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State investigators intervene in gripe site dispute

A Florida court has issued a temporary order obliging a web site hosting consumer complaints to shut down, in a case brought by US-based furniture store Kane's Furniture. In an unusual move, state investigators have intervened, arguing that the order violates consumer rights and free speech, according to the Associated Press.09 Jan 2003

The dispute involves kanes-furniture.net, a site which published hundreds of consumer complaints against Kane's Furniture. Kane's Furniture sued the site's operators, arguing that the word 'kanes' in the site's web address was confusingly similar to the company's trade mark, and therefore constituted trade mark infringement.

The court sided with the store's arguments, and issued a temporary injunction ordering the site to shut down pending a full hearing.

State investigators, however, claim that the order is "anti-consumer" and intend to fight against it in court, the Associated Press reports.

In fact, Kane's Furniture has been subject to state investigation since 2002, following hundreds of customer complaints over false sales promotions, defective products and other issues that were channelled to investigators via the gripe site.

An Assistant Attorney General told Associated Press that the state would file a "friend of the court" brief as soon as possible in support of the web site's operators.