Posts tagged Litigation.
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As reported today on the firm's Insurance Recovery Blog, the Delaware Chancery Court recently held that the duty of oversight extended to corporate officers. The important decision came after McDonald’s shareholders sued the company’s former head of human resources, alleging that the officer breached his duty of oversight by “allowing a corporate culture to develop that condoned sexual harassment and misconduct.” In that same decision, Vice Chancellor Laster also determined that acts of sexual harassment can constitute a breach of fiduciary duty. Officers are ...

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On January 3, 2023, an Illinois state court entered a preliminary approval order for a settlement of nearly $300,000 in a class action lawsuit against Whole Foods for claims that the company violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”). The plaintiffs alleged that Whole Foods unlawfully collected voiceprints from employees who worked at the company’s distribution centers.

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Two leading international brands have filed lawsuits in 2022 to prevent the sale of digital NFTs depicting their physical products, and both cases will test existing trademark law and impact online retailers of NFTs.

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Multi-level marketing has touched us all - whether it be purchasing beauty products, essential oils, or health supplements from a friend through social media, or receiving an invitation to join a team of seemingly successful people working their “side hustle.”  But multi-level marketing is now getting some additional multi-level attention, both in the media and in the court room.

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The COVID-19 pandemic caused supply chain interruptions across industries, from toilet paper and cleaning supplies, to red meat.  Although most states have resumed close to “normal” capacity and operations, the nation still faces an historic and unprecedented lumber shortage.  The shortage is the result of growing demand for bigger homes, new construction, and a surge of new DIY-ers amid the pandemic, coupled with supply chain disruption caused by the virus as production cuts and government shutdown orders stifled production at both domestic and foreign mills.  As a result of this perfect storm, prices for lumber and other building materials have skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic, and have only just begun to fall, as the increasing supply struggles to catch up with still very high demand.  According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the average price of a newly constructed single-family home has increased by about $36,000 since April 2020, and the “price per thousand board feet” went from $350 to over $1,400 in May 2021.

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On October 15, 2020, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas granted conditional certification to a class of assistant managers (“AM”s) in 550 wireless retail stores across the country. In Martinez v. Mobilelink, assistant store managers in the wireless retailers’ stores alleged that they were regularly required to work unpaid overtime. The employees sought to certify a class consisting of all current and former AMs employed by Mobilelink from March 2017 through the present.

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Last week the Eleventh Circuit delivered a surprising blow to class action settlement practice finding that 19th century Supreme Court precedent “prohibit[s] the type of incentive award that the district court approved here–one that compensates a class representative for his time and rewards him for bringing a lawsuit,” a type of incentive award that is “commonplace in modern class-action litigation.” Retailers and other defendants in class action cases should take note, because this ruling may impact how settlements in the Eleventh Circuit should be structured going forward.

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Two putative class actions recently filed in the Northern District of California—Ambrose v. Kroger Co. and Nguyen v. Amazon.com, Inc. —preview a new theory of consumer claims relating to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Rather than rely on alleged omissions or representations about health risks, the plaintiffs claim that they relied on marketing statements that indicated the products they purchased (“compostable” disposable dinnerware) were disposable and would completely degrade over time and that the presence of PFAS in the products means those marketing statements were false. That focus on the environmental persistence of PFAS, rather than the substances’ alleged health effects, marks a new approach to PFAS consumer class actions.

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Illinois Supreme Court Says Biometric-Data Protection Law Does Not Require Allegation of Actual Injury

As reported on Hunton Andrews Kurth’s Privacy & Information Security Law Blog on January 25, 2019, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that an allegation of “actual injury or adverse effect” is not required to establish standing to sue under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act.

Continue Reading

 

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Retailers sued in state court might be pleasantly surprised to learn that the presence of a forum defendant may not always prevent removal to federal court based on diversity of citizenship. A procedural maneuver known as “snap removal” can allow a defendant to remove such a case in certain situations. Although federal district court rulings on the procedure’s validity are divergent, snap removal could gain traction from a recent thumbs up by the Third Circuit. Regardless of the governing precedent, successful snap removal requires constant vigilance, quick action and even a little luck.

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Branded keyword advertising (“BKA”)—bidding for your company’s website to feature prominently near a search engine’s results for branded or trademarked terms—has been around for over a decade. Under this practice, search engines auction off keywords, and the highest bidders receive advertising space adjacent to search results for those terms. Brand owners commonly bid on their own keywords and those of their competitors and related third parties.

Concerns that BKA runs afoul of trademark, false advertising, and unfair and deceptive trade practices laws were largely put to rest in 2013 and 2014, when a wave of court decisions held that, on its face, the practice does not constitute trademark infringement or cause customer confusion. However, a new challenge to BKA emerged earlier this year with the filing of Tichy v. Hyatt Hotels Corp., No. 1:18-cv-01959 (N.D. Ill.). In Tichy, a putative class of online consumers alleges that six major hotel chains violated antitrust laws by conspiring with each other and with third-party online travel agencies like Expedia and Priceline to refrain from bidding on each other’s branded keywords.

