A little Googling showed me that this isn’t unique to the rental property sector. Apparently there is a company that sells anti-review contracts for doctors to have their patients sign. If you Google “anti-review contracts” you can find it.

What do you think of this? Is this legitimate protection of one’s business reputation? I can at least consider that someone might want to put restrictions on people posting at rating sites (but let’s be clear, I don’t agree with that either) but when you extend it to Facebook and Twitter you are basically saying you can’t talk to your friends about your experience. I hope that a court eventually deems these clauses illegal and unenforceable. Until then, I’ll only rent from places that don’t have such clauses in their contracts. That might not save me though. Here is a link to a Wikipedia entry about a customer that endured an extended lawsuit with a company for posting a negative review. The interesting thing here is that the company instituted its anti-review policy after the customer posted her review. They charged her a fine for not taking it down and turned her over to a collection agency (thus affecting her credit rating) when she refused to pay the fine.

As always, your thoughts are welcomed and encouraged.

Note from the Editor: The content that appears in our "Comments" section is supplied to us by outside, third-party readers and organizations and does not necessarily reflect the view of our company - in fact, we may not agree with it - and we do not endorse, warrant, or otherwise take responsibility for any content supplied by third parties that appear here. All comments are subject to approval.

6 Comments on “Anti-Review Contracts and Clauses – The Next Step in Social Media Management?”

  • Amy Jones January 8th, 2014 4:00 pm

    What’s next? Hollywood studios bringing suit against anyone that pans their movies?

  • Anti-Review Contracts and Clauses – The Next Step in Social Media … | Community Manager January 8th, 2014 9:03 pm

    […] Here is the original post: Anti-Review Contracts and Clauses – The Next Step in Social Media … […]

  • reputation management contract | JIM BULDO January 9th, 2014 12:52 am

    […] Anti-Review Contracts and Clauses – The Next Step in Social Media … http://www.maritzresearch.com/soundcheckblog/Apparently this was part of the contract my wife signed. She didn't have a problem with it but I certainly do. Is this the future of social media consumer reviews – managing social media reputation through intimidation of lawsuits … […]

  • Sherrie January 9th, 2014 3:42 pm

    That is just crazy! Please give up your freedom of speech to do business with us! Thanks for posting this. I will read these contracts more carefully now.

  • Robin January 10th, 2014 8:01 pm

    I won’t do business with a hotel or condo place unless I can read a review first.

  • Sheryl January 13th, 2014 4:25 pm

    The impact of social media on our lives continues to evolve – but this is a new one to me! Over the holidays I found myself looking at vacation rental reviews and pondering their usefulness/validity based on the recent scandals, but this adds a whole new dimension! Ed Stalling also posted an interesting article that included user reviews, so with both of these interesting perspectives in mind – I now have to wonder if a review is:
    1) Paid for by the business with professionals who publish bogus great reviews
    2)Submitted by someone with completely different ideals (maybe they prefer tiny rooms and tough steaks?)
    3) A real review that has been edited by the owner and all negative reviews have been removed.
    I may never get to go on vacation.

Leave a Reply