Posts tagged Marketing.
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A longer version of this blog post originally appeared as an article in Retail TouchPoints: Policing Your Brand on Online Marketplaces: an Intellectual Property Guide for Retailers. Further duplication is not permitted.

Retailers often face brand policing challenges on online resale platforms such as Wayfair, Overstock.com, and eBay. Resellers account for a significant portion of retail sales on these websites. Resellers tend to be small to midsize entities but are nevertheless able to reach a large number of US consumers. It’s thus unsurprising that problems arise daily, often relating to brand owners’ dissatisfaction with the third-party resellers and their sales practices.

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The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed the dismissal of a putative class action lawsuit brought by a consumer who claimed that The Kroger Company supermarkets falsely advertised its spreadable fruit product containing fruit-based sweeteners as “Just Fruit.” 

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The National Advertising Division (“NAD”) has recommended that Goya Foods, Inc. toss claims that its Excelsior brand pasta is “Puerto Rico’s Favorite Pasta,” following a challenge by Goya’s competitor, Riviana Foods, Inc. Riviana, the maker of Ronzoni pasta, argued that Goya had not substantiated its “favorite” claim through consumer survey or sales data. Goya responded that its claim was classic puffery. NAD disagreed with Goya, finding that “favorite” is objectively measureable and means a product is preferred over all others. NAD ...
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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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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 National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (“NAD”) has settled competing challenges between Kraft Heinz, the maker of Heinz Real Mayonnaise, and Unilever, the maker of Hellmann’s REAL Ketchup.

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In a recent unpublished ruling, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a putative class action lawsuit alleging that Blue Diamond Growers mislabeled its almond beverages by failing to identify products as “imitation milk.” Painter v. Blue Diamond Growers, No. 17-55901 (9th Cir. Dec. 20, 2018).

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MillerCoors launched a “Know Your Beer” campaign that included digital vignettes featuring beer customers who were asked to taste two unnamed beers (Miller Light vs. Bud Light), determine which beer had “more taste,” and select their choice. When the identities of the two beers were revealed, the vast majority of participating consumers expressed surprise at having chosen Miller Lite over Bud Light.

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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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Brick and mortar retailers are rapidly diversifying checkout and payment methods to combat the erosion of sales to online channels and provide an improved shopping experience for consumers. From self-checkout kiosks, to store-specific mobile applications for payment, scan-as-you-go devices, and even ‘just walk out’ models, retailers are reinventing consumer’s notions of the traditional checkout line by going cashierless. Some estimates predict that these automated technologies could account for 35% of retail sales in the next 20 to 30 years.

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The rise of e-commerce and the struggle many brick-and-mortar retail stores face is nothing new.  Customers are increasingly choosing to shop for clothes, furniture and even groceries from the convenience of their own homes. More recently, however, this shift in the way consumers shop has given rise to new types of retail stores – small showrooms and “pop-up shops.” While showrooms are not entirely new concepts, purely digital companies are increasingly opening up physical showrooms where customers can see and touch merchandise before deciding to buy, while the actual transactions often remain online. Pop-up shops – another retail store model - allow retailers (often online or seasonal retailers) to have a physical presence for a limited duration to essentially test run whether a permanent store would be lucrative.  

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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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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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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 OKs Large Warning Requirement for Cigar Products

A federal court has upheld forthcoming health warning requirements that will take up 30 percent of the principal panels of cigar product packages and 20 percent of cigar product advertisements. The court found that the textual warnings were “unambiguous and unlikely to be misinterpreted by consumers,” and that the cigar sellers retained sufficient space on their packaging and advertisements “in which to effectively communicate their desired message.” It also concluded that, under the Zauderer standard for commercial speech, the size, format and other design features of the warning statements were reasonably related to the government’s substantial interest in “providing accurate information about, and curing misperceptions regarding, the health consequences of cigar use.” The case is captioned Cigar Assoc. of Am. et al. v. FDA et al. No. 1:16-cv-1460 (D.D.C.).