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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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Just weeks after a federal judge called the science behind the alleged carcinogenicity of glyphosate “shaky,” a California state court jury hammered Monsanto with a $289 million verdict, blaming a former groundskeeper’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma on his exposure to the Roundup® chemical. The August 10, 2018, verdict in Johnson v. Monsanto Co., No. CGC16550128 (California Superior Court, County of San Francisco)—which included $250 million in punitive damages—was just the first in the nearly 8,000 Roundup-related cases currently pending against Monsanto, many of ...

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This month marks the 10th anniversary of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (“CPSIA”), which was signed into law on August 14, 2008. CPSIA was a bipartisan response to unsettling events in the world of consumer products that occurred in 2007. During that landmark year, reports emerged about lead contamination in a wide range of consumer products—including children’s toys—that forced the CPSC into the national spotlight and facilitated over 400 recalls. The CPSIA aimed to significantly enhance the CPSC’s regulatory and enforcement power by doubling its budget, increasing its staff levels, prohibiting the sale of recalled products and increasing its civil penalties. For example, before CPSIA, the CPSC could impose civil penalties in the amount of $8,000 per violation, with a maximum of $1.825 million. But in 2008, CPSIA increased significantly the amount of civil penalties to $100,000 per violation, with a maximum of $15 million, adjusted for inflation.

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A recent Supreme Court ruling regarding sales taxes and new tariffs on Chinese imports instituted by the Trump administration will impact many retailers, which could in turn have an effect on M&A activity in the retail industry.

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Consumer lawsuits under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) have surged following a 2015 declaratory order from the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”), which included an expansive interpretation from the FCC of what constitutes an “automatic telephone dialing system” (“ATDS”). The D.C. Circuit’s much-awaited decision in ACA International v. Federal Communications Commission, 885 F.3d 687 (D.C. Cir. 2018) earlier this year set aside much of the FCC’s prior interpretation of what qualifies as an ATDS. ACA International was widely seen as a win for businesses and advertisers, but the decision has done little thus far to stem the tide of TCPA lawsuits, especially as the scope of the decision continues to play out.

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What is California’s Proposition 65?

California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (“Prop 65”) is one of the most onerous chemical right-to-know statutes in the nation. It prohibits businesses with 10 or more employees, including businesses that merely ship products into California, from exposing people in California to listed chemicals without providing a “clear and reasonable” warning.

Why Should I Care?

Bringing a Prop 65 action is relatively easy and lucrative for private plaintiffs and their counsel. In 2017, there were nearly 700 cases settled with defendants paying more than $25,000,000 in plaintiffs’ attorneys fees and penalties. This does not include defense counsel fees, business interruption and other costs to comply.

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As website accessibility lawsuits continue to surge, places of public accommodation oftentimes battle multiple lawsuits filed by different plaintiffs represented by different attorneys. Even after entering into private settlements, which include detailed website remediation plans, defendants may continue to be the target of these lawsuits by copycat plaintiffs. The Eleventh Circuit recently addressed this dynamic head-on, and held that a private settlement entered into by Hooters and a first-filed plaintiff did not moot a nearly identical, later-filed website accessibility lawsuit by a different plaintiff. This case underscores the importance of quickly remediating website accessibility issues, as well as taking care to draft settlement agreements to maximize arguments that future lawsuits are barred.

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On June 25, 2018, the Supreme Court upheld a Second Circuit opinion that American Express did not violate antitrust law by prohibiting merchants from encouraging customers to use non-American Express credit cards. As part of their agreements with American Express, merchants were required not to steer customers to use non-American Express credit cards (merchants could still express a preference for cash, checks or debit cards). The state of Ohio, the United States, and several other states brought suit alleging that these “anti-steering” provisions violated Section 1 of ...
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Over the past year Hunton & Williams LLP (now Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP) has released articles discussing reform efforts related to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank”) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”), which was created as a brand-new, start-up independent agency under Dodd-Frank. The first article was a discussion about the questions of the constitutionality of the CFPB due to its arguably unchecked authority to exercise executive power through the CFPB’s investigative and enforcement authority ...

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On June 11, 2018, the United States Supreme Court ruled that American Pipe tolling does not extend to follow-on class actions brought after the statute of limitations period has run. This decision resolves a split between circuit courts over the question of whether a putative class member can rely on American Pipe to toll applicable statute of limitations to file a new class action in lieu of promptly joining an existing suit or filing an individual action. The Court held that “American Pipe tolls the statutes of limitations during the pendency of a putative class action, allowing unnamed class members to join the action individually or file individual claims. But American Pipe does not permit the maintenance of a follow-on class action past expiration of the statute of limitations.” China Agritech, Inc. v. Resh, --- S. Ct. ---, 2018 WL 2767565, at *3 (2018). 

