California’s Yelp Law: What Every Business Owner (& Consumer) Needs To Know

picture of cell phone on Yelp to accompany a blog post about new California Yelp law
The California Legislature passed Assembly Bill 2365 – a.k.a., the “Yelp! Bill.”

Free Speech advocates are thrilled about California’s Yelp law, but some business owners think it’s an example of unnecessary government meddling.

What Is The California Assembly Bill 2365 – (a.k.a., The Yelp Bill)?

You may have read that California’s “Yelp Bill” legalizes online defamation. Not true. Internet libel is still a civil offense in The Golden State.

What the new California Yelp Law does do is outlaw anti-disparagement clauses in business and consumer contracts. Simply stated:

  • Contracts that confer patients’ or customers’ intellectual property rights for online reviews is now ineffectual in California.
  • Contracts forbidding consumers or patients from voicing negative opinions online is now ineffectual in California.

Punishment For Breaking The California Yelp Law

Violators of the California Yelp Law can be fined up to $10,000; $2,500 for the first violation and $5,000 for recidivist offenders, in addition to “willful, intentional or reckless violations.”

Who gets the money that violators are forced to fork over?

Either the consumer who — or government department that — brought the charges.

From the Yelp Bill:

“When collected, the civil penalty shall be payable, as appropriate to the consumer or to the general fund of whichever governmental entity brought the action to assess the civil penalty.”

Does This Mean That Forum & Website Operators Are Forbidden From Removing Defamatory Material?

No. The California online consumer review law specifically addresses website operator rights:

“[The new statute] shall not be construed to prohibit or limit a person or business that hosts online consumer reviews or comments from removing a statement that is otherwise lawful to remove.”

In plain English: The Yelp law doesn’t forbid website operators from removing defamatory comments from their sites. Nor does the law mean that websites can’t curate their content.

Is there Any Chance That The California Yelp Law Will Go National?

Yep. California Rep. Eric Swalwell has plans to take the law Federal. Whether or not it makes it past the beltway’s gate keepers (a.k.a., lobbyists), remains to be seen.

Consult A Yelp Defamation Lawyer About Your Circumstances

Are you dealing with an online defamation issue on Yelp or another consumer review website? If so, and you’d like to speak with an Internet libel lawyer about your predicament, get in touch with Aaron Kelly. The founding partner of Kelly / Warner Law, Aaron is an outstanding online defamation attorney who has helped hundreds of businesses and individuals with Internet reputation challenges.

If you have a question regarding the Yelp law — or any other online defamation legal issue — Contact Kelly / Warner. We’ll let you know — right away — if you have a viable case worth pursuing.

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