This has been a subject of discussion for a while, but somehow I missed it: an online retailer billed a customer $3,500 for posting a negative review of the retailer’s service, then turned the bill over to a collection agent when the customer didn’t pay. The retailer’s terms of service apparently contain a provision, called a “non-disparagement clause” that says they will do this.
A court has now ruled that not only doesn’t the customer have to pay the retailer, but the retailer has to pay damages to the customer. It should be noted that the retailer did not defend against the claim because they claim they aren’t subject to the jurisdiction of the court.
I detect at least one or two reasons that the “non-disparagement clause” in the retailer’s terms of service may not be enforceable. Beyond that, there’s the notion (discussed in the comments to the blog posts linked above) that you may not want to do business with a company that puts such a provision in its terms of service.
When a driverless car was recently taken to Washington DC to demonstrate to Congress how the technology will improve road safety, District of Columbia Delegate Norton apparently revealed a flaw in it. When she hit the kill switch, it rendered the car temporarily unusable. It seems that once that particular car’s systems are shut down, they take a while to re-boot.
I’m not deterred. I predict that driverless cars will be widely used in my lifetime. And the roads will be safer than they are today.
THAT HAREBRAINED IDEA FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENTS TO SEIZE UNDERWATER MORTGAGES LOOKS LIKE IT MIGHT GO NOWHERE
Here is some encouraging information on the obstacles facing the misbegotten idea that local governments should use the power of condemnation to seize mortgages on properties where the loan balance exceeds the value of the property.
Sometimes I wonder what lawyers who file class action lawsuits are thinking. You may have already heard about the latest class action that just leaves me wondering: a lawsuit has been filed alleging that calling Greek yogurt, Greek yogurt, is misleading because it is not made in Greece.
This post about it, on the blog at the Heritage Foundation website, reported a retort that I had not seen, from a spokesperson for the yogurt maker that is the target of the lawsuit:
“[L]ike English muffins and French fries, Greek yogurt is a product description about how we authentically make our yogurt and not about where we make our yogurt in Upstate New York and Idaho….”
As they used to say where I come from, “Well, duh!”
A few other good examples from the comments to that post: Canadian bacon, French toast, Italian ice, Swiss cheese….
Here’s what sounds to me like a pretty unbiased, straightforward lawyer’s analysis of the trademark case involving the NFL team, although I would like to know more about why the result this time should be different from the result in 1999.
A concise explanation, with good links, is here on the Volokh Conspiracy blog.
It’s not clear whether or not O'Rourke actually wrote the brief, but it’s a must-read anyway. You’ll find it (PDF) here.
It’s in a case challenging an Ohio law that attempts to outlaw untruthful statements by political candidates (no, I’m not making that up). More about the case here.
I’ll get back on topic tomorrow. I just couldn’t pass this one up.
The IRS announced on June 10 that they have adopted a “Taxpayer Bill of Rights.” It says that taxpayers have the following rights:
1.The Right to Be Informed
2.The Right to Quality Service
3.The Right to Pay No More than the Correct Amount of Tax
4.The Right to Challenge the IRS’s Position and Be Heard
5.The Right to Appeal an IRS Decision in an Independent Forum
6.The Right to Finality
7.The Right to Privacy
8.The Right to Confidentiality
9.The Right to Retain Representation
10.The Right to a Fair and Just Tax System
You can read more about it in the news release posted at irs.gov. It’s also in IRS Publication 1, Your Rights as a Taxpayer (pdf).
From an abstract for a paper titled “The Movement to Destroy the Income Tax and the IRS” by Diane L. Fahey of New York Law School:
“[A] small group of financial elites have used think tanks, the media, and politicians to undermine Americans’ faith in the fairness of the income tax and how it is administered. Their efforts began to bear fruit during the Reagan administration which passed the largest tax cuts in United States history. Just as importantly, these financial elites were able to market an anti-tax, anti-government philosophy that has at least superficial appeal. They have created in Americans distrust in the federal government and a sense of grievance that the tax system is unfair and that the Internal Revenue Service is a rogue, out-of-control agency. As a result, the Internal Revenue Service is now subject to restrictions that impede its ability to administer the tax system, further eroding the taxpaying ethos and compliance.”
Really? No one would think the federal tax code and the IRS are anything but fair and efficient if it weren’t for the efforts of a “small group of financial elites” to undermine confidence in the tax system? Wow.
A hat tip, once again, to the TaxProf Blog, where a commenter said:
“The key to reading this article is to understand that the phrase ‘small group of financial elites’ actually means 'people who pay income tax.'”
The contents of this blog, this web site, and any writings by me that are linked here, are all my personal commentary. None of it is intended to be legal advice for your situation.