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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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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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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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E-commerce and online shopping are here to stay, but the explosion of new technology and the number of resources available to facilitate online shopping is an opportunity for retailers to embrace new ideas and concepts that will increase foot traffic to their physical locations. The store-within-a-store concept isn’t new, but the type of store-within-a-store retailers have conventionally seen is changing and bringing in new business.

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This past week, several self-regulatory advertising decisions made retail headlines.

Finish Quantum Dishwasher Detergent Beaten by “Unbeatable” Claim

In response to a challenge brought by P&G, the NAD recommended that Reckitt Benckiser LLC, manufacturer of dishwasher detergent brand Finish Quantum, discontinue its claims that the detergent provides an “unbeatable clean.” After reviewing Finish Quantum’s test data, the NAD determined that the “evidence was not sufficiently reliable to support the challenged ‘unbeatable clean’ claim.” Finish Quantum can, however, continue use of its value claim that its product provides “25% more loads,” so long as the claim is qualified by adding the phrase, “based on retail pack size comparison” between Finish Quantum and leading alternatives such as Cascade Platinum. Reckitt Benckiser stated that it will comply with the NAD’s recommendations.

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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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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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A reflection on 2017 reveals several highlights showing that the CPSC is in a transition phase.

The CPSC’s composition has changed and will continue to do so. At the beginning of 2017, the agency was led by three Democrats and two Republicans. In October, Republican Commissioner Joseph Mohorovic resigned his seat to return to the private sector. Thus, the CPSC now has four commissioners: three Democrats and one Republican. But the Democrats’ grip on the agency will soon slip. Indeed, after the election of President Trump, Republican Commissioner Ann Marie Buerkle became the CPSC chair. Further, President Trump has nominated a private-sector lawyer named Dana Baiocco to replace Commissioner Marietta Robinson, a Democrat whose term has expired. Further, an additional Republican nominee is expected to fill Mohorovic’s resignation. Thus, 2018 will likely see a Republican majority leading the CSPC for the first time in over a decade.

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

Department Stores Settle False Discount Claims

Ann Taylor and its parent company, Ann Inc., have entered into settlements amounting to approximately $6.1 million in two unrelated cases alleging false discounts. Ann Inc. settled allegations that it offered misleading “discounts” on clothes sold through its Ann Taylor Factory and LOFT stores. According to the complaint, the stores claimed to sell goods “marked down” from prices that never actually applied to the goods in question.

The Neiman Marcus Group LLC also has reportedly reached a settlement over similar claims; details of this settlement currently are not available to the public.

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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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The retail industry has seen a rapid adoption of chat robots, or “chatbots,” by retailers looking to deploy new technologies to more effectively engage consumers and drive sales on their e-commerce platforms. So what exactly are chatbots? Chatbots are interactive software that can converse and interact with end users, much like a customer service representative would, by leveraging the power of artificial intelligence.

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

FTC Extends Comment Period for Paint Claims

On August 7, 2017, the FTC extended the public comment period related to four proposed settlements with paint companies. According to the original complaints from June 2017, Benjamin Moore, Imperial Paints, ICP Construction and YOLO Colorhouse deceptively claimed that their paint products were either emission-free or contained zero volatile organic compounds, including during and immediately after application. 

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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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As an update to our Recall Roundup’s focus on the fidget spinning craze from June and July, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) has released spinner safety tips. Although the CPSC still reports no fidget spinner recalls, Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle used the CPSC’s bully pulpit to warn of the choking dangers that result when fidget spinners break and release small pieces. In addition, she references “reports of fires involving battery-operated fidget spinners.” 

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The Ninth Circuit will decide whether Great Lakes Reinsurance must defend clothing company, In and Out, against a trademark infringement suit by Forever 21. The dispute focuses on exclusionary language in the general liability policy issued by Great Lakes to In and Out, which broadly bars coverage for claims stemming from violations of intellectual property rights, but which also excepts from the exclusion claims for copyright, trade dress and slogan infringement occurring in the company's advertisements. The appeal concerns last year’s ruling by a California federal judge that Great Lakes owed a defense because the underlying complaint raised a potential that In and Out’s advertising infringed Forever 21’s trade dress.

