Through a new interpretive rule announced this week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has declared that digital marketing providers can be held liable under the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA) if they engage in or substantially assist unfair, deceptive or abusive practices in advertising financial products on behalf of banks and nonbanks covered by the CFPA.

While service providers to “covered persons” under the CFPA are already subject to the Act, Congress carved out an exception for service providers offering or providing to covered persons “time or space for an advertisement for a consumer financial product or service through print, newspaper, or electronic media.” The CFPB’s new rule limits the applicability of that exemption to digital marketing providers such that the “electronic media” prong is very nearly void.

Continue Reading CFPB Warning to Consumer Financial Services Digital Marketing Providers

At the height of the pandemic, the Federal Trade Commission took swift action to stamp out scammers and other actors looking to take advantage of—or simply make a buck off—the crisis. One of the early moves it made was to file separate lawsuits against a pair of companies that sold sanitizer, face masks, and other protective equipment gear (PPE), but failed to ship the products as promised.

As of this week, the FTC has won summary judgment in both cases, FTC v. QYK Brands LLC d/b/a Glowwy and FTC v. American Screening, LLC. The cases highlight the two following points.

Continue Reading When a Mail Order Rule Case Is Not Just About the Mail Order Rule

Last week, the plaintiff in Alvarez v. Sunshine Life & Health Advisors LLC the first Florida Telephone Solicitation Act (FTSA) action to settle on a class basis — filed his motion for preliminary approval of the settlement. And the settlement is an interesting one. The settlement provides that the defendant will make available $2,556,000 as part of a common fund from which the following amounts will be paid:

  1. Each settlement class member who submits a valid claim form will receive a check in the amount of $300;
  2. An incentive award to the plaintiff in the amount of $5,000 for his service as the putative class representative;
  3. Attorneys’ fees and costs totaling 20% (or $511,200) of the common fund; and
  4. The costs of settlement notice and administration.
Continue Reading About That First Florida Telephone Solicitation Act Class Action Settlement…

We recently discussed the various ways in which the Federal Trade Commission is focusing on worker protections in the gig economy. Though we didn’t have a crystal ball to foresee it, the FTC announced that it is furthering those efforts through a new partnership with the National Labor Relations Board. On July 19, 2022, FTC Chair Lina Khan and NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo signed a Memorandum of Understanding on behalf of their respective agencies to “promote interagency collaboration,” to enhance enforcement efforts, and to “better root out practices that harm workers.”

The NLRB is an independent federal agency that enforces federal labor regulations—namely, regulations prohibiting unfair labor practices—through investigations, administrative proceedings, and lawsuits. The NLRB also engages in rulemaking and conducts elections concerning the formation or decertification of unions. FTC Chair Khan stated that the agencies’ agreement will advance their “shared mission to ensure that unlawful business practices aren’t depriving workers of the pay, benefits, conditions, and dignity that they deserve.”

Continue Reading FTC Joins Forces with NLRB to Further Its Gig Economy and Worker Protection Agenda

The Ad Law Symposium is back in person!

September 15, 2022

7:30 – 8:00 a.m. – Registration and Breakfast
8:00 a.m. – 5:15 p.m. – Program and Lunch
5:15 – 7:00 p.m. – Networking Reception

After an extended hiatus, we’re thrilled to once again host Venable’s Advertising Law Symposium live and in person at our DC office. 

Combining the experience and thought leadership of one of the nation’s largest advertising law practices with key figures in regulatory and legislative government roles, our 9th annual Symposium will offer sessions designed to educate and innovate. Attendees span both the legal and business worlds, and include attorneys and clients working for some of the world’s biggest brands. Session topics will cover broad trends and anticipated developments, as well as industry-specific hurdles, highlights, and more.

Seats are limited and information about how to join this year’s event will be released soon. Stay tuned to All About Advertising Law for details.

Several years ago, in Salcedo v. Hanna, the Eleventh Circuit held that the receipt of a single allegedly unsolicited, autodialed text message was not a concrete enough injury-in-fact to establish Article III standing for a plaintiff under the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). We covered that decision here. Since then, the Salcedo court’s reasoning has been applied by Florida district courts in cases involving five text messages, the receipt of ringless voicemails, and unanswered prerecorded message calls.