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In a major win for employers, the U.S. Supreme Court held that arbitration agreements with class action waivers do not violate the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”). As reported on the Hunton Employment & Labor Perspectives Blog, the Supreme Court’s narrow 5-4 decision paves the way for employers to include such waivers in arbitration agreements to avoid class and collective actions.

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As reported on Hunton's Employment & Labor Perspectives blog, the U.S. Supreme Court has voted to hear an appeal of the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Varela v. Lamps Plus, Inc. The Supreme Court is expected to decide whether workers can pursue their claims through class-wide arbitration when the underlying arbitration agreement is silent on the issue. The case could have wide-reaching consequences for employers who use arbitration agreements.

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Bumble Bee Foods’ woes continue to mount as its CEO, Christopher Lischewski, has been indicted for price fixing. The indictment alleges that Lischewski participated in the price fixing conspiracy from approximately November 2010 until about December 2013. Lischewski is not the first Bumble Bee executive to be charged: in late 2016 and early 2017, two Bumble Bee Senior Vice Presidents pled guilty to price fixing, and in May 2017, Bumble Bee agreed to pay $25 million in fines for price fixing. 

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Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP’s retail industry team is pleased to announce their Band 2 ranking in the 2018 Chambers and Partners guide. Chambers and Partners notes that the team is known for its “expertise in technology, data protection and e-commerce…[with a] robust class action defense practice.” Clients attest that one of the team’s strengths is “innovati[on] on complex litigation.”

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The California Supreme Court has adopted a new three-part test to determine whether a worker is an independent contractor or an employee under California’s wage orders, which regulate wages, hours and working conditions. The highly anticipated ruling could have wide-ranging effects for businesses operating in California and beyond, as companies try to navigate the new gig economy.

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Since the United States Supreme Court’s decisions in Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915 (2011) and Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S. Ct. 746 (2014)—and particularly in light of the Court’s more recent decisions in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court, 137 S. Ct. 1773 (2017) and BNSF Ry. Co. v. Tyrrell, 137 S. Ct. 1549 (2017)—courts across the country have applied a more exacting standard for assessing whether defendants can be subject to general personal jurisdiction in a particular forum. Under this standard, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant’s contacts with the forum are so continuous and systematic as to render it “essentially at home” there. In most instances, a company is “essentially at home” only in the state where it is incorporated and the state where it operates its principal place of business. This has been a largely positive result for companies in the retail product industry that may have strategic incentive to avoid becoming subject to “all purpose” general personal jurisdiction in each state in which their products are sold.

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On April 10, 2018, SAP announced an updated pricing model to address indirect/digital access to its digital core products—SAP ERP, SAP S/4HANA and SAP S/4HANA Cloud. In addition, SAP announced that it will separate its license sales department and auditing departments. These moves are in response to intense pressure SAP has experienced from existing and potential customers that culminated last year following (1) the decision rendered in favor of the software giant against one of its customers, where £55 million in damages was alleged by SAP, and (2) its $600 million claim against the world’s largest brewer which was recently reported as having been settled.

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The tidal wave of New Jersey Truth-in-Consumer Contract, Notice and Warranty Act (“TCCWNA”) cases may finally slow to a trickle: a long-awaited decision from the New Jersey Supreme Court came down Monday, April 16, 2018, that will likely have broad repercussions on who has standing to sue under the statute.

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On the heels of a recent $5 million civil penalty, the CPSC recently secured a $1.5 million civil penalty with help from the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”). The civil penalty concludes a long saga between the CPSC and a large arts and crafts retailer about vases with allegedly defective thin glass that rendered them prone to shattering.

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As reported on the Hunton Privacy & Information Security Law Blog, on March 8, 2018, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (“Ninth Circuit”) reversed a decision from the United States District Court for the District of Nevada. The trial court found that one subclass of plaintiffs in In re Zappos.Com, Inc. Customer Data Security Breach Litigation had not sufficiently alleged injury in fact to establish Article III standing. The opinion focused on consumers who did not allege that any fraudulent charges had been made using their identities, despite hackers accessing their names, account numbers, passwords, email addresses, billing and shipping addresses, telephone numbers, and credit and debit card information in a 2012 data breach. 

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As reported on the Hunton Employment & Labor Perspectives blog, say an employee slips $20 from the register and even admits to it when you show the camera footage. Or, more innocently, say an employee is overpaid $20 entirely by accident. If the employee refuses to give it back, should you deduct the $20 from the employee’s paycheck?

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Last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, sitting en banc, became the second federal appellate court to officially recognize a discrimination claim under Title VII based solely on the plaintiff’s sexual orientation. The Court’s decision in Zarda v. Altitude Express follows on the heels of the Seventh Circuit’s decision last April in Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, in which the Seventh Circuit also overturned its prior cases to recognize protections based on sexual orientation under Title VII.

