The couple facing a $3,500 fine for leaving a negative review of an online retailer is finally fighting back.
A nonprofit legal group has offered the store an ultimatum on the couple’s behalf: Walk away and pay $75,000, or we’ll sue.
Jen and John Palmer, a married Utah couple, have undergone a years-long saga of customer service gone from bad to nightmarish. In 2008, they say, John bought his wife some Christmas presents from KlearGear (slogan: “Geeks rule”), only to find out after waiting a month that the order never went through, and their PayPal order had been cancelled. So the following February, Jen left a scathing review on the site Ripoffreport.com, calling the company “incompetent,” saying it gave “circular answers” by email and that it was “literally impossible” to speak with customer service on the phone.
Several years later, KlearGear got around to noticing the Palmers. In 2012, the company sent them a notice saying they’d violated the site’s terms of service: “Your acceptance of this sales contract prohibits you from taking any action that negatively impacts kleargear.com.” That came with a fine of $3,500. Even if they wanted to comply, the couple said, Ripoffreport charged its own fine to retract a statement. And as KlearGear sent a collection agency against the Palmers, they said, their credit score plummeted. That’s led to delays when the couple tries to make big purchases like buying a new car or replacing the heating in their home.
Fortunately for the Palmers, the consumer rights nonprofit Public Citizen has taken up their case, and is fighting back on their behalf.
On Wednesday, it sent KlearGear a demand: walk away from the Palmers, call off the collectors, and change those terms of service, or we’ll see you in court.
Among Public Citizen’s complaints: The clause that prohibits customers from taking “negative actions” against KlearGear didn’t even exist when John first made the sale. Besides, as Public Citizen notes, trying to restrict what customers say after they finish transactions appears quite contrary to the U.S Constitution’s First Amendment.
KlearGear didn’t immediately respond to the Daily Dot’s request for comment. Their website currently warns that customers ordering same-day shipping may face delays.