We strive to create an open and engaging environment for all commenters. To maintain that standard, here are some simple guidelines to ensure that your comments appear and remain on the site:

Stay on topic. Please comment on the subject of the post or story.

Be nice. You know the old saying: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If you disagree with a comment, feel free to respectfully and politely challenge that comment in a civil manner.

No personal attacks, please. We usually don’t tolerate name-calling, particularly vicious and direct personal attacks. Please be nice to your moderators and to the publisher, too. After all, we’re only human.

Don’t feed the trolls. If you think someone’s a nuisance commenter please don’t goad that person in the comments. That only makes it worse for everybody. Use the flagging system and let us know; we’ll take the appropriate action. (But remember that your definition of a “troll” and ours may be different.)

No #&$*(& swearing! This is the comments section of a consumer advocacy blog, not a high school locker room.

Stay out of trouble. Don’t post anything libelous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, abusive, harassing, or threatening. No messages containing viruses or other contaminating or destructive features. No trade secrets. You get the idea.

No free ads. Comments that contain spam, advertisements, business/self promotional content, campaigns, recruitments, or signature links are not allowed. We really don’t like spammers.

Don’t break any laws. If you’re thinking about breaking any rules, please think somewhere else. This isn’t a place to violate any laws or to discuss illegal activities.

Respect people’s privacy. You wouldn’t want your e-mail address, phone number, or other personal information plastered all over a public site, would you? Please do not share another person’s personal information.

We ban members. We try to warn you before we do. Normally, our first ban will be 30 days; a second infraction will get a 60 day ban, followed by a lifetime ban.

A word or two about your moderators

Moderators are volunteers who care about the level of engagement on this site and are willing to invest their time into making it a better place. They have the ability to edit and delete comments, to mark comments as “spam” and to disable an account.

Moderators are not babysitters. It is unreasonable to expect them to read every comment.

Moderators do not actively patrol the comments looking for trouble. They rely on readers to identify violations of the comments policy.

If you see something objectionable, please flag it. That sends an email to the entire moderation team, and the comment will be reviewed.

The moderation team believes it is essential to remain neutral in every dispute. While moderators may actively participate in discussions, they are encouraged to maintain their impartiality as a group. To that end, they may either post their own comments under an account without moderation privileges, or state that they are speaking as an individual commenter, and not as a moderator, when they are offering their own opinion.

Note: We do not encourage or condone moderators (or anyone) posting under a false persona, also known as “sockpuppeting.” We do, however, understand that an account with the “moderator” implies the commenter is on official business, and seek to avoid conveying that, when it isn’t appropriate.

If your comment is flagged, the group will do its best to explain what was objectionable and to give you an opportunity to resubmit the comment. The moderation team tries to handle these corrections privately, but on occasion you will see a moderator make a public comment about a post. We reserve the right to do that.

In the unlikely event that your account is disabled, you should expect to receive multiple warnings in writing, both privately and in the public forums, before any action is taken.

The moderators also believe in second chances. Unless you’re a spammer, your account will be reactivated after 30 days and your comments will once again be welcome on this site.

If you have any questions, .