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The CPSC has flexed its regulatory muscle during the first months of 2018 with respect to products that pose risks to children. With the U.S. Department of Justice’s (“DOJ’s”) help, the CPSC secured a $5 million civil penalty against a drug company for its allegedly deficient child-resistant packaging. In December, the DOJ filed a complaint in federal court against the drug company alleging that it knowingly violated the Poison Prevention Packaging Act and the Consumer Product Safety Act by distributing five household prescription drugs with non-compliant child-resistant packaging and failing to report the noncompliance to the CPSC. The complaint alleges that the drug company’s engineers drafted a “risk analysis” memo identifying the packaging as non-compliant. Rather than halt distribution and immediately report the non-compliance to the CPSC, the drug company continued distribution with non-compliant packaging while concurrently developing compliant packaging. The company also waited nearly 15 months before notifying the CPSC of its non-compliant packaging. In January, the federal court entered a consent decree for the matter. The drug company agreed to pay a $5 million civil penalty, implement and maintain a compliance program, and maintain and enforce a system of internal controls and procedures.

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In a highly anticipated opinion, a Federal Judge in California ruled in favor of GrubHub, an internet food ordering service, finding it properly classified a delivery driver as an independent contractor.

In Lawson v. GrubHub, the plaintiff, a delivery driver, alleged that GrubHub violated California’s minimum wage, overtime and employee expense reimbursement laws by misclassifying him as an independent contractor when he was really an employee. He brought the case on behalf of himself and as a representative action pursuant to the California Private Attorney General Act.

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On February 15, 2018, by a vote of 225 to 192, the House of Representatives passed the ADA Education and Reform Act (HR 620). Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) was enacted to ensure access for persons with disabilities to public accommodations. Too often, however, serial litigants have abused Title III to shake down businesses for quick settlements over minor, technical violations without actually seeking to improve access. By amending the ADA to include a notice and cure provision, proponents of HR 620 say this bill will curb predatory public accommodations lawsuits brought by serial plaintiffs and their lawyers against businesses. 

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Two recent decisions out of California—one in state court and one in federal—provide defendants new ammunition for defeating class certification. The Ninth Circuit’s decision in In re Hyundai & Kia Fuel Economy Litigation and the Fourth District Court of Appeal’s decision in Apple Inc. v. Superior Court have important implications for California retailers opposing class certification. But Hyundai also poses challenges to retailers looking to settle class claims on a nationwide basis.

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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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With the arrival of 2018, President Trump resubmitted his nominations for CPSC leadership vacancies to the Senate. In 2017, Trump nominated Commissioner Ann Marie Buerkle to serve as CPSC Chair and Dana Baiocco to serve as a commissioner replacing Democrat Commissioner Marietta Robinson, whose term expired. But, under Senate rules, nominations not acted on are returned to the President. At the end of the Senate’s 2017 session, this meant that roughly 120 nominations were returned to Trump. Both nominees—Buerkle and Baiocco—are expected to receive Senate confirmation this year.

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On January 18, 2018, Hunton & Williams LLP’s retail industry lawyers, composed of more than 100 lawyers across practices, released their annual Retail Year in Review publication. The Retail Year in Review includes many topics of interest to retailers including blockchain, antitrust enforcement in the Trump Administration, ransomware's impact on the retail industry, SEC and M&A activity in 2017, cyber insurance, vulnerability to class actions, and the reduced tax rate.

Read the full publication.

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On January 3, 2018, in Italian Colors Restaurant v. Becerra, the Ninth Circuit found unconstitutional a California law barring retailers from imposing surcharges on customers using credit cards. The ruling has important implications for retailers operating in California and potentially for retailers operating in several other states with similar bans on credit card surcharges.

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There is plenty of recall activity to report but no civil penalty news to report for November. Perhaps the holiday spirit prevails at the CPSC in this holiday season.

Hoverboards were last year’s hottest toy during the holiday season, but they also caused alarm due to the tendency of their lithium-ion battery packs to overheat while charging, causing the hoverboards to catch fire or explode. This year, the CPSC is taking a proactive approach to hoverboards. In May and again this month, hoverboards by the same manufacturer caused house fires and prompted the CPSC to warn consumers to stop using those hoverboards altogether. Further, a hoverboard by a different manufacturer recently caught fire and caused $40,000 of property damage to a consumer’s home. These serious reports culminated in the CPSC issuing seven recalls this month for hoverboards by different manufacturers due to their potential fire and explosion hazards.

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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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October ushered in a case that might, on one hand, provoke a sigh of relief for manufacturers, distributors and retailers concerned about the upward trend in multimillion dollar civil penalties from the CPSC or, on the other hand, raise some eyebrows of concern about the extent of a court’s authority to prospectively impose auditing, compliance and training measures. See United States v. Spectrum Brands, Inc., No. 15-CV-371-WMC, 2017 WL 4339677 (W.D. Wis. Sept. 29, 2017).

