Posts tagged Federal Trade Commission.
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The FTC announced an enforcement action against Instant Brands LLC, manufacturer of Pyrex-brand products, for allegedly marketing certain glass measuring cups as “Made in USA” and “American as Apple Pie” while importing those products from China. A proposed consent order would require Instant Brands to pay a monetary judgment of $129,416 and comply with the agency’s requirements for marketing a product as made or assembled in the United States.

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The FTC teamed up with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, sending warning letters to three companies: NutraPure, LLC, PotNetwork Holdings, Inc., and Advanced Spine and Pain LLC (d/b/a Relievus) that advertised CBD supplements as treatments for serious diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, fibromyalgia and “neuropsychiatric disorders.” The two agencies told the companies to steer clear of false or unsubstantiated health claims and instructed the companies to notify the FTC within 15 days of the specific action taken to address the agencies’ concerns ...
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The FTC recently sent warning letters to eight marketers of lab-created diamonds concerning implied claims on social media that their diamonds are mined (rather than simulated) and that their jewelry is “eco-friendly” or “sustainable.” The FTC’s Jewelry Guides contain specific requirements for disclosing lab-created properties and avoiding misperceptions that gems are natural. Moreover, the FTC’s Green Guides require that marketers have a reasonable basis for all express and implied environmental benefits claims ...
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In a case signaling that the FTC intends to continue its crackdown on review manipulation, snack company UrthBox, Inc. has reached a settlement with the FTC after allegedly misrepresenting that its customer reviews were independent, despite the fact that reviewers had been incentivized with free products and other goodies. According to the FTC, UrthBox also failed to adequately disclose to consumers key terms of its “free trial” automatic renewal programs. The settlement requires UrthBox to take all reasonable steps to remove any reviews or endorsements with which it has a ...
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The FTC has announced that it will host a workshop on July 16, 2019, called Nixing the Fix: A Workshop on Repair Restrictions, aimed at examining manufacturer restrictions on consumer and third-party product repairs and the extent to which such restrictions implicate consumer protection. The announcement lists covered topics, including the interplay between repair restrictions and consumer protection laws like those in the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act; the impact of repair restrictions on extended warranties and service agreements; the types of repair reductions in the United States and extent to which these restrictions are used; and consumers’ understanding about the existence and effects of repair restrictions, among other subjects.

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On March 4, the FTC published the revised Hart-Scott-Rodino (“HSR”) thresholds in the Federal Register. Retail (or other) companies contemplating mergers or acquisitions need to be aware of the new thresholds. Companies may need to file with the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice if the value of the deal exceeds $90 million. The revised thresholds will apply to all transactions closed on or after April 3, 2019.

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On February 25, the National Advertising Division (“NAD”) referred Nectar Sleep’s “Limited Offer: $125 Off + 2 Free Pillows” claim to the FTC after the advertiser declined to participate in the NAD’s self-regulatory process. The complaint was brought to the NAD’s attention by challenger Tuft & Needle, LLC, who alleged that Nectar’s offer was always available to consumers, and therefore was not a “limited” offer. The challenger also complained that Nectar’s pillows are not independently offered for sale and therefore should not be advertised as ...
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On February 26, the FTC announced a settlement with a weight-loss pill company that is alleged to have purchased 5-star Amazon reviews from a third party. The settlement includes a judgment of  $12.8 million (which will be suspended upon payment of $50,000 to the FTC and payment of outstanding taxes), and ongoing compliance requirements for 10 years. Notably, the settlement also requires the company to have competent and reliable scientific evidence substantiating any appetite suppressant, weight loss, “blocks fat,” or disease-treatment claims in the form of human clinical ...
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The FTC has proposed amendments to its Energy Labeling Rule. The Rule requires manufacturers to attach yellow EnergyGuide labels providing estimated annual energy cost, energy consumption, and a comparability range to covered products, and prohibits retailers from removing these labels or rendering them illegible. The Rule also requires sellers, including retailers, to post label information on websites and in paper catalogs from which consumers can order products.

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A public relations company and a publisher have been caught in the FTC’s net after using influencer marketing to help promote an anti-Zika mosquito repellant during the 2016 Brazil Summer Olympics.

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

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

Federal Court in Florida Grants FTC a Win in Gastric Bypass Alternative Case

A U.S. district court in Florida has ruled in favor of the FTC in its longstanding litigation against Roca Labs, Inc., a seller of weight-loss powders advertised as an alternative to gastric bypass surgery. The court found that Roca Labs had made deceptive weight-loss claims and misrepresented that one of its promotional websites was an objective information site. The court also found that Roca Labs’ gag clause, which the company used to sue and threaten to sue customers who shared negative comments or complained about their dissatisfaction with the product, was unfair under the FTC Act. After additional briefing, the court will decide how much of the defendants’ $26.6 million in gross sales should be awarded in consumer redress.

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

“Black Truffle Flavored Extra Virgin Olive Oil” Case Dismissed Against Trader Joe’s

On August 30, 2018, the Southern District of New York dismissed class action claims for consumers who purchased Trader Joe’s “Black Truffle Flavored Extra Virgin Olive Oil.” The complaint alleged that the product label contained the words “black truffle” in large black letters, with the words “flavored” and “extra virgin olive oil” in smaller cursive letters underneath. However, DNA testing revealed that the oil did not contain actual truffle, but rather 2,4-dithiapentane, a petroleum-based synthetic injection that imitates the taste and smell of truffles.

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The Federal Trade Commission announced the opening dates of its Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century, a series of public hearings that discuss whether broad-based changes in the economy, evolving business practices, new technologies or international developments might require adjustments to competition and consumer protection law, enforcement priorities and policy. The FTC and Georgetown University Law Center will co-sponsor two full-day sessions of hearings on September 13 and 14, 2018, to be held at the Georgetown University Law Center ...

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

FTC Used Car Lot Sweep Finds 70 Percent Compliance with New “Buyers Guide”

Last month, the FTC announced the results of its compliance sweep of 94 car dealerships in 20 cities across the country, conducted after the FTC’s amended Used Car Rule (the “Rule”) took effect earlier this year. The revised Rule requires dealers to display a revised “Buyers Guide” containing warranty and other important information—such as a new description of an “As Is” sale—on the window of each used car offered for sale. According to the FTC, 70 percent of the 2,300 vehicles inspected displayed a buyer’s guide; over half of those with the guide displayed the updated version. As a follow-up, the FTC sent letters to each dealership inspected, detailing their findings and providing businesses with guidance material to help aid in compliance.

