Be careful what you say in online reviews

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - If something you ordered isn't up to snuff, or a trip or meal is marred by poor service, complaining online can certainly help influence other consumers.

One said, “You don’t want to go to a place which has a lot of negative reviews."

Another told us, "When I see a negative review, I will most likely just look at another item."

Some companies fear serious damage from bad feedback. Until recently, they were able to include non-disparagement clauses in their agreements that allowed them to threaten customers with penalties over negative reviews.

Margot Gilman, Consumer Reports money editor explains, "We know of one Utah couple who was billed a $3,500 penalty after complaining in a post about a company's failed delivery. A court later ruled that they didn't have to pay. But not before their credit took a hit."

Now, a new federal law bars companies from inserting non-disparagement clauses that threaten or penalize people for posting negative reviews.

Even so, Consumer Reports says you should still watch what you say.

Gilman says, "First of all, your review has to be honest and accurate. Companies can still successfully sue you for defamation if you make a false statement that can damage their reputation."

Another tip: don't generalize -- just speak about your own particular experience.

But consumers say companies should be eager to address poor reviews.

A third said, “How is a business supposed to grow? How is it supposed to learn from its mistakes? It's called constructive criticism."

Here’s another way to try to protect yourself: If the company reaches out to try to offer an explanation after you've complained, consider changing or deleting your comment if you find it was incorrect or not supported by the facts. Also let the company know you did so, but without admitting wrongdoing.