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Employers in the retail sector are constantly faced with the balancing act of relying on their workforce to operate a profitable business while also managing employees who are unable to work at full capacity due to an illness or disability. The patchwork of laws and regulations requiring employers to provide leave or accommodation can overlap with one another, creating uncertainty as to when employers can terminate sick or disabled employees. For example, it is a common scenario for an employee to exhaust his/her 12-week medical leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) and then request additional leave as an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).   

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Last month, the solar eclipse captivated the United States and many consumers flocked to purchase solar eclipse glasses to safely observe the astronomical phenomenon. We previously reported how NASA issued a safety alert advising consumers on the proper eye protection they should seek. Now, some consumers have filed a class action lawsuit against a major online retailer for allegedly selling “unfit, extremely dangerous, and/or defective” solar eclipse glasses. As a result, the consumers allege “varying degrees of eye injury ranging from temporary discomfort to permanent blindness.”

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In March of this year, consumer electronics and home appliance retailer Gregg Appliances, Inc., better known as H.H. Gregg, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Indianapolis, Indiana. H.H. Gregg, which took over many of the retail spaces previously occupied by Circuit City, is one of many big-box retailers that have sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy over the past several years. Like Circuit City, H.H. Gregg was unsuccessful in reorganizing in bankruptcy and is now seeking to recover payments made to vendors and other creditors within 90 days prior to the bankruptcy filing.

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August was a busy month in the world of recalls. First, the end of August ushered in a hefty $5.7 million civil penalty against a major retailer in the United States. The retailer was allegedly selling and distributing recalled products and has agreed, in addition to the civil penalty, to maintain a compliance program and a system of internal controls and procedures. The CPSC voted 4 to 1 to accept the settlement, with Acting Chairman Buerkle voting to accept a lower civil penalty.

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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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It is no secret that California has had appliance efficiency standards in place for some time now. And it is no secret that the California Energy Commission (“CEC”) has been responsible for crafting those standards. According to the CEC and the California State Legislature, however, compliance with those standards has been hit-or-miss. In 2011, the Legislature found that “significant quantities of appliances are sold and offered for sale in California that do not meet the state’s energy efficiency standards,” and the CEC itself has stated that nearly half of all regulated appliances are non-compliant, and that certain product categories are entirely non-compliant. The broad range of products covered by the CEC’s efficiency standards may be partly to blame for the lack of compliance, as manufacturers may not even realize their product must comply. For example, the efficiency standards encompass nearly every device with a rechargeable battery and that rechargeable battery system, meaning everything from cell phones to laptops to tablets to golf carts must be tested, certified and listed in the CEC’s database before being offered for sale in California. 

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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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In a video roundtable series, Hunton & Williams LLP partners Lisa J. Sotto and Steven M. Haas and special counsel Allen C. Goolsby, along with Stroz Friedberg’s co-president Eric M. Friedberg and Lee Pacchia of Mimesis Law, discuss the special consideration that should be given to privacy and cybersecurity risks in corporate transactions.

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On July 26, 2017, an amusement ride named “Fire Ball” at the Ohio State Fair broke apart, killing one passenger and injuring seven others. This deadly incident may trigger a CPSC investigation into the matter.

Prior to 1981, the CPSC exercised jurisdiction over all amusement rides. But after several high-profile cases challenged the CPSC’s jurisdiction over amusement rides with mixed results, an amusement parks trade group successfully lobbied Congress to exempt stationary amusement rides from the CPSC’s jurisdiction. In 1981, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Amendments, which amended the definition of “consumer product” to explicitly exempt stationary amusement rides.

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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.  

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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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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 ...

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The Department of Justice’s (“DOJ’s”) often criticized rulemaking delays have resulted in no new website accessibility rules for places of public accommodation to receive notice of and implement. Notwithstanding the obvious due process concerns raised by these delays, more and more website accessibility cases are being threatened and filed every day. Most, not unexpectedly, settle. Winn-Dixie did not, and what happened next is worth a closer look.

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On June 13, 2017, Judge Andrea R. Wood of the Northern District of Illinois dismissed with prejudice a putative consumer class action filed against Barnes & Noble. The case was first filed after Barnes & Noble’s September 2012 announcement that “skimmers” had tampered with PIN pad terminals in 63 of its stores and exposed payment card information. The court had previously dismissed the plaintiffs’ original complaint without prejudice for failure to establish Article III standing. After the Seventh Circuit’s decision in Remijas v. Neiman Marcus Group, the plaintiffs filed an almost identical amended complaint that alleged the same causes of action and virtually identical facts. Although the court found that the first amended complaint sufficiently alleged Article III standing, the plaintiffs nevertheless failed to plead a viable claim. The court therefore dismissed the first amended complaint under Rule 12(b)(6). 

