Steven C. Wyer Reports Congress Taking Steps to Ban “Anti-Review” Clauses

As the CEO of one of the nation’s most respected digital branding and marketing agencies, Steven C. Wyer has heard countless horror stories of businesses banning customers from speaking out against poor service. Some claim the addition of an “anti-review clause” is part of the company’s comprehensive image campaign. It is not. And now, Congress has made it clear that these stipulations are unwelcome in a country that was founded on free speech.

An anti-review clause is one that seeks to restrict customers from posting negative reviews online. According to Steven C. Wyer, these anti-disparagement clauses silence unhappy clients with threat of legal action. To counter these efforts, the Consumer Review Freedom Act is currently up for discussion in both the Senate and the House.

The bill

Steven C. Wyer distills down the Consumer Review Freedom Act by describing it as a law that would remove the legal authority of existing gag clauses and prevent future inhibitions on free speech. The Act, which is written to cover a broad spectrum of reviews and critiques, prohibits a business from levying fines, bans, or other punishment upon the sharing party. This, says Steven C. Wyer, is in line with previous rulings which have found anti-disparagement clauses in conflict with the First Amendment.

A new economy

It is understandable why some businesses would want to hush unhappy customers. Independent studies have shown that consumers of all ages now turn first to the Internet when making a buying decision. These same studies further found that negative reviews have a significant material impact on a company’s bottom line.

SLAPP suits

Steven C. Wyer notes there have been many instances where a company has tried to file suit against a reviewer for posting a legitimate experience. These strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP suits for short) are illegal in 28 states. The hope is that a combination of anti-SLAPP laws and the Consumer Review Freedom Act will further protect consumers’ free speech rights, which are more valuable to the country than a business’ ability to perform poorly and hope no one finds out.

Steven C. Wyer

In 1992, Steven C. Wyer founded Wyer Creative Communications, Inc., a direct marketing company catering to the financial services industry. Utilizing state-of-the-art technology to integrate two national call centers, Steven C. Wyer built a business that was later inducted into the Nashville Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame. In 1999, Steven C. Wyer’s company was chosen as the fastest growing company in Middle Tennessee.

Following that success, Steven C. Wyer built two companies geared toward debt collection utilizing information found on the Internet. It was during this time that Steven C. Wyer began to understand the significance of the massive amounts of information available at users’ fingertips, thanks to the 1998 advent of Google.

“Those businesses were all built on information found on the Internet,” Steven C. Wyer says. “We had access to a tremendous amount of instant information; it’s what drove the business.”

When the companies ended up in litigation, Steven C. Wyer began to see the full power of what the Internet could do. Steven C. Wyer stood by, unable to do anything as details of the case were posted online, many of them false. During this time, Wyer began to see that the old principle of “innocent until proven guilty” didn’t hold true when it came to search results. The misinformation gravely damaged Steven C. Wyer’s professional and personal life, as well as his finances.

“A great man once said that a good reputation is hard earned over a lifetime but it can be gone in the blink of an eye,” Steven C. Wyer reflects, adding, “It is unbelievable what this type of information is doing to our society.”

Today, Steven C. Wyer is working to change all that. In his new book, Violated Online, Steven C. Wyer details more than fifty ways individuals can brace themselves for reputation damage online. Online attacks, Wyer explains, can be from a disgruntled employee, an anonymous enemy, or even a competitor. Even a negative customer review can be posted from someone simply having a bad day, Steven C. Wyer says. But that sort of thing can have a lasting impact on a business’s bottom line.

With more than thirty years of experience in business, Steven C. Wyer has watched the industry change, not only because of the Internet but also due to the rocky economy. In these tough times, Wyer knows business professionals need to have every edge they can, with online reputation being more important than ever. While Steven C. Wyer knows bad things happen to good people, the real shame is when those bad things are held over a professional’s head for an indefinite period. Through his book, as well as his family business, Reputation Advocate, Inc., Steven C. Wyer hopes to help protect professionals from online reputation damage.

Steven C. Wyer lives near Nashville, Tennessee where he balances a successful working life with touring to promote his new book.