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a website aimed at making consumers more aware of deficient goods and services
'Quick-tempered Americans really lose it when they've been had as consumers. Increasingly, they are taking out their anger on strongly worded Internet gripe sites.'USA Today 7th February 2005
'Nor does the cyberventing explosion end there. More specific gripesites target certain occupations …'starherald.com July/August 2004
In April 2005, a US Federal appeals court ruled that a San Diego man could legally disparage a hair restoration company on the Internet, and do so under the company's name, without violating copyright law. Michael Kremer had had treatment for hair restoration at the Bosley Medical Institute, and was not satisfied with the outcome. Determined to get even, he created a website bearing the company's trademarked name. The site, entitled www.bosleymedical.com, was a gripesite, designed specifically to criticize the practices of the company.
the concept of the gripesite is a controversial legal issue on both sides of the Atlantic, opening up a new battlefield on the Fifth Amendment and the right to freedom of speech
The affair was a landmark case in a number of legal battles recently under the spotlight for their concern with gripesites, consumer-oriented websites which openly criticize the goods and services provided by commercial enterprises, from small companies to corporate giants. In 2003, the NatWest bank was successful in its legal battle to have the gripesite natwestsucks.com removed from the Internet. Other companies seem to tolerate the existence of their gripesite counterpart, even exploiting it in some cases, such as the cable/communications company Virgin Media, whose gripesite ntlhellworld.co.uk frequently includes postings from employees offering advice to frustrated customers.
The concept of the gripesite is a controversial legal issue on both sides of the Atlantic, opening up a new battlefield on the Fifth Amendment and the right to freedom of speech. Unsurprisingly, there's a website – WebGripeSites.com – that's devoted to gripesites.
The Internet is rapidly becoming the medium of choice for consumers who feel that they have been treated unfairly and want to fight back, or prevent others from suffering the same fate. Prior to the advent of the Web, such complaints could only reach a limited audience: family, friends and other people directly connected with the consumer. The Web has dramatically changed things, with a single voice potentially being able to reach millions. Hence the birth of the term gripesite (a blend of website and gripe, i.e. 'complaint') which was being aired as early as 1996 in connection with using the Internet to raise awareness about the controversial practices of McDonalds and the retail giant K-Mart.
Predictably, many names of gripesites feature well-known expletives, as for example FuckMicrosoft.com. In the UK, the .hell suffix is another common indicator, whereas in the US .sucks is very common, as in FordReallySucks.com. Gripesites featuring defamatory information on car manufacturers often feature lemon, as in VolkswagenLemonLaw.com, lemon being a common informal description of recently purchased cars that do not work properly.
This article was first published on 13th June 2005.
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