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On June 19, 2017, the United States Supreme Court announced important constitutional limitations on state courts’ ability to exercise specific jurisdiction over nonresidents’ claims against out-of-state defendants. The Court’s nearly unanimous decision in Bristol-Myers v. Superior Court, 582 U.S. (2017) has potentially far-reaching implications for companies facing claims brought by nonresident and resident plaintiffs in states in which those companies are neither incorporated nor maintain their principal place of business. In holding that mere joinder of nonresident plaintiffs’ claims with those of resident plaintiffs does not permit a state court to exercise specific jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant, the Court’s decision is the latest in a trend of important personal jurisdiction decisions rendered by the high court in recent years which provide companies with significant constitutional protections in terms of where plaintiffs may force companies to litigate.

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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 26, 2017, Alcoa Community Federal Credit Union (“Alcoa”), on behalf of itself, credit unions, banks and other financial institutions, filed a nationwide class action against Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. (“Chipotle”). The case arises from a breach of customer payment card data. The putative class consists of all such financial institutions that issued payment cards, or were involved with card-issuing services, for customers who made purchases at Chipotle from March 1, 2017, to the present. Plaintiffs allege a number of “inadequate data security measures,” including Chipotle’s decision not to implement EMV technology. 

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If you are a retailer, you may have policies and procedures in place regarding who can speak on behalf of your company. Such policies may generally instruct employees not to speak to the press as a representative of the company, and to direct all media inquiries to a particular person or department. Similarly, if you are a retailer, you may have a policy in place that instructs employees to forward any reference requests to your human resources department. These commonplace policies allow retailers to control their public image and protect employee privacy, among other benefits. But, according to a recent decision by a National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) administrative law judge (“ALJ”), such policies may violate the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) by interfering with, restraining or coercing employees in their right to engage in concerted activity.

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

NAD Recommends Kauai Coffee Discontinue and Modify Compost Claims

This week, NAD released their recommendations in their review of Kauai Coffee’s environmental claims for their single-serve coffee pod products. Kauai Coffee’s ads claim that the pods are “100% compostable,” but fail to clearly disclose that the pods are certified compostable only in industrial composting facilities, and are not suitable for home composting. While the pods are certified compostable by the Biodegradable Products Institute (“BPI”), BPI specified in its certification of the pods that they will disintegrate “swiftly and safely in a professionally managed composting facility.” NAD recommended that Kauai Coffee discontinue certain claims, and modify others to include the qualifying language: “Compostable in industrial facilities. Check locally, as these do not exist in many communities. Not certified for backyard composting.” Kauai Coffee said it will comply with NAD’s recommendations.

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A year ago, the United States Supreme Court held in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins that a plaintiff must do more than plead a mere statutory procedural violation to establish standing; to plead an injury in fact, a plaintiff also must allege a harm that is both “concrete” and “particularized.” Two recent decisions by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit—one involving a rare written dissent from the denial of a petition for rehearing en banc—demonstrate the continuing difficulties courts are facing in determining what constitutes a concrete injury under Spokeo. They suggest that the Eleventh Circuit is most likely to find standing for violations of statutes that are intended to protect personal privacy or create a right to information, although judges do not always agree as to which statutes fall within these categories.

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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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On May 2, 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a summary order affirming dismissal of a putative data breach class action against Michaels Stores, Inc. (“Michaels”). The plaintiff’s injury theories were as follows: (1) the plaintiff’s credit card information was stolen and twice used to attempt fraudulent purchases; (2) the risk of future identity fraud and (3) lost time and money resolving the attempted fraudulent charges and monitoring credit. The plaintiff, however, quickly cancelled her card after learning of the unauthorized charges and did not allege that she was held responsible for any of those charges.

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Recently, in a case that should remind retailers and their suppliers to consider their First Amendment rights as they relate to the regulation of product labeling, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals held in Ocheesee Creamery LLC v. Putnam, 851 F.3d 1228, that the actions of the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and the Chief of the Florida Bureau of Dairy Industry (the “State”) violated the dairy company’s First Amendment rights relating to use of the term “skim milk.”

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April served as a microcosm for recent trends in the world of recalls. A gas range manufacturer agreed to pay a $4.65 million civil penalty to the CPSC. In a six-year period, the manufacturer received 170 incident reports that the gas ranges had turned on spontaneously and could not be turned off using the control knobs. But the manufacturer knowingly failed to notify the CPSC immediately. The manufacturer agreed to pay the massive penalty, maintain an enhanced compliance program and maintain a related system of internal controls and procedures.

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On April 18, 2017, the state of Washington passed House Bill 1493 (“HB 1493”), which sets forth requirements for businesses who collect and use biometric identifiers for commercial purposes. Under HB 1493, a biometric identifier includes a fingerprint, voiceprint, retina, iris or other unique biological pattern or characteristic used to identify a specific individual. Commercial use includes “a purpose in furtherance of the sale or disclosure to a third party for the purpose of marketing of goods or services when such goods or services are unrelated to the initial transaction in which a person first gains possession of an individual’s biometric identifier.” This bill comes after several other states have passed similar legislation regulating the commercial use of biometric identifiers, including the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (740 ILCS 14) (“BIPA”) and the Texas Statute on the Capture or Use of Biometric Identifier (Tex. Bus. & Com. Code Ann. §503.001). 

