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After renewing their kitchen, a couple from Ottawa said the contractor is refusing to refund the money they are owed unless the couple signs a non-disparagement agreement.

Companies are finding new ways to defend their businesses from online reviews, in this case, the ways are based on legal clauses written by skilled lawyers.

According to CBC, the Ottawa couple, Norma Domenech and her husband Bart Hos, decided for a major kitchen refurb last year. They contacted Ottawa General Contractors (OGC) basing their decision on the positive online reviews. However, their experience wasn’t positive.

The couple claims that the works took too much time and that some works had to be redone.

OGC tried to appease the couple and offered them $1,000 as a “goodwill gesture”, and agreed to compensate for some of the financial loss the couple had encountered. A total of $1,833 was offered to the couple.

But, to proceed with the money transaction, the company demanded the couple’s signature on a legally enforceable document stating that they will not write bad reviews.

“There was a clause that included a non-disparaging agreement, essentially blocking us from writing any negative reviews,” Domenech said. “I thought, ‘This is unacceptable. I will not sign something like that.’”

According to Domenech, the contractor is silent since July 17, despite several attempts to reach it.

In an email statement to CBC, a spokesperson from OGC said the company is protecting itself from false reviews.

“It only takes one false review to go viral to scare clients away and do permanent damage to a small business,” he writes in the statement.

He explained that OGC aims at dealing with customers’ concerns directly rather than online.

“Just like an individual's reputation is important, the reputation of a small business is equally important and warrants protection,” the statement reads.

“OGC's only policy is to satisfy its clients while protecting its well-deserved good reputation.”

In April, the couple refused to sign the document, but a company representative emailed them to inform them that the company’s lawyers had made the document “mandatory to sign”.

In response, Domenech and Hos say that the practice is not ethical and may have skewed the company’s reputation online.

 

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