Action 9 investigates growing threats against online reviews

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An Orange County woman recently discovered some companies now use a so-called gag order to stop you from posting negative reviews online. It can be buried in a contract's fine print.

Nearly 10 months after her big day, Jackie Guardado said the wedding photographer Elegant Imagery had not delivered her album.

"We were pretty worried. We paid thousands of dollars and still have not received our wedding pictures," said Guardado.

So, Guardado posted an online review that read, "Brides beware, we waited months and it was bad customer service."

In a letter, the company told Guardado her review was false, damaged its reputation and was threatening legal action if the post wasn't taken down.

Elegant Imagery had included something in the original contract that many consumer groups call a disturbing and unfair trend, a so-called gag order.

In Guardado's contract, the clause reads that the client agrees to refrain from publishing any commentary about Elegant Imagery. She calls it fine print no one expects.

"I felt like my free speech was completely taken away," said Guardado.

Elegant Imagery is rated A at the Better Business Bureau, but five other consumers complained about lengthy delays. And the bureau said any gag order clause is not ethical.

"It's misleading in a sense because it's saying you can only post positive reviews on our company," said BBB President Judy Pepper.

Elegant Imagery's address is a Palm Bay home. In their response, the company said online images were posted within nine weeks and it blamed Guardado for miscommunications and delays in choosing pictures. And it only threatened legal action over false statements.

"I feel I'm being threatened," said Guardado.

Guardado removed the post, but she doesn’t know if the company will still pursue legal action against her.   Elegant Imagery also told Action 9 it allows good or bad reviews as long as it’s factual.

legant Imagery also told Action 9 it allows good and bad reviews, if factual.