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With less than two months before the May 31 deadline for public companies to report to the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) on the inclusion of conflict minerals in their products, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia entered a final judgment in National Association of Manufacturers v. Securities and Exchange Commission, the litigation surrounding the SEC conflict minerals rule. This alert provides a summary of legal developments over the past year on the topic of conflict minerals, including the SEC’s most recent action, and provides our ...

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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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The Second Circuit recently held that Rite-Aid lawfully fired a long-tenured pharmacist after he refused to comply with the company’s new mandate that pharmacists must administer immunizations. The court’s decision overturned a jury verdict of $2.6 million in the pharmacist’s favor and reminds employers what it takes to show that a given function is “essential” and what accommodations are reasonable. The former pharmacist had claimed Rite-Aid illegally discharged and retaliated against him, and refused to accommodate his disability—trypanophobia, or needle phobia—under the Americans with Disabilities Act and similar state law.

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Emboldened by its recent victory in SAP v. Diageo (2017) EWHC (TCC) 189, SAP may become even more opportunistic when it comes to auditing its customers’ use of various SAP products. On February 16, 2017, the England and Wales High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division (Technology and Construction Court) ruled that the use by Diageo’s sales representatives and customers of various software systems that pulled data from and pushed data to Diageo’s instance of mySAP ERP, even though there was no direct access to or use of mySAP ERP by such sales representatives or customers, constituted impermissible access to and use of mySAP ERP under Diageo’s license agreement with SAP.

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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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TCCWNA case law has continued to develop with no end in sight. Recently, courts have grappled with definitional questions that could impact the scope of the law and affect sellers of consumer goods and services.

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

Litigation Bubbles Up Over Wal-Mart Beer Claims

Wal-Mart was sued in Ohio last week in a proposed class action, alleging that the company falsely marketed and priced mass-produced beer as craft beer. The plaintiff explains that he bought a 12-pack of beer that was packaged to look like craft beer, and sold at a higher price point than other mass-produced beers. In order to be called a craft beer, the Brewers Association requires that the brewery make fewer than 6 million barrels annually and be less than 25 percent owned by a mass producer. Wal-Mart’s beer is a part of a collaboration with Trouble Brewing, which the complaint alleges does not exist but is a subset of a large mass beer producer.

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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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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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On January 13, 2017, the United States Supreme Court agreed to resolve the question of whether class action waivers in the employment context violate the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”). The decision will have far-reaching consequences for retailers who include such waivers in employee arbitration agreements in an effort to limit class action exposure. 

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On January 3, 2017, a Ninth Circuit panel (the “panel”) weighed in on a growing split among circuits over Rule 23’s ascertainability requirement—in particular, the extent to which a plaintiff must prove there is an “administratively feasible” means of identifying class members.

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The practice of incorporating use restrictions in leases is common by retailers to protect their investments in new stores and improvements to existing stores. However, retailers should consider both property and antitrust issues when drafting and enforcing use provisions of a lease. In addition, use restrictions could be used by disgruntled potential tenants as fodder for litigation if the terms have the effect of excluding tenants from prime locations.

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The American Tort Reform Association recently released the 2016–2017 edition of its “Judicial Hellholes” report. This annual report identifies venues it deems least favorable for civil defendants based on recent decisions and verdicts, as well as state laws and policies.

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In August 2016, the Supreme Court of California issued its decision in Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court, which – as detailed more fully in our earlier post – features an expansive interpretation of specific personal jurisdiction that is difficult to reconcile with the U.S. Supreme Court’s general personal jurisdiction decisions in Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 131 S. Ct. 2846 (2011) and Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S. Ct. 746 (2014). Those decisions significantly limited the exercise of general personal jurisdiction over defendant corporations to their state of incorporation and principal place of business unless “exceptional circumstances” exist. 

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On November 9, 2016, Hunton & Williams LLP lawyers on the Retail and Consumer Products, Insurance and Corporate Litigation teams, Syed Ahmad, Shawn Regan and Shannon Shaw, published an article in Corporate Counsel discussing a recent decision from New York's highest court that may impact the exchange of information between retailers and third parties, such as vendors, that are engaged in a variety of transactions where privileged information may need to be shared. The article addresses the impact of Ambac Assurance v. Countrywide Home Loans, in which the New York Court of Appeals ...

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Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard oral argument in ACA International v. FCC, the appeal of the Federal Communication Commission’s (“FCC's”) July 2015 declaratory order interpreting the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”). Although scheduled to last 40 minutes, oral argument before the three-judge panel lasted almost three hours. The nature of the judges’ questioning suggests that the D.C. Circuit may soon clarify the TCPA’s restrictions on automated telephone dialing, a result many affected businesses throughout the country would welcome.