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

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

Judge Stays Chicago Soda Tax at Last Minute

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

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

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

FDA Continues to Reverse Course on Obama-Era Food Label Regulations

After delaying the Menu Labeling Rule effective date to May 7, 2018, the FDA also has indefinitely delayed the launch of changes to the Nutrition Facts labels. These updates, which include information regarding added sugars and emphasized caloric counts, originally were planned to go into effect in July 2018. Despite the delay, a number of manufacturers already have rolled out new labels.

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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. 

Time 3 Minute Read

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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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 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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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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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.

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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.

Health App Makers Settle with NY Attorney General Over Heart Rate Claims and Murky Privacy Policies 

Three mobile health app developers have agreed to a settlement with the NY AG over allegations that they made false claims about their apps’ ability to measure vital statistics and failed to inform users what data the apps collected and stored. The app makers promised their products accurately measured heart rates and detected fetal heart beats, but the NY AG alleged the companies lacked sufficient information to back these claims. The companies’ privacy policies also neglected to inform consumers that the apps collected and stored sensitive information such as unique device identifiers and geolocation data. The app developers have agreed collectively to pay the AG $30,000 in penalties, revise their privacy policies to enhance disclosure and require users’ affirmative consent, and refrain from making misleading claims about their products.

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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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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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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.

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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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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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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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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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 consumer and self-regulatory actions made headlines that affect the retail industry.

Court Dismisses ‘Made in USA’ Claims against Citizens of Humanity

A California federal judge dismissed claims against Citizens of Humanity alleging that it falsely labeled its products as “Made in the USA.” While plaintiffs alleged that the fabric, thread, buttons and other components were foreign-made, the court found that this was not enough to satisfy California’s standard, allowing the use of “Made in the USA” labels on products containing 5 to 10 percent of foreign materials. Significantly, the court applied the 5 to 10 percent standard found in the California rule despite the fact that the products at issue had been purchased prior to the rule’s enactments. The court also dismissed claims under the Unfair Competition Law and California Legal Remedies Act, finding that the plaintiffs failed to plead with particularity. 

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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 self-regulatory consumer actions made headlines that affect the retail industry.

VitaPulse Modifies Ad Practices after NAD Review

Princeton Nutrients LLC, the maker of the dietary supplement, VitaPulse, has agreed to modify its advertising practices following an investigation by the National Advertising Division (“NAD”). The NAD investigated claims that the product reduces cholesterol, lowers blood pressure and increases energy, as well as the company’s use of online reviews and testimonials. As a result, Princeton Nutrients elected to permanently discontinue its health claims rather than provide NAD with supportive substantiation.

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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 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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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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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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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 consumer actions made headlines:

Claims Against Advertisers for the Misuse of “Natural” Gain Traction

Claims that Nature’s Bounty's “natural” menopause remedy is ineffective and contains synthetic ingredients and lead survived a motion to dismiss and may proceed as a class action, according to a judge in the Eastern District of New York. The named plaintiff accuses Nature’s Bounty of advertising its black cohosh menopause remedy as “natural” and “nonsynthetic”; she also alleges that the effectiveness of the remedy is not supported by scientific evidence. A key issue before the court was whether a reasonable consumer would assume that the product – labeled as “natural” with a disclaimer that it contains “other ingredients” – contained only natural ingredients. The court found that a reasonable consumer would make this assumption and allowed the plaintiff’s advertising claims to proceed on that basis.

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

Clearblue Label Not So Clear

A Second Circuit panel affirmed a district court ruling that SPD Swiss Precision Diagnostics GmbH, maker of the Clearblue Advanced Pregnancy Test with Weeks Estimator, violated the Lanham Act. While medical professionals estimate the length of pregnancy by the date of a woman’s last menstrual period, the Clearblue test estimates it by the length of time since a woman ovulated, but does not disclose this difference in measurement. The appeals court rejected Clearblue’s argument that the Lanham Act claim was precluded because it's label and marketing materials had been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The case was brought by competitor Church & Dwight Co. Inc.

