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Man threatens to sue company he says trashed his credit rating over a negative review

( <a href="">Brian Turner</a> )
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A few years ago, Jen Palmer took to the pages of to savage online retailer KlearGear, which she said had failed to deliver products her husband had ordered and wasn't answering his phone calls. Then, according to the Palmers, last year KlearGear invoked a "non-disparagement clause" in its terms of use, claiming that the couple would owe $3,500 if they didn't take the review down. When the couple refused to remove the review or pay up, KlearGear allegedly sent the supposed debt to a collection agency, damaging the couple's credit.

In a letter sent to KlearGear on Monday, the couple describes what happened next. When their furnace broke last month, their bad credit meant they couldn't immediately pay for a new one. As a result, they and their 3-year-old son lived without heat for three weeks. The Palmers say credit problems resulting from KlearGear's actions prevented them from getting an auto loan last year. Worst of all, they say, they've been unable to sell their home due to the damage KlearGear did to their credit.

The Palmers are seeking the removal of the $3,500 charge from their credit report, $75,000 in compensation, and for KlearGear to discontinue its use of the non-disparagement clause. The couple is threatening to file a lawsuit if they don't get a satisfactory response by Dec. 16.

The couple is represented by Public Citizen, which has a blog post about the case. The group notes that KlearGear's threat is part of a broader trend of companies trying to use contractual terms to muzzle customers who complain about their products and services online. I experienced this issue myself in 2011, when a dentist asked me to sign a "mutual privacy agreement" giving the dentist copyright over any reviews I might write about his services in the future. (I refused to sign.) Public Citizen represented another patient last year whose dentist used a similar agreement against him.

I tried to call KlearGear for comment, but the number listed on their Web site led to a recording directing us to visit the company's Web site. An e-mail to the company's legal department was not returned.