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DOJ Merger Investigation Opened a Whole Can of Worms

Retailers and consumers may have been paying out the gills for canned tuna. The Wal-Mart family of stores has alleged a price fixing scheme for canned tuna in Arkansas federal court. Wal-Mart’s complaint casts a wide net, alleging that Bumble Bee Foods, StarKist, Del Monte Foods (former owners of StarKist) and Tri-Union Seafoods (owners of Chicken of the Sea) engaged in large-scale price fixing in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act. The defendants allegedly hatched the scheme between 2008 and 2010 and canned it in July of 2015.

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This past week, several consumer actions made headlines:

Hyundai and Kia Set State Attorneys General Investigations for $42.1 Million

Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motor Corp. have agreed to pay $42.1 million to settle claims by the Attorneys General of 33 states and the District of Columbia that the companies misrepresented mileage and fuel economy ratings for certain vehicles. Hyundai issued a statement regarding the settlement, noting that it contains no admission of any wrongdoing. The companies previously paid $100 million to settle claims that they had misrepresented emissions to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and $225 million to a consumer class for overstating the fuel efficiency of their vehicles.

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The following consumer protection actions made headlines this week:

Epson to Make Advertising Modifications Following NAD Recommendations

Epson America Inc. has agreed to make some modifications to its advertising after a challenge from HP. The NAD recommended Epson discontinue its “loaded and ready” claim as it may confuse consumers into thinking its EcoTank printers are pre-filled with ink and ready to print immediately. The NAD reviewed numerous other Epson claims, including: (1) EcoTank printers offer “an unbeatable combination of convenience and value”; (2) EcoTank printers will “save [consumers] a small fortune on ink”; and (3) implied claims that EcoTank printers provide environmental benefits versus other printers. While the NAD found that the EcoTank printer can save a consumer money in the long run, it recommended that Epson discontinue its “small fortune” claim. The NAD also found that Epson provided support for its implied comparative environmental claims.

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As reported in the Hunton Insurance Recovery blog, a federal judge in Alabama ruled Tuesday that a grocer could not rely on its legacy business insurance policies – including an “electronic data” coverage extension – to protect against third-party claims after customer data was compromised by a point-of-sale cyber attack. The decision in Camp’s Grocery, Inc. v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Company is another reminder to retail policyholders to ensure that their cybersecurity programs include both adequate cybersecurity safeguards and appropriate first-party and third-party cyber/crime insurance coverages. Failure to maintain either may jeopardize coverage for resulting cyber losses.

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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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The first blow to the recent expansive application of the New Jersey Truth-in-Consumer Contract, Warranty and Notice Act (“TCCWNA”) was struck by a federal court in California last month. In Candelario v. Rip Curl, Inc., the Central District of California granted a motion to dismiss a complaint alleging a TCCWNA violation of website terms and conditions because the plaintiff lacked Article III standing. The plaintiff has appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit.

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This past week, several consumer actions made headlines:

General Mills Faces Potential Class Action Over Health Claims of Sugary Foods

General Mills has been sued in the Northern District of California over claims that it has put misleading labels on a number of its products. According to the complaint, labels with phrases such as “whole grains” and “fiber” are deceptive “because they are incompatible with the significant dangers of the excessive added sugar.” General Mills and other large food companies have been facing similar suits over labelling recently, including a lawsuit over the protein content of its “Cheerios Protein” brand.

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Earlier this month, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC") charged publicly traded RPM International Inc. ("RPM") and its general counsel with violations of the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws due to failures to disclose and account for material information related to an ongoing government investigation under the False Claims Act. The SEC alleges that the general counsel advised RPM’s CEO and audit committee of the investigation as early as April 2011, but in subsequent years, the general counsel allegedly failed to inform the company’s CEO, CFO, audit committee and external auditor of particular information known to him that showed RPM’s true financial exposure arising out of the investigation. As a result of the general counsel’s conduct, the SEC alleges that RPM filed various false and misleading reports with the SEC, thereby misleading investors about the company’s financial results, internal controls and the accuracy of its books and records. RPM ultimately restated its financial results. The SEC’s complaint seeks permanent injunctions, disgorgement and financial penalties.

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Under the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (“FLSA’s”) white-collar exemptions, an employee must meet both a duties and a salary basis test in order to be exempt from overtime requirements. Currently, the salary basis test requires that the employee receive at least $455 per week in salary. However, under a recent Department of Labor rulemaking, the weekly salary amount is set to more than double to $913 per week effective December 1, 2016. Thus, employers must ensure that any white-collar-exempt employee making less than $913 per week either (1) receives a salary increase to at least $913 per week to continue the overtime exemption or (2) is reclassified to non-exempt and receives overtime when working more than 40 hours in a week. 

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Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746 (2014), numerous courts across the country have applied its holding to narrow the permissible bounds of the exercise of general jurisdiction over companies in jurisdictions without a connection to the specific claims in the case. On August 29, 2016, in Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court, No. S221038 (Calif. 2016), the California Supreme Court left many wondering what Daimler may mean for the exercise of specific jurisdiction in cases involving nationwide courses of business conduct affecting both resident and nonresident plaintiffs. 

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