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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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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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As retailers continue to look for new and innovative ways to maintain communication and “touch points” with their customers, many are looking to technology-infused or “smart” packaging and advertising materials. There are many ways to drive customer interaction and web traffic through smart packaging and advertising materials, including through the use of hyperlinks, quick response (“QR”) codes and near field communication (“NFC”) chips. 

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In this post-Spokeo world, a defendant facing the all-too-common “no-injury” putative class action might be tempted to seek dismissal of the lawsuit on Article III grounds. But a panel of Ninth Circuit judges recently gave a compelling reason why defendants should strongly consider otherwise. In Polo v. Innoventions Intern. LLC, a Ninth Circuit panel reversed the dismissal of a putative class action based on a lack of jurisdiction, with instructions to remand the case to state court. We previously reported about this possibility following the issuance of Spokeo, into which a Ninth Circuit panel now has breathed life.

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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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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.

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On July 29, 2016, President Obama signed into law a bill that will establish federal standards for labeling of food products that contain ingredients from genetically modified organisms (“GMOs”). Several consumer advocates opposed the bill, as it preempts more stringent labeling requirements in states like Vermont. However, several advocates on the other side favored the notion of national, uniform standards, as opposed to a patchwork of individualized state labeling laws.

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

Class Plaintiffs Just Keep Swimming Against Safeway in Underfilled Tuna Case

On July 13, 2016, Safeway escaped negligent misrepresentation claims in a putative class action consumer suit alleging that Safeway violated federal guidelines when it chronically underfilled two of its private label canned tuna products. Safeway filed a limited motion to dismiss the class plaintiffs’ unjust enrichment and negligent misrepresentation claims. The court found that, though duplicative, unjust enrichment was properly plead, but the negligent misrepresentation claim failed because class plaintiffs could not show that they suffered any loss other than an economic loss. Unfortunately for the grocer, eight other claims in the suit survived, including various breaches of warranty, unjust enrichment and California unfair competition counts. 

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

Federal Trade Commission

FTC Settlement Casts Shadow Over Online Video Game Reviews

This past week, the FTC settled with Warner Bros. Home Entertainment over online influencer charges. The FTC alleged that Warner Bros. deceived consumers while marketing its video game, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. Warner Bros. paid online “influencers,” like the popular gamer “PewDiePie,” to post positive reviews of the game online through YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and other social media. While Warner Bros. instructed these influencers to disclose the connection, they told them to do so in a description box below the video, not in the video itself, so that the monetary connection was not immediately apparent. The FTC has been particularly focused on cracking down on misleading online reviews in the past few years.

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

Technology

Volkswagen to Pay an Additional $86 Million to California

On July 6, California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced that Volkswagen (“VW”) will pay the state an additional $86 million in a second partial settlement over VW’s emissions “defeat devices.” This civil penalty sum is the largest amount ever recovered by California from an automaker, and comes on the heels of the recently announced $14.7 billion settlement negotiated by the EPA and the FTC over the German automaker’s emissions-cheating scandal. The $86 million is part of a total $603 million VW has agreed to pay to resolve consumer-protection claims with 46 jurisdictions. As part of the settlement, VW agreed to strict injunctive terms, including prohibitions on false advertising and affirmative disclosure of defeat devices.

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

FTC Announces Substantial Maximum Civil Penalties Increases Due to “Catch-Up” Cost-of-Living Adjustment

Pursuant to the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 2015, the FTC has approved new maximum civil penalties for 16 law provisions governed by the Agency. Many of the maximum penalties had not been adjusted in decades and are increasing substantially under the statutorily mandated “catch up” cost-of-living adjustment.

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For many consumers, online reviews play a role in the decision to make any purchase. Before making dinner reservations, choosing a hotel, hiring a service provider or even buying a toaster, consumers often look to online reviews as an assessment of the product, service or experience they want to buy. In a market where a negative online review or rating from a dissatisfied customer can influence countless other potential buyers — not just people the dissatisfied customer knows in real life — companies have a strong incentive to maintain a positive reputation online. However, in a desire to separate themselves from the competition with strong reviews, some companies have taken the race for positive online reviews too far, and the Federal Trade Commission is watching.

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