Posts from July 2017.
Time 2 Minute Read

This past week, several consumer actions made headlines that affect the retail industry.

First Circuit Dismisses Deceptive Advertising Claims against Two Large Retailers

The First Circuit Court of Appeals has held that consumers who brought nearly identical deceptive pricing cases against two large retailers failed to prove that they had been injured. One suit alleged that one company falsely advertised “compare at” prices on sales tags; the other suit alleged that the other company deceptively set lower prices for its exclusive and private-label products and advertised them as discounted. In both cases, the plaintiffs alleged that the mere purchase of the item itself constituted injury. The First Circuit rejected this argument, observing that the consumers (1) had not alleged that the items were poorly made, (2) had received the benefits of their bargains, and (3) that a false sense of a product’s value does not constitute injury.  

Time 2 Minute Read

As reported on Hunton's Privacy and Information Security Law blog, on July 21, 2017, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a bill that places new restrictions on the collection and use of personal information by retail establishments for certain purposes. The statute, which is called the Personal Information and Privacy Protection Act, permits retail establishments in New Jersey to scan a person’s driver’s license or other state-issued identification card only for the following eight purposes:

Time 2 Minute Read

San Francisco is the latest jurisdiction to pass a law that prohibits employers from inquiring about prior salary history during hiring. New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and New Orleans already have similar laws, and in a concerning trend for employers, 26 states are currently considering such legislation.

The San Francisco city ordinance went into effect on July 1, 2017, and restricts employers from (1) considering an applicant’s salary history in determining whether to make an offer of employment or the amount of salary to offer; (2) inquiring about salary history; (3) retaliating against an applicant that declines to provide salary history; and (4) releasing a current or former employee’s salary history to a prospective employer without written authorization. Notably, the restrictions in the San Francisco ordinance, like similar laws in New York City and New Orleans, prohibit an employer from conducting a search of publicly available records to obtain salary history information.

Time 5 Minute Read

This past week, several consumer protection actions made headlines that affect the retail industry.

Time 7 Minute Read

With the National Retail Foundation estimating 8 to 12 percent growth in U.S. e-commerce in 2017, retailers across the country are vying to compete for a piece of the $400B+ pie. Crucial to their efforts is that retailers offer a seamless online and in-home customer experience, which includes maximizing shipping and returns efficiencies. But equally as important is that retailers remain compliant with FTC regulations and state unfair competition and business practices laws, in order to minimize their exposure to an ever-expanding putative class of the 80 percent of Americans who place online orders each year.

In that vein, we have previously reported and advised on the rise in ADA and TCCWNA claims in 2015 and 2016. Now, over the past few months, a new trend has emerged that has ramifications for virtually every participant in the online retail space: a rise in the number of class action claims challenging allegedly excessive shipping & handling (“S&H”) fees. Regardless whether an online retailer offers flat or incremental S&H fees, standard and expedited S&H options or free shipping with returns-only S&H fees, few are immune from claims that the fees charged do not align perfectly with retailers’ underlying shipping costs.

Time 1 Minute Read

On July 10, 2017, in a 775-page release, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) issued its long-awaited final arbitration rule (“Arbitration Rule”) pertaining to consumer finance contracts. The Arbitration Rule, which until now was in the comment stage with its final issuance in question, largely mirrors the proposed rule from May 2016, with a few modifications. The Arbitration Rule is important for three reasons: (1) it prohibits consumer finance companies from relying on class action waivers to block class action lawsuits; (2) it prohibits the inclusion ...

Time 1 Minute Read

Commercial general liability policies typically provide coverage to insureds for losses resulting from property damage caused by an “occurrence,” usually defined in the policy as “an accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same harmful conditions.” Specific product recall insurance policies and contamination policies also typically require that the insured’s loss be caused by accidental or unintentional contamination or impairment. In the context of product recalls, however, the exact cause of damage or contamination may be unknown. This creates uncertainty, and in turn, a coverage dispute over whether the cause of damage was indeed accidental, and thus a covered “occurrence” or “event” under the policy.

Time 1 Minute Read

Last month, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (“PCAOB”) adopted a series of new audit standards that will impact the audit reporting model for public companies, including publicly traded retailers. The standards must still receive final approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission, but assuming the SEC approves them, the new standards will make substantial changes to the form of the annual auditor’s report, most notably by requiring a new discussion of “critical audit matters.”

Read our full alert.

Time 2 Minute Read

On July 11, 2017, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) adopted a final rule that bars financial firms from forcing consumers into mandatory arbitration clauses as a condition of opening an account.

Time 2 Minute Read

This past week, several advertising actions made headlines that affect the retail industry.

Judge Stays Chicago Soda Tax at Last Minute

On June 30, 2017, a Cook County Circuit Court judge granted a temporary restraining order halting a new county law taxing sugar sweetened beverages. The tax was enacted in November of 2016 and originally was scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2017. Siding with the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and several grocers, the judge found the tax to be unconstitutionally vague, as it applies only to bottled sodas and coffees, not prepared drinks from servers ...

Time 2 Minute Read

In the early 1990s, before everyone could instantly buy almost anything from their smartphone, the proposed combination of QVC network and Home Shopping Network (“HSN”) reportedly was shuttered due to antitrust concerns.

Time 5 Minute Read

June commenced with another massive civil penalty. A manufacturer agreed to pay a $5.2 million civil penalty and maintain a compliance program for allegedly failing to immediately report defective floorboards in recreational off-highway vehicles. In a three-year period, the manufacturer received over 400 reports of floorboards cracking or breaking in one vehicle model and over 150 similar reports in two other models. Once the manufacturer filed its report, it allegedly underreported the number of floorboard incidents associated with one model and failed to identify altogether the floorboard incidents associated with the two other models. These omissions, according to CPSC staff, constituted a material misrepresentation. The CPSC accepted the settlement by a 4-to-1 vote.

Time 2 Minute Read

When say-on-pay (i.e., shareholders with the right to vote on the remuneration of executives) was introduced under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, there was a requirement that companies conduct say-on-pay frequency votes every six years for shareholders to decide whether say-on-pay votes should be held every one, two or three years. Companies first held say-on-pay frequency votes in 2011, so for many companies the 2017 proxy season is the first time that shareholders have revisited the matter since then.


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