Photo of Melissa Landau Steinman

Melissa Steinman focuses on advertising and marketing, promotions, consumer protection, antitrust, trade regulation, and consumer product safety. In addition to counseling and compliance, she also actively represents clients in government investigations and defends clients against class actions. Melissa represents a broad array of clients, including consumer products and hospitality brands, media and tech companies, retailers, gaming and software companies, start-ups, celebrities, producers, charities, and trade associations. She is particularly well known for her deep knowledge of promotions law, including sweepstakes, contests, gift cards, loyalty programs, and charitable promotions, and she speaks and writes frequently on the topic in the United States and internationally.

Join us over the next few months 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 the authors of this chapter dive deeper into the issue of product safety and recalls in this week’s episode

On rare occasions, notwithstanding the best of engineering design and testing, a consumer product contains a manufacturing or design defect, or a failure of adequate instructions, that results in its being unsafe for use and a potential for causing bodily harm. This most often reveals itself when consumers bring the matter to the attention of a manufacturer, retailer, or direct-response marketer, or upon receipt of a notice from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).Continue Reading Product Safety and Recalls: An Excerpt from the Advertising Law Tool Kit

If your business offers a loyalty program in conjunction with a gift card, you likely already know that Section 520-e of New York’s General Business Law took effect December 10, 2023. This new law gives consumers a set grace period to use their credit card reward points when certain changes (e.g., modification, cancellation, closure, or termination) are made to a “reward, loyalty, or other incentive program.”

Specifically, under the new law, “[i]f any credit card account or rewards program is modified, cancelled, closed or terminated,” the issuer must provide notice to the card holder as soon as possible, but no later than 45 days of the action. Then, unless the customer has engaged in fraud or misuse of the account, starting with the date on which the notice is sent, the holder shall have 90 days to redeem, exchange, or otherwise use any accumulated credit card points, subject to the availability of rewards.

The new provision defines “modification,” as one that has the effect of “eliminating points, reducing the value of points, affecting the ability of a holder to accumulate points, limiting or reducing rewards availability, limiting a holder’s use of points or the credit card account, otherwise diminishing the value of the rewards program or the credit card account to the holder or changing the obligations of the holder with respect to the rewards program or credit card account.”Continue Reading Reminder: New York’s Credit Card Reward and Loyalty Program Law Is Now in Effect

The first quarter of 2023 hasn’t started much better for the blockchain and cryptocurrency industry than the fourth quarter of 2022 ended. Last week, in Friel v. Dapper Labs, Inc et al., a federal judge declined to dismiss a class action complaint alleging securities law violations, finding that the Plaintiffs plausibly alleged that the non-fungible tokens (NFTs) sold on the NBA’s Top Shot platform could be securities. The ruling was the first of its kind, and while the court expressly stated that it is narrow in scope and other NFTs may not be securities, the holding could ultimately have far-reaching implications for other NFT projects and marketplaces as applied, particularly in today’s uncertain environment.

NBA Top Shot is an NFT platform, owned and operated by Dapper Labs, that allows consumers to buy, sell, and trade “Moments” NFTs (digital video clips of player highlights) on Dapper Lab’s Flow Blockchain. On February 22, 2023, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York denied Dapper Labs’ motion to dismiss, holding that although “it is a close call and the Court’s decision is narrow,” Moments NFTs qualify as securities under the Howey test, the four-pronged test created by the Supreme Court in SEC v. Howey Co. to determine whether certain transactions qualify as investment transactions and are thus regulated securities. In its decision to deny the motion to dismiss, the court focused on prongs two and three of the Howey test.Continue Reading Layup or Airball? Court Holds NBA Top Shot NFTs May Be a Security in Friel v. Dapper Labs

Like clockwork, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued its Adjustments to Civil Penalty Amounts for 2023. As instructed by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015, the FTC and other similarly situated federal agencies ring in the new year not with champagne and confetti, but with adjusted maximum civil penalty

Doing good doesn’t get old. But marketing leaders know that effective promotion of a company’s charitable giving requires a subtle combination of bedrock advertising principles with a few twists. It’s often here that marketing and legal meet at the eleventh hour before a campaign goes live. Understanding the bounds of federal, state, and local laws that regulate charitable fundraising before these efforts launch helps marketing teams to be more efficient.

Knowing what type of giving campaign is in play is critical for understanding what regulatory requirements apply. While options abound, some perennial favorites include:Continue Reading Syncing Marketing and Legal: Compliance Considerations for Cause-Related Marketing

Webinar | June 23, 2022 | 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. ET | REGISTER

Effectively marketing your company’s charitable giving efforts requires not only the application of creative advertising principles, but an underlying familiarity with applicable responsibilities under federal, state, and even local laws. From sweepstakes and contests, to commercial coventurers’ charitable sales promotions, customer donation

A class action lawsuit filed against Kim Kardashian, Floyd Mayweather, and former professional basketball player Paul Pierce earlier this month underscores the need for celebrity endorsers to take care when they approach any endorsement activity in the cryptocurrency space.

The lawsuit alleges that the celebrities collaborated with Ethereum Max, a company offering ERC-20 cryptocurrency tokens (EMAX Tokens), and its executives to engage in a “pump-and-dump” scheme promoting investments in the company’s tokens. The complaint alleges that the three celebrity influencers misleadingly promoted EMAX Tokens to potential investors, touting the ability of investors to make significant returns due to the favorable “tokenomics” of the EMAX Tokens, when in fact the tokens were practically worthless. The class action alleges violations of California’s Unfair Competition Law, California’s Consumers Legal Remedies Act, aiding and abetting, and unjust enrichment/restitution.

According to the complaint, EthereumMax’s entire business model relies on marketing and promotional activities, and the celebrity promoters received EMAX Tokens and/or other compensation in return for promoting the tokens. (EthereumMax “has no connection” to Ether, the second-largest cryptocurrency, the lawsuit said, adding that its branding appears to be an effort to mislead investors into believing the token is part of the Ethereum network.) The promotional activities at issue included, among other things, making social media posts, wearing EMAX-branded shirts, and promoting the cryptocurrency at a conference.Continue Reading “Are You Guys Into Crypto????”: Celebrities Promoting Cryptocurrencies Become Class Action Targets

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently issued Notices of Penalty Offenses regarding for-profit education, endorsements and testimonials, and money-making opportunities. Prior to this year, the FTC had used its Penalty Offense authority only once in this century. So why the sudden rebirth? In this webinar, Venable attorneys examined the FTC’s authority in this area, the substance of the notices, and their broad implications.

What Is a Penalty Offense?

Under the Penalty Offense authority, the FTC can seek civil penalties against a company or individual if it proves that they had actual knowledge that the FTC had already issued a written decision (after an administrative trial) against another entity that the same conduct was unfair or deceptive in violation of Section 5(m)(1)(b) of the FTC Act. Section 5 enables the FTC to hold the person, partnership, or corporation liable for a civil penalty of up to $43,792 per violation.

In the last few weeks, the FTC has sent out three different notices. The purpose of these notices was to allow the FTC to argue that the recipients had actual knowledge that the FTC had previously ruled certain acts or practices to be unfair or deceptive. Each of the letters specifies that the FTC is not singling out recipients or suggesting recipients are violating the law, which signifies that this is part of an effort to effect broad changes in industry behavior.Continue Reading FTC’s Notice of Penalty Offenses: What Do They Mean for You?