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

District Judge Boots Putative Class Action Against L.L. Bean

A federal district judge has dismissed an attempted class action against L.L. Bean involving the company’s long-standing no-questions-asked warranty policy. In February 2018, L.L. Bean announced that it was changing its policy to limit customers’ return period to one year, while committing to “work with our customers to reach a fair solution” if a problem arises more than a year after purchase. The plaintiff alleged that changing the warranty violated both the Magnusson-Moss Act and Illinois state law as an anticipatory repudiation of the guarantee. But the District Judge ruled that plaintiff neither alleged an injury nor had he stated a claim for which relief could be granted.

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These past two weeks, several consumer actions made headlines that affect the retail industry.

FTC: Come One, Come All to Discussion of 21st Century Impacts

On June 20, 2018, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it will hold public hearings on competition and consumer protection in the 21st Century. The FTC is looking to assess whether competition and consumer protection laws must change due to recent economic changes, evolving business practices, technological advancements and international developments. According to the FTC, the hearings may identify areas for enforcement and policy guidance, including improvements to the FTC’s investigation and law enforcement processes, as well as areas that warrant additional study. The FTC is soliciting public comments until August 20, 2018, on a variety of related topics; the hearings are set to take place from September 2018 to January 2019.

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

Federal Court in New York Dismisses Diet Pepsi Case

A federal judge dismissed a complaint accusing Pepsi-Cola Co. of misrepresenting that its “diet” drinks help consumers lose weight. In the proposed class action, plaintiffs claimed that Diet Pepsi is made with no-calorie sweeteners, which allegedly contributes to weight gain and increased risk of metabolic disease, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The judge rejected the plaintiffs’ studies, finding that the evidence indicated an association between the sweeteners and weight gain, but not causation. The judge also concluded that reasonable consumers understand that the “diet” label simply means low calorie.

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

FTC Expands Agency’s Leadership Team with New Consumer Protection Director

Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joseph Simons announced the appointment of Andrew Smith as Director of the agency’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, beginning next week. Smith is Chair of the American Bar Association’s Consumer Financial Services Committee and a Fellow of the American College of Consumer Financial Services Lawyers. From 2001-2004, he served as Assistant to the Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection and FACT Act Program Manager, leading implementation of the FACT Act rulemaking, proceedings and studies. The vote to install Smith was 3-2, with the FTC’s two democratic commissioners filing statements in opposition.

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

FTC Swats Misleading Advertising Claims Just in Time for Mosquito Season

The FTC and makers of the “Aromaflage” line of products have agreed to settle charges that Mike & Momo, Inc., deceptively marketed its mosquito-repelling perfume sprays and scented candles. The company agreed to stop making unsubstantiated claims that its products repel disease-carrying mosquitos, work for 2.5 hours, and are as effective as 25 percent DEET. The FTC also alleged that Mike & Momo packed its Amazon storefront with five-star reviews written by the owners and close family members; under the proposed consent order Mike & Momo must disclose any “unexpected material connection” between the company and any endorsers.

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As reported on Hunton's Privacy and Information Security Law blog, the FTC has modified its 2017 settlement with Uber after learning of an additional breach that was not taken into consideration during its earlier negotiations with the company. The revised proposed agreement goes beyond the FTC’s original settlement mandating that Uber implement a comprehensive privacy program. The expanded FTC order would require Uber to address software design, development and testing; how the company reviews and responds to third-party security vulnerability reports; and prevention, detection and response to attacks, intrusions or systems failures. Uber also would be required to report to the FTC any episode where it has to notify any U.S. government entity about the unauthorized access of any consumer’s information.

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On April 26, 2018, the U.S. Senate confirmed by unanimous consent all five pending nominees to the Federal Trade Commission. Once installed, the agency will have a full complement of commissioners for the first time in nearly three years. The FTC will be comprised of three Republicans—Joseph Simons (Chairman), Noah Joshua Phillips and Christine Wilson—and two Democrats—Rebecca Kelly Slaughter and Rohit Chopra.

FTC Commissioners serve staggered seven-year terms. April 27, 2018, is Democrat Terrell McSweeny’s last day at the FTC, and Simons will take over her seat, which ...

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

Nectar Brand to Put Its “Made in America” Claims to Bed

Nectar Brand LLC has agreed to stop making unqualified claims that its mattresses were made in the United States. According to the FTC’s complaint, Nectar Brand sells mattresses under several brand names, including Nectar Sleep, DreamCloud LLC and DreamCloud Brand LLC. Nectar Brand’s ads and product labeling included statements that the products were “Designed and Assembled in USA.” In fact, the FTC alleged that the mattresses all are imported from China and that Nectar Brand has no assembly operations in the U.S.

Under the settlement terms, Nectar Brand is prohibited from representing that its products are made in the United States unless it can substantiate its claims. Further, Nectar Brand’s officers are prohibited from misrepresenting the country of origin of its products.

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

FTC v. AT&T Mobility: “Good News for Consumers” Per FTC Chairman

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rules en banc in FTC v. AT&T Mobility, LLC, that the FTC could challenge AT&T’s broadband data throttling practices, despite the fact that AT&T is a “common carrier” subject to exemption under the FTC Act. The court ruled that the common carrier exemption was activity-based rather than status-based. Therefore, the FTC may challenge a carrier’s non-carriage unfair or deceptive acts or practices. Simply put, “a phone company is no longer just a phone company. The transformation of information services and the ubiquity of digital technology means that telecommunications operators have expanded into website operation, video distribution, news and entertainment production, interactive entertainment services and devices, home security and more.” Acting FTC Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen issued a statement praising the Ninth Circuit’s decision as “good news for consumers.”

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

TA Sciences Prohibited from Making False and Unsubstantiated Health Claims

Telomerase Activation Sciences, Inc. (“TA Sciences”) has agreed to stop making certain claims as to the anti-aging and other health properties of two of its supplement products, in response to FTC allegations that it made false or unsubstantiated claims regarding the products’ health benefits. The FTC’s order prohibits TA Sciences from misrepresenting that its products are clinically proven to reverse human aging, prevent or repair DNA damage, restore aging immune systems or increase bone density, or misrepresenting that such evidence or studies exists. The order also prohibits the company from (1) representing that paid commercial advertising is independent programing; (2) failing to disclose material connections between a product endorser and the company; (3) representing that any endorser is an independent user of the product; or (4) helping anyone else make false or misleading health and efficacy claims about its products.

