Who says the United States Senate is hopelessly gridlocked and unable to pass meaningful legislation if their collective lives depended on it?  These folks for one.   But an exception to the rule may be on the horizon.  Republican John Thune, a Republican  from South Dakota, is co-sponsoring a bill with Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii that is intended to protect online reviewers, and ultimately, online reviews.   

The bill is called the Consumer Review Freedom Act.   Under the bill, any contract provision that restricts or penalizes consumers for writing reviews is declared void.  And to put a few more teeth in the bill any such clause would be considered an unfair and deceptive trade practice, subject to enforcement by the Federal Trade Commission.       

The bill is intended to put an end to practices like these.   According to Senator Thune, “Online customer reviews have become an integral part of not just e-commerce but consumer choice everywhere,” Thune said. “This free market system, which empowers customers, cannot thrive if reviewers face intimidation against airing truthful criticisms. The Consumer Review Freedom Act protects the rights of reviewers, review readers, and those business owners who embrace the reality that they are accountable to customers.”    

Hear, hear.  The statute is necessary because in this instance, the First Amendment doesn’t apply.  The First Amendment prohibits the government from regulating speech, but it doesn’t stop private parties from entering contracts that limit what a party can say.  Let’s hope this can actually get passed.  Gridlock or no gridlock.