"Fair and honest feedback is not the issue here." That's what a pet-sitting company has to say after suing a customer who wrote a negative Yelp review. Robert and Michelle Duchouquette of Plano, Texas, say they hired Dallas' Prestigious Pets to check in on their two dogs and fish while they took a trip to California. But a camera mounted on their fish bowl soon revealed their fish was being overfed and the water had turned cloudy. Upon the couple's return, Michelle voiced this complaint ("the one star is for potentially harming my fish, otherwise it would have been 2 stars") and others concerning the company's fees—including a $15 charge to get house keys returned—in a one-star Yelp review posted Oct. 28, reports CBS DFW.
Prestigious Pets posted a seemingly-friendly response and all seemed well—until the Duchouquettes received a cease-and-desist letter. "I was beyond shocked and a bit scared," Michelle says. When she failed to take the review down, Prestigious Pets sued for $6,766, arguing the couple signed a contract with a non-disparagement clause barring customers from taking any negative action against the company, per Consumerist. A lawyer says similar challenges have failed on the argument that the clauses violate free speech; they're illegal in California, and a federal ban is being considered. Prestigious Pets admits "a judge's decision may not even be in our favor. Or we may even choose not to follow through. We are honest people seeking protection from dishonest individuals, not other honest ones." (This pet owner's reviews led to a $65,000 suit.)