Utah couple sues online retailer behind $3,500 negative review fine
Utah couple threatened with $3,500 fine for negative review of online retailer [CNN]

A Utah couple filed a $75,000 suit against the online retailer KlearGear.com in response to the company hurting their credit with a $3,500 fine over a negative review nearly five years ago.

CNN reported on Thursday that the advocacy group Public Citizen filed the lawsuit on behalf of John and Jen Palmer, who have been fighting with Klear Gear since the company failed to deliver an order in 2008.

In response, Jen Palmer criticized the company on Ripoff Report, only to be notified last year that they had allegedly broken Klear Gear's "non-disparagement clause," which "prohibits [customers] from taking any action that negatively impacts Kleargear.com, its reputation, products, services, management or employees."

"This is fraud," Jen Palmer said at the time. "They're blackmailing us for telling the truth."

Her husband described the effects of the fine -- which was subsequently reported to credit agencies -- in a Nov. 25 statement on Public Citizen's website.

"KlearGear.com's unscrupulous conduct has affected every aspect of our lives, from major financial transactions like financing a new home purchase and a car purchase, to basic needs like heat in our home," John Palmer said. "We are fighting not only to clear my credit record and obtain compensation for our ordeal but also to make sure that no one else has to go through what we did."

Public Citizen also released (PDF) a letter sent the same day to Klear Gear, in which the Palmers' attorney, Scott Michelman, notes that the "non-disparagement clause" was not in effect at the time of the couples' purchase. Besides the $75,000 in compensation, the letter also calls for the company to contact credit agencies and clear the fine from John Palmer's record, and to keep similar clauses out of its terms of use in the future. The suit was filed after the company failed to respond to the letter by Dec. 16.

"This case is really important because businesses should not be able to silence their customers," the Associated Press quoted Michelman as saying.

Watch CNN's report on the Palmers' strike back against Klear Gear, aired on Thursday, below.