The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing on November 4, 2015, entitled "Zero Stars: How Gagging Honest Reviews Harms Consumers and the Economy." Members and panelists discussed the use of "non disparagement clauses" in form contracts to penalize consumers for negative reviews, with participants generally expressing concern about such clauses.
At the hearing, Chairman John Thune (R-SD) advocated for the Consumer Review Freedom Act ("CRFA") (S. 2044), a bill he authored to prohibit certain types of non-disparagement terms in form contracts, subject to enforcement by the Federal Trade Commission and state authorities. Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-FL), a co-sponsor of the CRFA, voiced support in his opening statement for the Chairman's efforts. A companion bill, H.R. 2110, has been introduced in the House. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), although a co-sponsor of the CRFA, expressed support for removing limitations on state attorney general enforcement authority from the bill.
In addition to the CRFA, questioners and witnesses discussed related topics, including whether consumers are aware of non-disparagement terms in form contracts, how businesses should address negative or false reviews from consumers, and the provisions of the CRFA.