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

Advertising Agency Pays $2 Million to FTC and State of Maine to Settle Unsubstantiated Weight-Loss Claim

The FTC and the State of Maine have settled a case against ad agency Marketing Architects, Inc. (“MAI”) for MAI’s role in creating and disseminating deceptive radio ads replete with unsubstantiated claims for weight-loss products. MAI had been retained to create the ads by dietary supplement supplier, Direct Alternatives, Inc., whom the FTC and Maine had sued in 2016. Under the agreement with MAI, the ad agency is banned from making any of the seven “gut check” weight-loss claims that the FTC has publicly advised are always false. MAI also must have competent and reliable science to support weight-loss claims and must not misrepresent facts relating to return and cancellation policies of the products marketed. Finally, the order imposes a $2 million judgment on MAI, which may be used to provide refunds to consumers harmed by the conduct.

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Recently, President Trump announced that he sent names of four nominees to serve as commissioners on the five-member Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) to the Senate for approval. If all four of the nominees are confirmed, it will still leave one remaining vacant seat on the FTC, which has been operating as a bipartisan two-member interim agency since early last year. The nominees, three of whom were announced last fall, consist of three Republicans—Joseph Simons, Noah Phillips and Christine Wilson—and one Democrat, Rohit Chopra.

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

FTC Crack Down on “American Made” Marketing Claims Continues in Settlement with Bollman Hat Company

The FTC announced a settlement in the third case in the last 12 months involving deceptive “Made in USA” claims. Here, the FTC alleged that the Bollman Hat Company and its subsidiary deceived consumers with marketing campaign slogans of “Made In USA,” “American Made Matters,” and “Choose American” for its hats and third-party products, despite more than 70 percent of their hat styles being wholly imported finished products. The FTC also alleged that Bollman launched an “American Made Matters” seal campaign in 2010 that misled consumers in which and how many products Bollman and the companies that leased the seal were actually made in America.

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Several consumer actions affecting the retail industry have made headlines since the New Year.

FTC Issues Multi-Level Marketing Guidance

On January 4, 2018, the FTC issued updated business guidance to multi-level marketers (“MLMs”) to assist organizations in understanding and complying with the law. The FAQ-style guidelines address how core consumer protection principles apply with equal force to MLMs’ interactions with its own current and prospective participants, especially with regard to the compensation structures that MLMs are famous for. The FTC highlights several distinct MLM practices, explaining how each related to the FTC’s regulatory power and focus, and provides advice on how MLMs could best avoid running afoul of the law.

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On January 8, 2018, the FTC announced an agreement with electronic toy manufacturer, VTech Electronics Limited and its U.S. subsidiary, settling charges that VTech violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”) by collecting personal information from hundreds of thousands of children without providing direct notice or obtaining their parent’s consent, and failing to take reasonable steps to secure the data it collected. Under the agreement, VTech will (1) pay a $650,000 civil penalty; (2) implement a comprehensive data security program, subject to ...
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This past week, several consumer actions made headlines that affect the retail industry.

Weight-Loss Drug Maker Settles Claims and Sheds $3.7 Million

Makers of BioTherapex and NeuroPlus agreed to refrain from engaging in numerous business practices, including making marketing claims that are not substantiated by scientific evidence. Specifically, they are banned from making any of the seven “gut check” weight-loss claims that the FTC has warned are always false for over-the-counter dietary supplements, like BioTherapex. Additionally, they are banned from making unsubstantiated or false claims about the benefits of NeuroPlus in protecting against Alzheimer’s and dementia. Defendants are also ordered to pay $3.7 million, which will be suspended upon payment of $800,000.

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These past two weeks, several consumer actions made headlines that affect the retail industry.

Competitor Pacified After Infant Cereal Maker Discontinues Advertising Claims

Beech-Nut Nutrition Company said it will stop advertising claims connected to infant cereal products that a competitor challenged before the NAD. The challenged claims include “0” grams of sugar, “natural,” “complete” nutrition, and “formulated to be gentle on baby’s tummy,” among others. The NAD will treat the discontinued claims as if it had recommended they be discontinued and Beech-Nut complied.

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

FTC Seeks Public Comment on Sears’ Petition to Modify Prior Order

Sears Holding Management Corporation has requested that the FTC reopen and modify a 2009 Commission Order settling charges that Sears inadequately disclosed the scope of consumer data collected through the company’s software application. The initial FTC complaint alleged that Sears represented to consumers that its downloadable software application would track users’ “online browsing,” but in fact tracked nearly all of the users’ Internet behavior. Sears petitioned the FTC to modify the Order’s definition of “tracking system,” which the company contends is overbroad and impracticable. The FTC is seeking public comment on Sears’ petition, which it will receive until December 8, 2017.

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

Hilton Reaches $700,000 Settlement with New York and Vermont Over Data Breaches

The Attorney Generals of New York and Vermont announced a $700,000 settlement with Hilton Domestic Operating Company, Inc., formerly Hilton Worldwide, Inc. (“Hilton”), over two data breaches in 2014 and 2015.

Hilton was notified in February 2015 that it had likely suffered a data breach in December of 2014. In July of 2015, Hilton was notified of a second data breach from the prior three months. Hilton did not provide notice of either data breach until November 24, 2015. New York law requires that businesses provide notice in the “most expedient time possible and without unreasonable delay.” Vermont requires that businesses provide notice of data breaches to the Vermont Attorney General within 14 days of discovery, and within 45 days of discovery to consumers.

Under the terms of the settlements, Hilton has agreed to pay New York $400,000 and Vermont $300,000 and to comply with certain behavior remedies related to their notification and security procedures.

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

District Court Sides with FTC Over Weight-Loss Supplement Marketers

A federal district judge in Atlanta issued an order last week finding several supplement marketers in contempt for violating previous court orders and continuing to market weight-loss dietary supplements. The contempt order, which imposes a judgment in excess of $40 million, provides that the FTC may use the money to refund product purchasers. The defendants, including one FTC repeat offender, deceptively marketed their supplements as fat-burning and appetite-curbing, and promised rapid and extreme weight loss.

