Yesterday, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) moved to dismiss its long-running enforcement action against Electronic Payment Solutions (EPS) pending in the District of Arizona after the Commission voted 4-0 to approve a final settlement with EPS and certain of its owners. The case against EPS, a third-party payment processor, is just the most recent example

The FTC held its most recent open meeting on Thursday, and two major topics were front and center: potential changes to the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) and a congressional fix to Section 13(b) after the one-year anniversary of AMG Capital Management LLC v. FTC.

In its first order of business, the Commission unanimously voted to publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPR) and an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR), which address several proposed updates to the TSR. The NPR is further along in the rulemaking process, where it seeks comment on the published proposed rule.Continue Reading FTC’s Spring Open Meeting Brings Potential Rule Changes and Plea to Congress

Last month, love was not all lost for the owner of Tinder and OKCupid when a Texas federal district court in FTC v. Match Group, Inc. granted in part the online dating service provider’s motion to dismiss. Specifically, the court agreed with Match that the FTC could not seek equitable monetary relief under Section 13(b) of the FTC Act and barred two claims based on Match’s immunity under the Communications Decency Act (CDA).

To set the scene, here is a recap of the legal landscape. In recent history, the FTC under Section 13(b) brought “proper cases” directly in federal courts without needing to conduct administrative proceedings. The agency also pursued permanent injunctions and equitable monetary relief.

In the past few years, courts have become increasingly less enamored with the FTC’s interpretation of its authority under Section 13(b). The first blow was FTC v. Shire Viropharma, Inc., in which the Third Circuit concluded that under Section 13(b), the FTC cannot base claims on “long-past conduct” alone, but must affirmatively plead facts that a defendant “is violating” or “is about to violate” the law, i.e., that there is “existing or impending conduct.”Continue Reading FTC v. Match Group, Inc.: Court Gets Cold Feet on the Standard Set Forth in Shire

On Friday, March 11, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed an administrative complaint against HomeAdvisor, Inc., charging it with using deceptive and misleading tactics to sell leads for home improvement projects to small businesses, including small “gig-economy” workers. The action underscores the current administration’s effort to protect workers, especially those engaged in the gig economy through large platforms.

The FTC alleges that since at least 2014, HomeAdvisor—a popular service that matches service providers with consumers seeking home improvements—made false, misleading, and unsubstantiated claims about the quality and source of leads it sells, and about the likelihood that the leads would result in actual jobs. According to the complaint:Continue Reading Burning Down the House: FTC Accuses HomeAdvisor, Inc. of Deception in Selling Leads for Home Improvement Projects

The latest edition of the FTC’s recent practice of holding open meetings brings a potential rule regarding earnings claims to the forefront. During the FTC’s open meeting, the Commission unanimously approved issuing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking with respect to earnings claims. As the Commissioners pointed out in their comments (additional information below), the motivation for this rulemaking is to repair the FTC’s ability to recover monetary relief for consumers after the Supreme Court’s decision in AMG Capital Management.

Prior to the vote, the Commissioners allowed Melissa Dickey from the Division of Marketing Practices to give a presentation on the FTC’s historical experience with earnings claims and the Division’s recommendation. Ms. Dickey recommended that the Commission move forward with the rulemaking process, and pointed to two primary reasons. First, the Division views false, misleading, and unsubstantiated earnings claims as especially problematic to consumers who, as Ms. Dickey postulated, ultimately rely on these assurances and, as a result, end up in significant debt. Second, the Bureau believes that these earnings claims are widespread, and impact almost every community, especially during the pandemic era, where purported bad actors target those who are seeking to earn extra income while working remotely.Continue Reading FTC Approves Rulemaking Process for Earnings Claims

As the rest of us prepare for the Super Bowl by buying avocados to make guacamole, installing new big-screen TVs, and donning Ram/Bengal-themed face paint, select corners of corporate America are preparing for the biggest advertising day of the year.

In 2021, companies spent approximately $485 million on ad slots during the big game, and the average cost of a 30-second commercial slot was about $5.6 million. With such high stakes, plus the intensive “Standards and Practices” review employed by the TV networks, one would assume that anything that makes the cut is above reproach. (The review board won’t even let advertisers use “Super Bowl” because it’s trademarked, which is why you often hear “the Big Game” in ads.)

However, the following examples of legal challenges to your favorite Super Bowl commercials demonstrate that the world of advertising law can be tricky to navigate, and companies that advertise simply cannot mitigate their litigation risk to zero.Continue Reading Defending Against the Blitz: Examining the Legal Issues Surrounding Super Bowl Ads

If you had asked us last week, we would have predicted that the Supreme Court’s momentous AMG Capital Management, LLC v. FTC decision last year, in which the Court struck down the Federal Trade Commission’s nearly 50-year practice of seeking equitable monetary relief under Section 13b of the FTC Act, would be the most significant decision about FTC jurisprudence we would see from the Supreme Court for a while.

However, in a surprising move, the Supreme Court recently granted certiorari in Axon Enterprises Inc. v. FTC to address whether Congress intended to strip federal district courts of jurisdiction to hear challenges to the constitutionality of the FTC’s structure, procedures, and very existence. Importantly, however, the Court declined to directly address the petitioner’s challenge to the constitutionality of the FTC. Still, the Court’s decision could significantly impact how future targets of FTC enforcement investigations and actions will challenge the FTC’s constitutional limits.Continue Reading Federal Trade Commission Goes to the Supreme Court Again, This Time in a Constitutional Challenge

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that it agreed to settle claims against Dun & Bradstreet (D&B), a business credit reporting agency engaged in deceptive and unfair practices with small and mid-sized business customers.

The FTC’s complaint primarily stemmed from businesses’ claims that error-ridden reports negatively affected business opportunities and that D&B’s offered credit-monitoring products did not easily improve credits scores and ratings as suggested. According to the order, D&B will have to adjust its operational practices in favor of its business customers.

Under FTC Chair Lina M. Kahn, the agency has been utilizing tools to affect broad swaths of the economy and certain industries. The FTC is using a traditional administrative cease and desist order to resolve small businesses’ credit reporting concerns – a continuation of the agency’s broad definition of “consumer” to challenge conduct directed at small businesses. The same concerns at issue in this case involving small business mirror those in many consumer cases, including credit reporting, deceptive telemarketing, and inadequately disclosed renewal terms.Continue Reading FTC to Dun & Bradstreet: Change Credit Reporting Operations to Benefit Business Customers

On July 21, 2021, and in response to President Biden’s Executive Order calling on the FTC to address repair restrictions, the FTC unanimously adopted the Right to Repair Policy Statement related to manufacturer and seller restrictions to product repairs. In the policy statement, the FTC announced its plans to prioritize enforcement against unlawful repair restrictions, including promoting possible updates to state and federal legislation. Manufacturers and sellers should ensure compliance with current consumer protection and antitrust laws and monitor potential rulemaking, a path the FTC is careening toward.

The FTC expressed concern that repair restrictions make it more difficult for competitors, local businesses, and consumers to repair products. In a May 2021 report to Congress, Nixing the Fix: An FTC Report to Congress on Repair Restrictions, the FTC detailed manufacturer-created restrictions, including limiting the availability of parts, software, and telematics information and access to authorized repair networks; designing products to make self-repairs less safe; asserting trademark and patent rights in an overbroad manner; and implementing restrictive end-user license agreements and software locks. The FTC also warned that repair restrictions drive up repair costs, repair wait times, and electronic waste; reduce competition; and have an especially large impact on communities of color and lower-income Americans.Continue Reading FTC Turns Focus to Repair Restrictions in New Policy Statement