Free speech is a given right in the United States, says Steven C. Wyer. However, many American consumers have been penalized for sharing their opinions publicly, not by the law but by companies angry over negative reviews. A recent introduction to the House may change that.

A “hater” business is one that penalizes customers for having a bad experience. According to Steven C. Wyer, more and more companies are lashing out aggressively at customers who take their frustrations online. The retaliation has gone as far as fraudulent credit reporting. Some companies refuse to do business without their customer signing a non-disparagement contract.

The issue is significant enough that the federal government has recently taken notice. The Consumer Review Freedom Act was introduced to Congress in April 2015. Steven C. Wyer reports that this bill, if passed, will offer a degree of protection for consumers who take to the Internet to provide an honest and accurate but negative review of a company. This applies to performance assessments, services, and products. The law prohibits businesses from barring consumers from stating their opinion and voids previous contracts requiring such.

It is largely understood that negative reviews may seriously damage a business’ bottom line. However, widespread opinion is that a customer’s experience, and thus narrative of, is protected as free speech, says Steven C. Wyer.

Currently, only 28 states have existing laws that prohibit strategic lawsuits against public participation. These so called SLAPP lawsuits, notes Steven C. Wyer, are often unwarranted and used to coerce the consumer into removing their review. The laws vary greatly from state to state in their level of protection. In some cases, the plaintiffs have been hit with SLAPP-back suits where they have been required to pay a penalty for initiating the complaint.

The Consumer Review Freedom Act is sponsored by over half dozen representatives including Scott H. Peters and Brad Sherman.

In 1992, Steven C. Wyer founded Wyer Creative Communications, Inc., a direct marketing company catering to the financial services industry. Utilizing state-of-the-art technology to integrate two national call centers, Steven C. Wyer built a business that was later inducted into the Nashville Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame. In 1999, Steven C. Wyer’s company was chosen as the fastest growing company in Middle Tennessee.

Following that success, Steven C. Wyer built two companies geared toward debt collection utilizing information found on the Internet. It was during this time that Steven C. Wyer began to understand the significance of the massive amounts of information available at users’ fingertips, thanks to the 1998 advent of Google.

“Those businesses were all built on information found on the Internet,” Steven C. Wyer says. “We had access to a tremendous amount of instant information; it’s what drove the business.”

When the companies ended up in litigation, Steven C. Wyer began to see the full power of what the Internet could do. Steven C. Wyer stood by, unable to do anything as details of the case were posted online, many of them false. During this time, Wyer began to see that the old principle of “innocent until proven guilty” didn’t hold true when it came to search results. The misinformation gravely damaged Steven C. Wyer’s professional and personal life, as well as his finances.

“A great man once said that a good reputation is hard earned over a lifetime but it can be gone in the blink of an eye,” Steven C. Wyer reflects, adding, “It is unbelievable what this type of information is doing to our society.”

Today, Steven C. Wyer is working to change all that. In his new book, Violated Online, Steven C. Wyer details more than fifty ways individuals can brace themselves for reputation damage online. Online attacks, Wyer explains, can be from a disgruntled employee, an anonymous enemy, or even a competitor. Even a negative customer review can be posted from someone simply having a bad day, Steven C. Wyer says. But that sort of thing can have a lasting impact on a business’s bottom line.

With more than thirty years of experience in business, Steven C. Wyer has watched the industry change, not only because of the Internet but also due to the rocky economy. In these tough times, Wyer knows business professionals need to have every edge they can, with online reputation being more important than ever. While Steven C. Wyer knows bad things happen to good people, the real shame is when those bad things are held over a professional’s head for an indefinite period. Through his book, as well as his family business, Reputation Advocate, Inc., Steven C. Wyer hopes to help protect professionals from online reputation damage.

Steven C. Wyer lives near Nashville, Tennessee where he balances a successful working life with touring to promote his new book.

Where structured finance meets small cap needs | Steven C. Wyer