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On October 23, 2017, the Federal Trade Commission issued a policy enforcement statement providing additional guidance on the applicability of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (“COPPA Rule”) to the collection of children’s audio voice recordings. The FTC previously updated the COPPA Rule in 2013, adding voice recordings to the definition of personal information, which led to questions about how the COPPA Rule would be enforced against organizations who collect a child’s voice recording for the sole purpose of issuing a command or request.

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Have you ever seen an advertisement for a product that seemed a little too good to be true? Truth in advertising is a hotly contested issue, and advertising that may cross the line could be drawn into a dispute with the Federal Trade Commission or into court by a competitor. But did you know that there is another group that monitors and polices advertising? The National Advertising Division ("NAD") of the Better Business Bureau is an industry group set up to review false or misleading advertising and referee complaints between competitors.

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

App Operator Im-Pacted by FTC Settlement

The Federal Trade Commission has reached a $948,788 settlement with app developer Pact, Inc. over claims that it engaged in unfair and deceptive business practices. Pact users enter into “pacts” to exercise and/or eat better. The app charges between $5 and $50 per missed activity for users who fail to meet their weekly goals. Users who meet their weekly goals were supposed to be rewarded with a share of the money collected from those who did not.

The FTC alleged that Pact charged “tens of thousands” of consumers even if they met their goals or cancelled their participation in the service. Customers had a difficult time getting refunds or even determining how to cancel. The FTC’s complaint alleged violations of the FTC Act and the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act.

Under the terms of the settlement, Pact must disclose its billing practices, and is prohibited from misrepresenting its billing practices or engaging in unfair billing practices. A judgement of $1.5 million will be partially suspended upon Pact’s payment of $948,788. 

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As consumers celebrated lower avocado prices at Whole Foods during the last week in August, views were mixed regarding the FTC’s decision not to challenge the Amazon/Whole Foods merger.

On August 23, 2017, the FTC’s Bureau of Competition issued a short statement that read, in its entirety: “The FTC conducted an investigation of this proposed acquisition to determine whether it substantially lessened competition under Section 7 of the Clayton Act, or constituted an unfair method of competition under Section 5 of the FTC Act. Based on our investigation we have decided not to pursue this matter further. Of course, the FTC always has the ability to investigate anticompetitive conduct should such action be warranted.”

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On September 7, 2017, the FTC announced its first-ever case against social media influencers. In its complaint, the FTC alleged that two widely followed gamers, Trevor “TmarTn” Martin and Thomas “Syndicate” Cassell, posted messages endorsing online gaming service CSGO Lotto without disclosing that the two jointly owned the company. In addition to deceptively endorsing the service, the two are alleged to have paid thousands of influencers to promote the CSGO Lotto on social media without requiring those influencers to disclose the payments, which ranged between $2,500 and $55,000. The consent agreement requires Cassell and Martin to clearly and conspicuously disclose material connections between any endorser and promoted products and services. 

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On September 5, 2017, the FTC announced that Lenovo, Inc. (“Lenovo”) agreed to settle charges that its preloaded software on some laptop computers compromised online security protections in order to deliver advertisements to consumers. The settlement agreement (the “Settlement”) is between Lenovo, the FTC and 32 State Attorneys General. 

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

Dona J. Fraser Appointed Director of CARU

The Advertising Self-Regulatory Council and Council of Better Business Bureaus announced that Dona J. Fraser was appointed as Director of the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (“CARU”). Fraser is a leading privacy expert who previously worked for the Entertainment Software Rating Board, a self-regulatory program for the video game industry. CARU is an ASRC program dedicated to monitoring child-directed advertising since 1974.

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On August 15, 2017, the FTC announced that it had reached a settlement with Uber, Inc., over allegations that the ride-sharing company had made deceptive data privacy and security representations to its consumers. Under the terms of the settlement, Uber has agreed to implement a comprehensive privacy program and undergo regular, independent privacy audits for the next 20 years.

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On August 7, 2017, the FTC announced that it obtained a court order temporarily halting an online marketing scheme that deceptively lured shoppers into expensive negative option plans. The FTC alleged in its complaint that defendants used initial low-cost “trial” offers to hook consumers into expensive monthly shipments for tooth-whitening products without properly disclosing the terms and conditions of the deal or properly obtaining their consent.

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

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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.

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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.

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This past week, several regulatory and self-regulatory actions made headlines that affect the retail industry.

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As reported on Hunton's Privacy and Information Security Law blog, on June 21, 2017, the Federal Trade Commission updated its guidance, Six-Step Compliance Plan for Your Business, for complying with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”). The FTC enforces the COPPA Rule, which sets requirements regarding children’s privacy and safety online. The updated guidance adds new information on situations where COPPA applies and steps to take for compliance.
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This past week, several consumer actions took place that affect the retail industry.

Trader Joe’s Catches a Winner in Tuna Can Underfilling Litigation

A California judge has granted Trader Joe’s motion to dismiss in the case In re: Trader Joe’s Tuna Litigation, 2:16-cv-01371, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, where plaintiffs had alleged fraud, breach of warranty and other claims for the company’s alleged underfilling of its cans of tuna as prescribed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

According to the court’s order, plaintiffs improperly made claims under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, which does not allow for a private right of action.

“Consequently, the theory underlying plaintiffs’ state law claims depends entirely on an FDA regulation,” the court wrote. “Plaintiffs’ state law claims are in reality claims violations of an FDA regulation, and therefore, the FDCA prohibits plaintiffs from bringing them.”

This case was a consolidation of a number of similar cases filed in California, Illinois and New York. The court’s order does give plaintiffs a month to amend their lawsuit should they wish to refile.

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

FTC Jumps to Consumers' Defense in Trampoline Marketing Deception

On May 31, 2017, brothers Son Le and Bao Le agreed to settle FTC charges that their trampoline marketing deceived consumers by directing them to review websites that were not, but claimed to be, independent, and by failing to disclose financial interests when posting online product endorsements. The Le brothers created fictitious trampoline experts, including "Trampoline Safety of America" and the "Bureau of Trampoline Review," and built fake websites with fake expert reviews to induce customers to buy their trampolines. The administrative consent order prevents the Le brothers from engaging in such deceptive behavior and requires clear and conspicuous disclosure of any material connections between the reviewer and the product. 

