One of the questions that remains uncertain among looming federal and state “junk fee” and “drip pricing” bans in 2024 concerns the impact these rules will have on credit card surcharges. Surcharges are added to sale transactions by some retailers when the buyer uses a credit card to make a purchase. Is this a mandatory fee that must be incorporated in the total price under the new laws? Or does the consumer’s choice to use a credit card to pay make the convenience of paying by credit card an optional service or feature that need not be included in the advertised price?

We may need to wait for further clarification from regulators or a lawsuit to know how junk fee bans impact surcharging, but understanding the possible arguments and pitfalls may help you decide how you will address this question in the short-term. Contact us if you need guidance or advice on these junk fee bans or surcharge rules.

Continue Reading Drip Pricing, Surcharging, and the Push for “Total Price” Disclosures

Late last week, the California attorney general released Frequently Asked Questions regarding California’s “Honest Pricing Law” or “Hidden Fees Statute,” which will take effect July 1, 2024. The law is anticipated to have a sizeable impact, given its breadth, and will vastly change how businesses disclose the price of their goods and services to the public. When “advertising, displaying, or offering” a price, the law requires businesses to include all required fees and charges other than certain government taxes and shipping costs.

The Advertised Price Is a Single Price, No Exceptions

The FAQs make clear that the intent of the law is to force businesses to display a single price that includes all required fees and charges that a consumer would pay at the end of the transaction. This is similar to the Federal Trade Commission’s Proposed Rule that businesses display the “Total Price” for goods and services.

Continue Reading California Releases FAQs on Complying with Impending Drip Pricing Law

In late March, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed into law the Ensuring Likeness Voice and Image Security Act of 2024—known as the “ELVIS Act”—making Tennessee the first state to address head-on potential misuses of artificial intelligence (AI) related to an individual’s voice. The law prohibits individuals from using AI to generate and distribute replicas of another’s voice or image without their prior consent.

Many prominent members of the music and entertainment community have identified Tennessee’s law as an important step forward for the protection of artists’ (and others’) voice and likeness. Specifically, right of publicity laws across the nation typically provide that individuals have a property right in the use of their name, photograph, and likeness. However, these laws generally do not address the use of one’s voice or generative AI exploiting another’s image, likeness, or voice to generate unauthorized impersonations or replicas. In the age of AI cloning and deep fakes, these unauthorized works have caused great concern among those in the entertainment and media industries. The ELVIS Act is “first-of-its-kind” legislation to directly address these concerns by expanding Tennessee’s existing protections against the unauthorized commercial use of one’s rights of publicity.

Continue Reading Tennessee Out Front: Enacting Protections Against AI Misuse in the Music Industry

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) agreed this week to cooperate and coordinate consumer protection efforts in enforcing the FCC’s reinstated “net neutrality” rules. The agencies stated in a Memorandum of Understanding that they will share legal, technical, and investigative expertise and experience in enforcing the rules.

The reinstated rules, adopted on April 25, formally reclassify internet service providers’ broadband services as “Telecommunications Services” under Title II of the Communications Act, rather than as a less-regulated Title I “Information service.” With this change in status, the FCC also reinstates specific proscriptive rules against blocking, throttling, or engaging in paid preference for certain network traffic, and re-adopts a “general conduct” standard barring unreasonable interference with consumers or providers that provide content and services.

Continue Reading FCC and FTC to Cooperate in Enforcing Reinstated Net Neutrality Rules

Early this week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it had fined the largest U.S. wireless carriers for sharing access to customers’ geolocation information without consent and without taking reasonable measures to protect against unauthorized disclosure. These Forfeiture Orders follow the issuance of Notices of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture and Admonishment by former Chairman Ajit Pai in 2020, and subsequent agency investigation by the agency’s Privacy and Data Protection Task Force.

The orders buttress FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel’s consumer protection agenda, which includes launching the Privacy and Data Protection Task Force last year. The FCC has been increasing its regulatory oversight under the task force, which it described as “an FCC staff working group focused on coordinating across the agency on the rulemaking, enforcement, and public awareness needs in the privacy and data protection sectors, including data breaches (such as those involving telecommunications providers) and vulnerabilities involving third-party vendors that service regulated communications providers.”

