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Online retailer fines couple for negative review

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A Utah couple faces a $3,500 fine and a tarnished credit rating after posting a negative review of an online retailer.

It all started in 2008 when John Palmer tried to buy his wife a Christmas gift from KlearGear.com. When KlearGear.com did not deliver the desk ornament and the site canceled the small transaction, Jen Palmer wrote an unflattering review on RipoffReport.com.

Nothing happened until 2012 when the site contacted the Palmers and demanded the $3,500 because of a non-disparagement clause that it said were included in the site's Terms of Use.

A consumer group that is fighting for the Palmers says that clause was actually not even on the website in 2008 and even if it had been, John Palmer did not write the negative review.

The Palmers refused to pay the fine so KlearGear.com reported the non-payment to at least one credit reporting agency. When the Palmers disputed that debt with credit reporting agencies, KlearGear.com continued to maintain that the debt was owed and also demanded payment of a $50 Dispute Fee.

The family claims that they were then denied credit for a new furnace when their old one broke. They also say they had difficulty getting a lender for a car loan in December of 2012 because of the negative report on John Palmer's credit. They say they were even denied a new credit card.

Public Citizen is the consumer group fighting on behalf of the Palmers. It is asking the company contact the credit agencies and any debt collectors related to the matter to report that they were "in error" and pay the Palmers $75,000 for their troubles. It also wants KlearGear.com to agree to not include a "non-disparagement" clause in its Terms of Use. The group says that if the company does not agree to those terms by Dec. 16, 2013, it will sue and ask for punitive damages.

KlearGear.com has not commented on the potential suit.

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