Review Website Gets Hammered In Court–Consumer Cellular v. ConsumerAffairs

22 01 2017

[Ed’s note: don’t forget while reading these that Eric is a staunch advocate for 230. He may be right and he’s always consistent. We usually disagree; I tend to think that 230 protections are overly broad and should be changed legislatively or reigned in judicially]

This is not a good opinion for the review website industry. However, the court’s harshest treatment turns on the idiosyncratic practices of, which set a key Fourth Circuit Section 230 precedent in 2009 but whose current business practices probably aren’t going to impress you. Although I’m not normally an optimist, I’m hoping this opinion will create minimal collateral damage for review websites that have more traditional editorial and commercial practices. Still, it’s a bad opinion and can be counted as another entry in Section 230’s grim year.

A preliminary note about the ruling’s procedure

ConsumerAffairs brought an anti-SLAPP motion to strike pursuant to Oregon’s anti-SLAPP law, a robust law similar to California’s. The court denied the anti-SLAPP motion entirely. Losing an anti-SLAPP motion to strike normally doesn’t dictate that the defendant will ultimately lose the case. However, in this case, the magistrate report is so harsh and unforgiving towards ConsumerAffairs that it has to be wondering how it can win in the district court.

My blog post analyzes the magistrate’s report from the end of February. Two weeks ago, the trial court summarily affirmed the magistrate report.

The Ruling

Consumer Cellular (CCI) is a cellphone provider. ConsumerAffairs claims to be a review website:

ConsumerAffairs is a consumer news and advocacy organization founded in 1998 by James R. Hood, a veteran Washington, D.C. journalist and public affairs executive. Our website includes consumer news, recall information and tens of thousands of pages of consumer reviews.

However, as recapped by the judge, ConsumerAffairs’ alleged operations sound odious (these are allegations; and paragraph returns added for clarity):


Case citation: Consumer Cellular, Inc. v., 3:15-CV-1908-PK (D. Ore.). Magistrate report, 2016 WL 3176602 (Feb. 29, 2016). Trial court adoption of magistrate report (June 2, 2016).

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