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Ready to Feel Even More “Yelpless”? Congress Moves to Protect Consumers from You

Ready to Feel Even More “Yelpless”? Congress Moves to Protect Consumers from You

Two Congressmen, Eric Swalwell and Brad Sherman, both from California, have just introduced legislation designed to prevent businesses from taking retaliatory measures against consumers who leave negative online reviews about their experiences, the National Journal reports.

At issue here are the fines (sometimes hundreds of dollars, occasionally thousands) that business owners have attempted to levy against consumers who leave negative reviews on Yelp. Swalwell calls the practice of fining customers for honest reviews “Un-American.” If the legislation he co-sponsored passes, it will be illegal for businesses to put non-disparagement clauses into your customer contracts. A non-disparagement clause is any language threatening to impose a fine for posting negative comments. If you go ahead and do that anyway, you’re going to be facing trouble from both the Federal Trade Commission and your own state’s attorney general.

It’s important to understand the full implications of this law. Untrue reviews are not considered protected speech under this legislation, but as any business owner who has attempted to talk to Yelp’s administrators will tell you, proving that a review is not factual nor representative of what happened is hardly easy.

Swalwell and Sherman may have put forward this bill with the best of intentions, but it’s clear that they don’t understand how little power business owners actually have on the Yelp platform. If nothing else, the fact that as many as 1 in 4 Yelp reviews are filtered out via an undisclosed algorithm that appears to consider a company’s status as a Yelp advertiser as one of many factors in how many positive reviews ever get to see the light of day, this is problematic at best.

Don’t get me wrong – fining your customers was never a good idea, and has no place in the reasonable business owner’s marketing strategy. Protecting customers against unfair business practices is a good idea. I’m just curious when congress will put equal energy and attention into protecting small business owners against the blatantly unfair practices Yelp engages in every day.

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Creative Director/Senior Designer

Tom DiGrazia

With over a decade and a half of professional design experience, Tom brings his knowledge of design principles and focus on user experience to every aspect of his contribution to TTG. Paying special attention to each client’s brand, personalized needs and individual interests, he strives to create compelling concepts utilizing intuitive and highly-refined design solutions. In addition to traditional and digital design work and oversight at TTG, Tom also boasts a wide portfolio of web development projects with the company, allowing him to stretch his CSS and HTML skills across multiple platforms and disciplines. He feels that being a designer in the digital landscape of websites, eCommerce solutions, email marketing platforms and social media, it is important to understand the code that goes into these areas as it assists his ability to tailor designs specifically targeted to achieve the best end result and further builds understanding and communication with backend development teams.

In his off hours, Tom is an avid pop culture enthusiast, staying up to date on the latest shows, films, comics and games. He can also typically be found taking part in a whole host of artistic activities that help him further stretch his creative legs. Regardless of the activity, Tom is always accompanied by his dog, Eli, and his cat, Tib.

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Courtney Dumont

As Senior Marketing Strategist & Analyst at Technology Therapy Group, Courtney is energized by the ability to flex both her left and right brain daily. Courtney discovered her passion for Marketing at Bryant University, where she spearheaded research on students’ perceptions of Social Media Marketing for her Honors Capstone Project. After graduating Bryant in 2012, she joined the Technology Therapy team, where she’s honed her skills in social media, search and social advertising, email marketing, SEO, and more.

Since joining the team, Courtney has created digital marketing strategies and managed campaigns for clients across the country, ranging from plastic surgery centers, to jewelry stores, to construction companies. With a cohesive, cross-channel approach and a focus on data-driven decision making, she has increased their leads by up to 217%. But Courtney doesn’t leave her zeal for social media at the office; she also runs a local foodie Instagram account with her husband to document their meals across Rhode Island and beyond. Check them out: @hoppilyfed.

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