At the Florida state court level, however, the issue of whether the mere receipt of an unsolicited, autodialed text message or call (or even several) without any attendant harm is enough to satisfy standing under the Florida Telephone Solicitation Act (FTSA) is unsettled. This past March, in Alvarez v. Sunshine Life & Health Advisors LLC, a judge in the Miami-Dade County Circuit Court held that, under Florida law, the receipt of two purportedly unsolicited, autodialed text messages was enough to support the plaintiff’s standing to bring an FTSA claim. That judge found that an alleged legal injury—the simple violation of the FTSA—without any attendant actual harm or damages is enough to give plaintiffs a ticket into state court because Florida courts do not follow the same standing analysis as federal courts do under Article III.

Continue Reading How a Recent FACTA Decision Impacts the Florida Telephone Solicitation Act’s Standing Analysis

This week, a New York district court, in FTC v. Quincy Bioscience Holding Co., granted an individual defendant’s partial motion for summary judgment, dismissing claims brought by the New York Attorney General (NYAG) for lack of personal jurisdiction over him. The dismissal shows a procedural challenge to the FTC’s effort to piggyback on the remedial authority of state AGs to backfill the hole in its remedial powers after the Supreme Court’s decision in AMG Capital Management v. FTC.

A quick refresher: In 2017, the FTC and the NYAG filed a complaint against several defendant companies and two individuals in their capacity as officers of those companies for failing to have proper substantiation to claim that a cognitive supplement improved memory. The FTC relied on Section 13(b) of the FTC Act to seek permanent injunctive relief and equitable monetary relief. On the other hand, the NYAG relied on certain state consumer protection statutes relating to repeated fraudulent or illegal conduct, deceptive business practices, or false advertising. These New York statutes allow for appropriate equitable relief that may include, among other things, restitution and disgorgement of ill-gotten monies. We have previously blogged on this case here and here. After AMG, the relief sought by the NYAG became significantly more important.

Continue Reading District Court to New York Attorney General: “No Personal Jurisdiction Piggybacking”

Webinar | July 19, 2022 | 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. ET | REGISTER

Although the concept is not new, challenges to “dark patterns” are rising all over the country.  The Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, state attorneys general, and class action plaintiffs increasingly cite this phrase in such complaints as deceptively enrolling consumers into negative option programs, signing consumers up for spam emails, and forcing arbitration agreements and class action waivers.  But what are dark patterns, really?  What makes them different from legitimate advertising designed to encourage consumers to buy products and services?  And how are they unlike age-old unfair and deceptive practices that the FTC, state AGs, and class action plaintiffs have targeted for decades?  Join Venable attorneys Ellen BergeAri Rothman, and Shahin Rothermel as they discuss the rise of cases targeting dark patterns and how to defend against them.

REGISTER

The FTC is off to the races with another proposed rulemaking. On June 23, the FTC, by a 4-1 vote, issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPR) to combat what it perceives as “junk fees” and “bait-and-switch advertising tactics” in the auto sales industry. Congress gave the FTC the authority to write rules governing the retail sale of automobiles, using APA rulemaking and not the more cumbersome Magnuson Moss rulemaking that the FTC normally must follow in consumer protection rulemakings. This authority is no small matter, as on June 30, the Supreme Court issued its decision in West Virginia v. EPA, which will make rulemakings by the FTC and other government agencies more challenging.

The FTC’s proposed rule would prohibit certain misrepresentations, require certain disclosures, prohibit certain “add-ons,” and require more thorough recordkeeping. First, among a whole host of potential misrepresentations, the proposed rule includes prohibiting misrepresenting regarding vehicle costs; terms of purchasing, financing, or leasing; and the availability of vehicles at an advertised price.

Continue Reading FTC Starts the Engine on Car Sales Fees and Advertising Rulemaking, but Other Rulemaking Faces Major Questions

Constant connectivity through smartphones has ushered in a new way for small businesses to connect with potential customers and gig workers looking for flexible employment. The emergence of companies like Uber, GrubHub, AirBnB, DoorDash, TaskRabbit, and Angie’s List has allowed for greater participation in today’s booming gig economy, with 16% of all U.S. adults having reported earning money through an online gig platform in a 2021 survey.

But as more customers, small businesses, and workers rely on these platforms, scrutiny from regulators has also increased. For years, this scrutiny has been focused on how to legally classify workers participating in these platforms and whether the services being performed by gig workers should be subject to the same regulatory and licensing requirements as traditional businesses. More recently, however, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state attorneys general have set their sights on the gig economy and practices they view as deceptive and unfair, which should put all gig platforms on high alert.

In Part I, we provide an overview of the gig economy’s legal landscape. In Parts II to IV, we discuss the agencies’ priorities in this area.

Continue Reading Gig Platforms, Wake Up. All Eyes Are Upon You.