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On May 12, 2017, a massive ransomware attack began affecting tens of thousands of computer systems in over 100 countries. The ransomware, known as “WannaCry,” leverages a Windows vulnerability and encrypts files on infected systems and demands payment for their release. If payment is not received within a specified time frame, the ransomware automatically deletes the files. A wide range of industries have been impacted by the attack, including retailers and other businesses, hospitals, utilities and government entities around the world.

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

The NAD Refers Sports Drink Maker to FTC

The NAD has referred BA Sports Nutrition, the maker of BodyArmor sports drinks, to the FTC after the advertiser failed to alter certain comparative ads. The ad at issue implores customers to “Ditch artificial Sports Drink[s]: artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners, artificial colors” and depicts a bottle of a competing sports drink. The NAD found that the ad implied that the competing sports drink contained artificial flavors, sweeteners and colors when, in fact, many of the competitor’s sports drinks did not.

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

FTC Action Forces Advertiser to Withdraw Claims Regarding Efficacy of Herbal Opioid Cure

The FTC has settled charges against the sellers of the herbal remedies “Withdrawal Ease” and “Recovery Ease,” which claimed to alleviate symptoms of opioid addiction. According to the complaint, Catlin Enterprises and the founder/CEO claimed their products significantly increased the likelihood of a person overcoming opiate dependency. The FTC’s complaint alleged that these claims were unfair and deceptive and were unsubstantiated by clinical studies. The defendants also allegedly misrepresented that clinical studies proved Withdrawal Ease’s effectiveness.

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This past week, several self-regulatory actions made headlines that affect the retail industry.

NAD Finds Sherwin-Williams Claims Don’t Require Substantiation

In a challenge brought by Rust-Oleum Corporation, the NAD concluded that Sherwin Williams’s ads for its “CoverMaxx” spray paints did not require substantiation because they did not communicate a message of superior paint coverage. The NAD also found that the name, “CoverMaxx,” did not require revision because there was no reliable extrinsic evidence of consumer confusion.

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

Public Comment Period Extended for FTC’s Connected Car Workshop

The FTC has announced that the public now has until May 1, 2017, to submit public comment ahead of its June 28 workshop on connected cars.

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On April 19, 2017, the Federal Trade Commission issued warnings to more than 90 brands and “influencers” that their social media posts should more clearly and conspicuously disclose brand connections. The warning letters follow petitions filed by consumer advocacy groups aimed at influencer advertising on Instagram. The FTC’s warning letters show that the agency is committed to capitalizing on its recent enforcement actions against brands and influencers, and will continue to scrutinize social media compliance with the Endorsement Guides.

Read the full client alert.

Time 3 Minute Read

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

NetSpend Settles Deceptive Advertising Claims with FTC

NetSpend Corp recently agreed to settle FTC allegations that the company deceived consumers about access to funds deposited to debit cards. The FTC voted to approve the stipulated final order, with Commissioner McSweeney and former Commissioner Ramirez voting to approve and Acting Chairman Ohlhausen dissenting.

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

NARB Permits Unilever’s Challenge of Colgate Palmolive’s Tom’s of Maine “Natural” Claims

The National Advertising Review Board (“NARB”), the appellate body of the advertising industry’s self-regulation system, upheld Unilever’s challenge regarding the truthfulness of Colgate Palmolive’s claims for Tom’s of Maine antiperspirant, despite the fact that the challenged claims were the subject of a court-ordered settlement in class action litigation. Unilever had challenged claims that Tom’s is “Naturally Dry,” “It really works. Naturally,” and “meets our stewardship model for safe, effective and natural” before the NAD. Colgate argued that the challenge should be dismissed based on NAD procedures for providing closure where the challenged claims are subject to pending litigation. The NARB found that the settlement order did not make any findings with respect to the claims challenged by Unilever, and that NAD’s exercise of jurisdiction posed no danger of conflicting court findings.

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On March 14, 2017, the Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016 (the “Fairness Act”) will come into effect, 90 days after it was signed into law by President Obama. The Fairness Act voids any provision in a form contract between a consumer and a business that (1) restricts the consumer’s ability to leave reviews, (2) imposes penalties for leaving negative reviews or (3) transfers intellectual property rights in reviews or feedback content from the consumer to the business. The Fairness Act was passed in response to an increase in the use of so-called “non-disparagement clauses” that prohibited consumers from sharing their honest opinions about a seller’s goods, services or conduct.

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

FTC Settles Claim Against LA Car Dealership Group for $3.6 Million

The FTC has settled a claim brought against a group of nine auto dealerships and their corporate owners for over $3.6 million. According to the complaint, Sage Auto Group engaged in unfair and deceptive practices, as well as violations of the Truth in Lending Act and Consumer Leasing Act.

The FTC alleged that Sage targeted consumers with poor credit or who would otherwise have difficultly acquiring financing, frequently omitting or concealing material terms in ads. The FTC also alleged that Sage deceptively posted falsified positive consumer reviews to combat overwhelmingly negative reviews on social media websites.

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

Kraft Suit Stayed Pending Outcome of FDA Guidance

A federal judge in Puerto Rico granted Kraft Foods Group Inc.’s (“Kraft’s”) motion to stay pending the completion of the FDA’s inquiry into the use of the term “natural” on food labeling. The suit alleges that Kraft falsely labeled its shredded cheese as “natural” despite containing artificial food coloring. The case is stayed until the FDA provides guidance on the use of that term on food labels. 

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

FTC Issues Business Guidance under Consumer Review Fairness Act

On February 21, 2017, the FTC issued guidance to help businesses comply with the Consumer Review Fairness Act. Signed into law in December 2016, the Act is aimed at protecting consumers’ right to share honest opinions about a product or service in any forum. The FTC's guidance stresses that it’s illegal for companies to include standardized provisions that threaten or penalize people for posting honest reviews, while protecting companies’ rights to prohibit or remove reviews that contain confidential or private information, are libelous, abusive, vulgar or inappropriate, are irrelevant or are clearly false or misleading.

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When a merger raises competitive concerns, the Federal Trade Commission or Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice may require remedies or conditions before the proposed transaction can proceed. Such remedies may be structural, which require the divestiture of business units to a third-party buyer, and/or behavioral, which require a binding commitment regarding the future behavior of the merged firm. 

