A couple who wrote a negative review of an online retailer has been hit with a $3,500 fine and had their credit score dinged. According to KUTV in Salt Lake City, several years ago, Jen Palmer’s husband ordered several products from KlearGear.com, which specializes in novelty trinkets. But PayPal canceled the transaction when the items failed to arrive after 30 days.
Palmer tried to call the company for an explanation, but was never able to reach anybody. Eventually, she wrote a bad review of her experience with KlearGear at RipOffReport.com.
"There is absolutely no way to get in touch with a physical human being," the review reads, according to KUTV. The negative review also mentions "horrible customer service practices."
Three years later, Jen Palmer’s husband received an email from KlearGear, demanding the review be removed or they would be fined $3,500. According to KUTV, it turns out that Palmer and her husband violated a "non-disparagement" clause hidden in the terms of sale.
"In an effort to ensure fair and honest public feedback, and to prevent the publishing of libelous content in any form, your acceptance of this sales contract prohibits you from taking any action that negatively impacts kleargear.com, its reputation, products, services, management or employees," the clause reads.
“Should you violate this clause, as determined by KlearGear.com in its sole discretion, you will be provided a seventy-two (72) hour opportunity to retract the content in question,” the clause reads. “If the content remains, in whole or in part, you will immediately be billed $3,500.00 USD for legal fees and court costs until such complete costs are determined in litigation. Should these charges remain unpaid for 30 calendar days from the billing date, your unpaid invoice will be forwarded to our third party collection firm and will be reported to consumer credit reporting agencies until paid.”
As KUTV reports, upon receiving the email from KlearGear.com, Jen Palmer contacted RipOffReport.com to have the post removed, but they told her there was a charge of $2,000 to remove negative reviews.
When Palmer and her husband failed to pay the fine within 30 days, their credit score was dinged. According to KUTV, the couple are now getting rejection letters from lenders after applying for a loan to buy a car or fix the furnace in their home.
"This is fraud," Jen Palmer said. "They're blackmailing us for telling the truth. … I have the right to tell somebody else these guys ripped me off.”
There are multiple negative posts about KlearGear.com on RipOffReport.com, KUTV said. Additionally, the company got an “F” rating in 2010 from Better Business Bureau for “not delivering products purchased online in a timely manner.” Today they have a “B” rating.
"I think this is outrageous that a company like this would force a consumer to relinquish their first amendment rights to speak about their product as a condition of sale," First Amentment attorney Jeff Hunt told KUTV. "I've never seen anything like it."