In the past, we’ve been pretty vocal about the importance of online reviews for funeral home marketing. And we’ve also warned that trying to police your reviews to keep negative feedback from showing up can have disastrous consequences online.
The Federal Trade Commission recently hit several businesses with penalties related to this issue, and deathcare companies should take note so they can avoid similar consequences.
What Does the FTC Say About Prohibiting Negative Reviews?
Consumers have a protected right to speak outin writing or otherwiseabout their experiences with businesses. And those rights are protected by the Consumer Review Fairness Act, which prohibits companies from:
- Putting verbiage in contracts and service agreements that ban clients from leaving negative reviews or making complaints
- Penalizing clients for sharing perceived negative experience, either on review platforms, via agency complaints, or on their own sites or social media
- Requiring people to surrender intellectual property rights when writing reviews
What Are the Consequences, and How Can You Avoid Them?
The FTC has yet to levy monetary fines on companies that are found in violation of the CRFA, but it has settled with a number of businesses. The settlements include requirements for the businesses to take two actions:
- Agree to avoid these issues in the future (under the threat of additional penalties if they don’t)
- Notify all clientele that signed an agreement with the prohibited language that those clauses were invalid
When you’re engaging in funeral home review marketing, encouraging families and clientele to leave reviews about your services to help boost your performance in Google, be careful to avoid any language that approaches the CRFA lines. Never include a ban on complaints or negative reviews in your service agreements.
While it’s okay to include a mediation or arbitration agreement to require clientele go through a mediator before taking legal action, you can’t dictate to the people you serve how they should speak or write about your company as a consumer.