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Consumer Reports: Watch what you say in online reviews

A lot of consumers depend on online reviews before they travel, book a restaurant or a buy a product or service. Many who post online reviews no doubt believe they are helping others. But 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. 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 says you should still watch what you say. 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. Another tip: don’t generalize -- Just speak about your own particular experience.

Another way to try to protect yourself: if the company reaches out to try to offer an explanation after you’ve complained, consider changing or deleting your comment if you find it was incorrect or not supported by the facts.  And let the company know you did so -- but without admitting wrongdoing.

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