This blog previously addressed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (“CFPB”) complaints database. Each week the CFPB receives and publishes thousands of consumer complaints about financial products and services. But what if financial services companies included nondisparagement or similar language in their consumer loan documents prohibiting CFPB complaints or negative online reviews? This sort of language may be covered by the Consumer Review Fairness Act.
The Consumer Review Fairness Act makes any provision of a form consumer contract void if it: (1) prohibits or restricts an individual who is a party to such a contract from engaging in written, oral, or pictorial reviews, or other similar performance assessments or analyses of, including by electronic means, the goods, services, or conduct of a person that is also a party to the contract; (2) imposes penalties or fees against individuals who engage in such communications; or (3) transfers or requires the individual to transfer intellectual property rights in review or feedback content (with the exception of a nonexclusive license to use content) in any otherwise lawful communications about such person or the goods or services provided by such person.
Notably, the Consumer Review Fairness Act applies to “form contracts” as opposed to those that have been meaningfully negotiated. As a result, the Act will not apply to all loan or other documents used by financial services companies. Nonetheless, financial services companies should evaluate any form documents to make sure that such documents do not include language prohibited under the Act.