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

NAD Clears “Clinically Proven” Jelly Belly Sports Beans, Recommends Against Formulation Claims

The National Advertising Division (“NAD”) found that Jelly Belly could support claims that its Sports Bean Energizing Jelly Beans are “clinically proven” to maximize sports performance, but cautioned the company to nix its claims that the beans are “Scientifically Formulated to Maximize Sports Performance.” Although the NAD expressed some hesitations about study methodology, it found that Jelly Belly’s clinically proven claims were supported by a published clinical study. However, after reviewing the Sports Beans’ ingredients, including electrolytes, carbohydrates, Vitamin C and Vitamins B1-B3, and the evidence Jelly Belly provided demonstrating the role of these ingredients in providing energy during intense exercise, the NAD advised the advertiser to abandon its formulation claim. The NAD noted that Jelly Belly failed to offer any studies indicating how the beans would demonstrably maximize sports performance. Jelly Belly responded by stating that it will comply with the NAD’s recommendation.

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Gearing Up For Change in Antitrust Merger Enforcement

“Litigation readiness” was the unofficial theme of antitrust enforcement at the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission over the past eight years. Although determining whether this “litigation readiness” actually resulted in the two antitrust enforcement agencies’ bringing more merger cases than we might have otherwise seen is a complicated question, the practical effect was that deal review took longer, faced increased scrutiny, involved more non-parties, was more expensive and faced more uncertainty than in prior administrations. These effects were evident in the recent number of large-scale, high-profile litigated deals involving retail and consumer products companies, including the FTC’s challenges to the proposed mergers of Staples/Office Depot, Sysco/U.S. Foods and Dollar Tree/Family Dollar, and the Antitrust Division’s challenge to the proposed acquisition of GE’s appliances business by Electrolux.

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As reported on the Hunton Privacy and Information Security Law blog, on February 6, 2017, the FTC announced that it has agreed to settle charges that VIZIO, Inc., installed software on about 11 million consumer televisions to collect viewing data without consumers’ knowledge or consent. The stipulated federal court order requires VIZIO to pay $2.2 million to the FTC and New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. 

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

The Federal Trade Commission Announced Class Action Settlement of VW 3.0-Liter Claims

The FTC announced a settlement with Volkswagen Group of America (“VW”) requiring VW to fully compensate consumers who purchased its 3.0-liter TDI diesel vehicles. The settlement stems from VW’s installation of emissions defeat devices in its diesel TDI vehicles that deceived consumers and emissions testers. The settlement package requires a combination of repairs, monetary compensation and buyback of certain models. It is estimated that VW will pay at least $1 billion under the settlement but could pay as much as $4 billion if it is unable to provide consumers with an adequate emissions repair. The FTC previously obtained a separate $10 billion judgment against VW to compensate consumer who purchased 2.0-liter TDI diesel vehicles with the defeat device.

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As reported on the Privacy and Information Security Law blog, on January 23, 2017, the FTC released a Staff Report (the “Report”) on cross-device tracking technology that can link multiple Internet-connected devices to the same person and track that person’s activity across those devices. The Report follows a November 2015 workshop on the same subject and is based on information and comments gathered during that workshop.

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

Ohlhausen Named Acting Chairman of FTC

Maureen K. Ohlhausen has been designated Acting Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission. Acting Chairman Ohlhausen joined the FTC as a Commissioner in 2012, after serving in various capacities at the agency from 1997 – 2008.

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In a 2-1 vote on January 19, 2017, with Commissioner Ohlhausen dissenting, the FTC took action against Uber Technologies for allegedly making exaggerated claims about potential earnings and the costs of Uber’s Vehicle Solutions Program. Uber has agreed to pay $20 million in driver redress to resolve these charges.

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

Chairwoman Ramirez Announces Resignation

FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez announced that she will resign effective February 10, 2017. Chairwoman Ramirez joined the FTC on April 5, 2010, and has headed the agency since March 4, 2013. During her tenure as Chairwoman, the FTC brought close to 400 consumer protection action and approximately 100 challenges to mergers and business conduct.

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The following consumer protection actions made headlines this week:

Unilever Plans to Appeal NAD’s Findings on Body Wash Product Advertising

The NAD recommended that Unilever discontinue certain advertising claims for Suave Essential Body Wash products, a decision that Unilever announced it will appeal. After a competitor challenge, the NAD concluded that claims comparing Suave fragrances to Bath & Body Works fragrances were not supported by the advertisers’ consumer perception survey. In addition, the NAD did not find the survey sufficiently reliable due to the fact that it did not meet the minimum of 300 respondents to substantiate a parity claim. Unilever responded that it is a “strong and ongoing supporter of NAD,” but nevertheless plans to appeal the decision to the National Advertising Review Board.

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

New Suit Claims Coca-Cola Falsely Advertised Health Effects of Sugary Drinks

On January 4, 2017, the Praxis Project, a non-profit health organization, sued Coca-Cola, claiming the beverage conglomerate misled the public as to the negative health effects of its sodas. The suit alleges that Coca-Cola peddled industry-supported research deflecting focus from sugary drinks to balancing a healthy lifestyle with more physical activity and argues that Coca-Cola’s marketing created the impression that sugary drinks are not linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. The lawsuit seeks an injunction to stop the advertising practices, to require disclosure of all research on the impact of sugary drinks and to require a corrective public education campaign to reduce public consumption of sugary drinks.

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This past week, several consumer actions made headlines:

VW and the FTC Agree in Principle on Settlement to Compensate Consumers

FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez issued the following statement regarding the announcement of nearly completed agreements resolving the EPA’s Clean Air Act claims and consumer injury claims against Volkswagen:

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

FTC Actions

FTC Settles Charges Against Marketer of Blood Pressure App

The FTC settled charges against a marketer of a blood pressure app called “Instant Blood Pressure.” According to the complaint, Aura Labs deceptively claimed that its app could use consumers’ phones to measure blood pressure as accurately as a traditional blood pressure cuff. In addition, the FTC alleges that the company’s founder left “five-star” reviews of the app in the Apple App Store without disclosing his connection with the company.