Continue Reading FCC Fines Major Wireless Carriers $200 Million for Sharing Customer Geolocation Data

Losing market share to a competitor touting its superiority makes your job harder and is frustrating, particularly when those claims are unsubstantiated or deceptive. You may want to counter your competitor’s claims with comparative advertising of your own or take legal action to make them stop. Before taking action, a company should carefully weigh its options, because the risks may outweigh the benefits, explained partners Shahin Rothermel, Claudia Lewis, and Ari Rothman in a recent webinar.

Six Options for Challenging Competitors

Want to challenge your competitors’ claims? Consider these six options—each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Continue Reading Event in Review: Why Can They Say That, but I Can’t? How to Challenge Your Competitors’ Advertising While Avoiding Being Targeted

It’s not often we see defendants win a resounding victory against the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and/or state attorneys general, especially after trial. But a recent opinion out of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania provides us with just that. On March 29, 2024 the court issued a 55-page opinion following a 15-day bench trial on the FTC and Pennsylvania attorney general’s claims against American Future Systems, Inc. and its two co-defendants, finding in favor of the defendants on all six counts.

The FTC and Pennsylvania AG challenged telemarketing for print publications, claiming defendants deliberately misled consumers when defendants:

Continue Reading Telemarketing Trial: Defendant Sweeps All Six Claims Against the FTC and Pennsylvania AG

Join us as we spotlight select chapters of Venable’s popular Advertising Law Tool Kit, which helps marketing teams navigate their organization’s legal risk. Click here to download the entire Tool Kit, and tune in to the Ad Law Tool Kit Show podcast, to hear an author of this chapter dive deeper into telemarketing and texting in this week’s episode.


Telephone and text message marketing poses private litigation risks and regulatory hurdles that should be considered before any campaign. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and states enforce do-not-call (DNC) laws and impose multiple other requirements regarding calling manner, disclosures, consent, opt-out, calling hour limits, caller identification, and telemarketer registration. Calls and texts made to cell phones, using certain types of dialing technology (including autodialers) and prerecorded messages (so-called robocalls), require particular attention, as much of the enforcement and litigation in this area involve texting and robocalling.

Continue Reading Telemarketing and Texting: An Excerpt from the Advertising Law Tool Kit

In February 2024, a New York federal jury returned a split verdict in the New York attorney general’s lengthy battle against Quincy Bioscience, finding that certain of Quincy’s efficacy and establishment claims for a dietary supplement called Prevagen were materially misleading. Quincy advertises that Prevagen improves memory through an active ingredient derived from jellyfish.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the New York AG jointly brought the case against Quincy in 2017, alleging its marketing of Prevagen was unfair, deceptive, or false advertising in violation of Sections 5 and 12 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, and New York General Business Law Sections 349 and 350, and for repeated fraudulent acts under New York Executive Law section 63(12). The New York AG sought injunctive relief and restitution from Quincy, and the FTC sought injunctive relief. The FTC’s claim is still pending and was not a part of the New York jury trial. The FTC/AG tag team has become common after the AMG decision, and the FTC recently discussed this in its report to Congress on cooperation with AGs.

Continue Reading Unraveling a Tangled Net of Claims: Jury Split on a Jellyfish-Derived Supplement Product

Historically, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has touted self-regulation as integral to consumer protection. This has included encouraging industries to work with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) in developing a self-regulatory body that can promote industry-wide policies and heightened compliance. However, late last month, the FTC criticized guidance promulgated by a self-regulatory body calling into question how much the current FTC values industry self-regulation.  

In 2023, the BBB National Programs’ Direct Selling Self-Regulatory Council (DSSRC), a self-regulatory agency for multilevel marketers (MLMs) and their members, released a guidance document on the use of Income Disclosure Statements (IDS). The purpose of IDS is to give prospective members information on the amount of income they can expect to earn in a business. Although these disclosures are not mandatory, if issued, they must comply with FTC regulations, as they are considered advertisements.

Continue Reading Not So Fast: FTC Letter Rebukes Direct Selling Self-Regulatory Council Guidance