If passed by the full Congress, the Consumer Review Freedom Act [PDF] would give the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general the authority to take enforcement action against businesses that attempt to these ethically questionable clauses to quiet consumers.
We’ve covered a number of stories involving the increasingly popular use of these clauses. The most notable case involved the failed attempt by online retailer KlearGear to hit a customer with a $3,500 penalty after she wrote a truthful but negative review of the company online.
We’ve also told you the dubious use of non-disparagement clauses by sketchy cellphone accessory sellers, wedding contractors, landlords, and makers of weight-loss products. In most instances, a court will find the terms of these clauses unenforceable, but simply getting the matter in front of a judge can be an expensive and complicated matter.
During a recent hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee, the customer in the KlearGear case testified that, until her story made national news, lawyers she approached for help “wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole,” and those that were willing to aid her wanted thousands of dollars.
Given the bipartisan support and the non-controversial nature of the bill, the latest version sailed through the Senate, where it never even came up for debate on the floor before being passed by unanimous consent.