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Online reviews: Avoid the hassle when posting about your experience

Some companies have sued over bad reviews

SAN ANTONIO – Online reviews -- a lot of people depend on them when booking travel, looking for a restaurant or shopping for something. 

Many who post reviews may do it to help others. 

Sometimes companies strike back if the reviews are negative. 

But how can you be helpful and not face the scorn of an upset business owner?

From time-to-tome, something people ordered isn't up to snuff, or a trip or meal is ruined by poor service, complaining online can influence other consumers.

"You don’t want to go to a place which has a lot of negative reviews," one restaurant-goer said.

Another diner was more direct, "When I see a negative review, I will most likely just look at another item."

Some companies fear serious damage from bad feedback. Until recently, they were able to include non-disparagement clauses in their agreements that allowed them to threaten customers with penalties over negative reviews.

“We know of one Utah couple who was billed a $3,500 penalty after complaining in a post about a company's failed delivery,” Gilman said. “A court later ruled they didn’t have to pay, but not before their credit took a hit."

Now a new federal law bars companies from inserting non-disparagement clauses that threaten or penalize people for posting negative reviews. Even so, Consumer Reports said people should still watch what they say.

"First of all, your review has to be honest and accurate. Companies can still successfully sue you for defamation if you make a false statement that can damage their reputation," Gilman said.

She advises people not generalize, just write about your own particular experience. Should the company reach out to the customer to explain, consider changing or deleting your comments if you find it was incorrect and let the company know you did so, but without admitting wrongdoing.

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