This week, NJ Attorney General Christopher Porrino and the Division of Consumer Affairs settled with Fertility Bridges, Inc., a fertility clinic operating in California and Illinois, over the clinic’s practice of contractually barring consumers from posting online reviews of their experiences with the clinic and its personnel.

The provisions, set forth in the Terms of Use and various Service Agreements, allegedly required that any online review of the company be vetted by the company’s legal department in advance and warned consumers that anonymous online reviews that were not vetted could eventually be tracked through IP addresses. The contract also included “libel fines” of up to $10,000 for each day the banned content remained online.

The Division of Consumer Affairs alleged in its Consent Order that the clinic’s inclusion of the clause in its contracts and subsequent attempt to enforce the clause constituted unconscionable commercial practices in violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act. Under the settlement, the clinic agreed to pay a $1,500 fine and remove the relevant provisions from its consumer contracts.

Takeaway: On the same day this consent order was filed, President Obama signed into law the Consumer Review Fairness Act, which prohibits the inclusion of contractual provisions that seek to restrict consumers from posting reviews on the Internet.  This case serves as a reminder to businesses not to impose overly-burdensome restrictions on consumers.