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On December 12, 2016, the Federal Trade Commission announced a summary decision against California Naturel, Inc., holding that advertising sunscreen as “all natural” violates Sections 5 and 12 of the FTC Act because 8 percent of the product is comprised of the synthetic ingredient dimethicone. 

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This past week, several regulatory, self-regulatory and consumer actions made headlines that affect the retail industry.

Regulatory Actions: FTC

FTC Drives Home Privacy and Security Point in Comment to NHTSA

On November 21, 2016, the FTC’s Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection filed a comment with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) in support of including consumer privacy and cybersecurity guidance in NHTSA's Federal Automated Vehicles Policy. The guidance governs the collection, transmission and sharing of personal data, and how to protect that data, as cars become smarter and add Apple CarPlay, Google Android Auto and Windows Embedded Automotive, among other Internet-connected software options. The FTC applauded NHTSA's efforts to embed consumer privacy protections and cybersecurity into the software, expressing wholesale support of NHTSA's efforts while emphasizing the FTC's expertise in this area, including the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, to offer further guidance.

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

Eleventh Circuit Stays FTC Order in LabMD Case

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals stayed an FTC Final Order requiring the now-defunct LabMD to implement numerous compliance measures stemming from a 2008 data leak. In July, the FTC ordered LabMD to establish an information security program and notify those affected by the data leak. LabMD closed in January 2014, citing prohibitive costs related to the FTC litigation. An Eleventh Circuit panel found that “[t]he costs of complying with the FTC’s Order would cause LabMD irreparable harm,” noting that the company has under $5,000 cash on hand, a pending $1 million judgment against it and is no longer operational. The court granted LabMD’s motion to stay the Order pending appeal.

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On November 17, 2016, the Federal Trade Commission released a staff report assessing the issues confronting consumers and regulators stemming from the rise of peer-to-peer platforms such as Uber and Airbnb. The report, The ‘Sharing’ Economy: Issues Facing Platforms, Participants, and Regulators, describes how the Internet has allowed sellers and consumers to connect in order to provide services between individuals. For example, apps such as Uber and Lyft allow passengers to bypass traditional taxi services in favor of matching with an individual drivers. These services have had major disruptive effects on traditional industries.

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On November 15, 2016, the Federal Trade Commission released a new policy statement announcing how the agency will examine over-the-counter (“OTC”) homeopathic drugs going forward. The policy statement explains that the FTC will hold OTC homeopathic products to the same standards as non-homeopathic drugs making similar wellness claims in terms of efficacy and safety.

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

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October was filled with frights as malfunctioning electronics took center stage. With personal panic devices failing to operate and diving computers posing drowning risks, manufacturers should keep in mind that life-threatening hazards dramatically increase their potential liability.

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This past week, the FTC and DOJ issued an 11-page guidance document (the “Guidance”) aimed at protecting employees against anticompetitive conduct with respect to naked wage-fixing and agreements, in which companies agree on salary or other terms of compensation, and anti-poaching agreements, in which companies agree not to recruit each other’s employees. The Guidance for human resource (“HR”) professionals and hiring managers relates to both hiring and compensation decisions.

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On October 19, 2016, Chemence, Inc., the manufacturer of products such as Hammer Tite, Krylex Glues and Kwik Fix, agreed to resolve an FTC challenge of the company’s “Made in USA” and “Proudly Made in USA” claims. The settlement  requires Chemence to pay $220,000 and substantiate any future “Made in USA” claims.

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The following consumer protection actions made headlines this week:

Mylan Reaches $465 Million Settlement Over Medicaid Classification

On October 7, 2016, Mylan Inc. announced that it had agreed to pay $465 million to resolve a DOJ investigation into Mylan's classification of EpiPen as a generic drug that resulted in Medicaid and Medicare receiving a significantly smaller rebate on every prescription since 2007. The DOJ, on behalf of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”), investigated whether EpiPen should have been classified as a "branded" drug, which would have given CMS at least a 23.1 percent rebate, as compared to the 13.1 percent rebate CMS received for Mylan's self-classification of EpiPen as a generic drug. Mylan believed that although the injector pen device was patented, the relevant consideration for CMS classification is that the active ingredient in EpiPen is off-patent. The DOJ agreement resolves the government’s classification concerns, but does not address potential private class action litigation.

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The following consumer protection actions made headlines this week:

Self-Regulatory

Zeltiq’s CoolSculpt Claims Referred to FTC and FDA

On October 5, 2016, the NAD referred advertising claims from Zeltiq Aesthetics, Inc., to the FTC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) for Zeltiq’s “CoolSculpting Cryolipolysis Body Contouring System,” a medical device that, according to the advertiser, uses a cooling treatment to target fat cells beneath the skin. The device is FDA approved, and the NAD found that the claims that the product is “FDA-cleared” and would result in a “slimmer you” were supported. However, the NAD recommended that Zeltiq add further disclosures about how the product works. Zeltiq said that it would comply with most, but not all, of NAD’s recommendations; per NAD procedure, the matter will be referred to the FTC and FDA.

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Much ado about lithium-ion batteries. If you have watched the news, you have seen that certain smartphones have been recalled due to fire and burn hazards posed by the phones’ lithium-ion batteries. While this recall is important, it is not unique. This year alone, at least nine other companies have issued recalls due to problems with lithium-ion batteries. These recalls include video baby monitors, batteries in laptop computers, batteries in flashlights and other battery packs. Not to mention last year’s slew of recalls over the most popular holiday gift – the hoverboard. While there are advantages to lithium-ion batteries, such as their recharge capability and their low memory effect, there are risks to using them in household electronic devices. Manufacturers must assess these risks when rolling products out to the public. Companies could not only face an expensive recall, but also a potential shift in public perception of the quality of its devices that could have repercussions long after the initial recall is over.

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On October 3, 2016, Amazon announced that it will eliminate most incentivized reviews – reviews written by customers in exchange for free or discounted products – except those reviews facilitated through the Amazon Vine program. Amazon, which has always banned compensated reviews, previously had allowed businesses to offer free samples to customers in exchange for reviews, as long as customers disclosed the fact of the incentive. In theory, customers receiving free products should have provided unbiased reviews; a recent study, however, showed the average rating for ...
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This past week, several regulatory and self-regulatory enforcement actions made headlines:

FTC Settles with NutraClick Over Deceptive Billing Practices

The FTC has settled claims that supplement maker NutraClick engaged in deceptive billing practices. According to the FTC, NutraClick offered “free” samples through its website, but consumers who ordered these samples were then enrolled into a membership program with monthly bills of $29.99 - $79.99. Over 70,000 people registered complaints about these practices with the FTC.

