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Congressman Eric Swalwell

Representing the 15th District of California

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Swalwell Praises Enactment of Consumer Review Fairness Act, Based on His Earlier Bill

December 15, 2016
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15) on Thursday praised President Obama’s signing of the Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016, to prevent companies from intimidating or silencing honest critics online.

This bipartisan bill, introduced by Rep. Leonard Lance (NJ-07) and Rep. Joseph Kennedy III (MA-04), was based on another that Swalwell first introduced in September 2014 to prevent retribution for online reviews.

“I’m grateful that our bipartisan cooperation has brought stronger protections for American consumers,” Swalwell said. “Internet shoppers often rely on others’ reviews when making purchasing decisions, but that works only if consumers have access to all information including both positive and negative reviews. Companies can’t be allowed to bully customers who offer negative but honest assessments of products or services.”

This new law was based on Rep. Swalwell’s H.R. 5499, the Consumer Review Freedom Act of 2014 – a narrow bill designed to outlaw non-disparagement clauses and empower the government to stop companies from using them while maintaining the ability of businesses to sue for traditional defamation. He and Rep. Darrell Issa (CA-49) introduced a bipartisan version, H.R. 2110, in April 2015; they became original cosponsors of this bill, H.R. 5111, in April 2016.

The Consumer Review Fairness Act voids any non-disparagement clauses in consumer contracts if they restrict consumers from publicly reviewing products or businesses in a negative manner and authorizes the Federal Trade Commission to take action against businesses that insert such provisions into their contracts.  It also ensures companies still can pursue legal action against individuals who post false, defamatory reviews.

The House approved H.R. 5111 by voice vote on Sept. 12; the Senate passed it by unanimous consent on Nov. 28.