In 2009, Jen Palmer’s husband bought her some Christmas gifts from KlearGear.com. When the merchandise still hadn’t arrived a month later, PayPal closed the transaction and refunded her money.
Palmer tried to contact the company to inquire about the order, but couldn't get in touch with anyone. Frustrated, she wrote a critical review of the company on RipoffReport.com and moved on.
But as KUTV reports, KlearGear.com resurfaced three years later and has turned Palmer’s life upside down, slapping her with a $3,500 fine and reporting her to the nation’s three major credit agencies.
"This is fraud," Palmer told the station. "They're blackmailing us for telling the truth."
Here’s what happened. Tucked away in the agreement language almost no one ever reads, was a clause stating that anyone who buys something from the website agrees to never publicly criticize the website.
The exact language reads:
"In an effort to ensure fair and honest public feedback, and to prevent the publishing of libelous content in any form, your acceptance of this sales contract prohibits you from taking any action that negatively impacts kleargear.com, its reputation, products, services, management or employees."
However, on some review sites individuals claim that the clause only went into effect in 2013, meaning that Palmer should be exempt from the fine policy. Interestingly, review sites also contain a number of mixed to negative customer reviews but only this one mention of the company actually issuing a fine to a customer.
And the actual language from the clause has since been removed from Kleargear's website.
In fact, the company may be facing some heat for bragging about it's own reviews. The Better Business Bureau has issued an alert against KlearGear saying the company has falsely claimed to have received an A+ rating from the BBB. "As of November 28, 2012, the BBB became aware that the company's website is displaying a BBB Accredited Business logo and BBB Rating A+," reads a statement on the BBB website. "However, the company is not an accredited BBB business and the BBB rating is not A+."
As of November 28, 2012, the BBB became aware that the company's website is displaying a BBB Accredited Business logo and BBB Rating A+; however, the comapny is not a BBB accredited business and the BBB rating is not A+. - See more at: http://www.bbb.org/western-michigan/business-reviews/novelties-retail/kleargear-in-grandville-mi-38143064#sthash.w85vkPeA.dpuf
As of November 28, 2012, the BBB became aware that the company's website is displaying a BBB Accredited Business logo and BBB Rating A+; however, the comapny is not a BBB accredited business and the BBB rating is not A+.
Still, someone from the company contacted Palmer’s husband via email and told him he had 72 hours to remove her critical review from the site Ripoff Report, or face the $3,500 fine. Her review read in part, "There is absolutely no way to get in touch with a physical human being" at the site, adding that they have, "horrible customer service practices."
Nonetheless, Jen Palmer actually contacted Ripoff Report but that site demands $2,000 to remove a post.
Naturally, Palmer refused to pay the fee. Then, she found out that not only had Klear Gear imposed its arbitrary fine, but they had reported the “failure to pay” status to the major credit bureaus.
And the credit bureaus haven’t been helpful either, refusing to remove the mark from her husband's credit score. Jen Palmer says that she and her husband are now receiving rejection letters from lenders as a result of the negative mark on their credit score.
So, the Palmers now find themselves at the mercy of three unresponsive entities: the website that fined them for exercising their First Amendment rights, the review site that refuses to remove her post and the credit bureaus, which are taking the side of the website over a customer who may be the victim of corporate fraud. In the meantime, KUTV has put the Palmers in contact with a media relations representative at Experian, in an attempt to resolve the situation.
"I have the right to tell somebody else these guys ripped me off," Palmer said.