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On September 12, 2016, the House of Representatives passed the Consumer Review Fairness Act (the “Fairness Act”), aimed at preventing companies from penalizing consumers who post negative reviews online. The law is a response to non-disparagement clauses such as the one challenged by the FTC in litigation filed last year against Roca Labs, Inc.

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Hunton & Williams LLP focuses on product issues ranging from compliance, recall issues, investigations and products-related litigation in state and federal courts and in various administrative forums. Our lawyers have managed and consulted on recall or potential recall issues for a number of clients requiring involvement with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the state attorneys general. Our lawyers have conducted broad-based federal and 50-state research to identify applicable regulatory schemes, consulted with clients regarding compliance strategy and litigation risk management issues, and litigated numerous products liability claims (gas controls, valves, water heaters, tires) in state and federal courts.

Time 5 Minute Read

This past week, several consumer, self-regulatory and regulatory actions made headlines:

Regulatory Actions

FTC Releases Newly Approved Energy Labeling Rules, Considering Other Changes

The FTC has approved changes to the Energy Labeling Rule, which it says are designed to improve access to energy labels and the labeling for refrigerators, ceiling fans, central air conditioners and water heaters. The labeling is designed to help consumers understand the energy cost of consumer products and make it easier for consumers to compare different product models.

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This past week, several consumer, self-regulatory and regulatory actions made headlines:

Full Throttle: Ninth Circuit Dismisses FTC Data Suit Against AT&T

On August 29, 2016, the Ninth Circuit dismissed a suit brought by the FTC against AT&T Mobility LLC, ruling that the telecommunications company is exempt as a “common carrier” from enforcement under the FTC Act. The FTC claimed that AT&T had not properly informed customers with grandfathered unlimited data plans that their internet speed would be reduced after using a certain amount of data in a billing cycle. While the district court denied AT&T’s motion to dismiss, the Ninth Circuit reversed that ruling, finding that, based on the language and structure of the FTC Act, the common carrier exception was a status-based, not activity-based, exemption and that AT&T, as a common carrier, was not covered by Section 5.

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This past week, several consumer, self-regulatory and regulatory actions made headlines:

Starbucks’ Glass Half Full: Coffee Purveyor Wins Underfilling Dismissal

On August 22, 2016, a U.S. District Court Judge in the Central District of California dismissed with prejudice class plaintiffs’ claims that Starbucks defrauded customers by overfilling its cold beverages with ice and underfilling with the ordered beverage. The Court found that the reasonable customer understands that ice displaces liquid and that some portion of a customers’ iced beverage would, indeed, contain ice. The Court defended Starbucks’ practice, saying that transparent cups plus the lack of advertising that the cold beverages would contain a specific number of ounces of actual liquid precluded class plaintiffs’ claims. Despite the dismissal, Starbucks still faces several similar underfilling class suits nationwide.

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This past week, several consumer and regulatory actions made headlines:

Federal Guidance

D.C. Federal Judge Vacates Part of FDA Tobacco Guidance

A D.C. federal judge vacated a portion of FDA guidance relating to the labeling of tobacco products. The key issue before the court was whether changing a tobacco product’s label to a distinct new label creates a new tobacco product subject to FDA approval. The court also considered the question of whether changing a product’s quantity resulted in the creation of a new tobacco product subject to the FDA’s “substantial equivalence review process.” The court found that while a change in the existing product’s label did not create a new tobacco product, a change in a product’s quantity did.

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The National Advertising Division (“NAD”) was busy this past week. The organization recommended that several companies modify or discontinue claims made for the following consumer products.

NAD Refers Infrared Grill Ads to FTC for Review

The NAD passed along its concerns over certain ads for infrared grills to the FTC. Char-Broil LLC, a competitor of NexGrill Industries, maker of “Evolution Infrared Plus” grill, asked the NAD to investigate NexGrill’s advertising claims. The NAD referred the matter to the FTC after NexGrill failed to fully respond to the NAD’s inquiry.

Time 4 Minute Read

This past week, several consumer and regulatory actions made headlines:

FTC Warns Marketers of Zika-Prevention Products: Claims Must Be Substantiated

The Federal Trade Commission has issued warning letters to 10 marketers of products that purport to protect users from Zika infection. The letters remind marketers that health-related claims must be supported by competent, reliable scientific evidence. Specifically, the FTC warned that claims as to the efficacy of the various products must be supported by “well-controlled human clinical testing using the species of mosquitos that carry the disease in question, and must demonstrate that the effects last as long as advertised.” Additionally, claims that a product applied to a specific part of the body will confer full-body protection must be supported by scientific evidence. The FTC has urged the marketers to review their ads and to alter or remove any unsupported claims.

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On August 8, 2016, the Federal Trade Commission sued 1-800 Contacts, alleging that it entered into anticompetitive bidding agreements with 14 of its rivals. According to the administrative complaint, these bidding agreements are an unfair method of competition because they unreasonably restrain competition for bidding on online search advertising auctions and restrict truthful, non-misleading ads. Previously, 1-800 Contacts alleged that its rivals had engaged in trademark infringement by purchasing advertising space from online search engines when consumers searched for “1-800 Contacts.” Most of 1-800 Contacts’ rivals agreed to settle or avoid lawsuits by entering into the allegedly anticompetitive bidding agreements, which prohibit parties from bidding on their rivals’ trademarked terms. Additionally, all but one of the contracts also require the use of “negative keywords,” which will prevent an advertiser’s name from appearing if a rival’s name is used as a search term.

Time 5 Minute Read

This past week, several consumer protection and regulatory actions made headlines:

Mars Petcare Settles With the FTC Over False Advertising Claims

Mars Petcare U.S., Inc., (“Mars Petcare”) has agreed to settle FTC allegations that the company falsely advertised its Eukanuba dog food.

The FTC’s complaint alleges that, in 2015, Mars Petcare claimed in TV, print and Internet ads that its dog food could increase a dog’s lifespan by 30 percent or more. This claim was allegedly based on a 10-year study of dogs who were fed Eukanuba. According to the FTC, the claim was false or unsubstantiated.

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