As the dust settles from the Supreme Court’s decision in AMG Capital Management, LLC v. FTC, 141 S. Ct. 1341 (2021), which gutted the Federal Trade Commission’s authority to obtain equitable monetary relief in court, the contours of the FTC’s remedial authority continue to be shaped by the lower courts.

Most recently, the Eleventh Circuit weighed in on whether Section 19 of the FTC Act authorizes the FTC to obtain an asset freeze and impose a receiver. Prior to AMG, the FTC routinely obtained such preliminary relief against companies and individuals the FTC believed were engaging, or about to engage, in unfair deceptive business practices. In doing so, the FTC would rely on its authority under Section 13(b) of the FTC Act. However, after AMG, the FTC can only use Section 13(b) to obtain forward-looking injunctive relief.

Continue Reading Eleventh Circuit Says FTC Can Seek Asset Freezes and Receivership Under Section 19

When it comes to negative options, the CFPB has strong opinions. As demonstrated in its new circular, these opinions generally align with those of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has repeatedly targeted trial offers, subscription sales, and other programs involving recurring charges for enforcement. The circular reaffirms the CFPB’s focus—shared with the FTC—on combating digital dark patterns used to engage in unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices, especially when those techniques are combined with negative option marketing.

In an upcoming webinar on March 1, 2023 (RSVP here), Venable will be presenting an in-depth analysis of the CFPB’s circular, as well as CFPB and FTC enforcement actions and private litigation based on purportedly unlawful negative option marketing. For those who can’t wait, we’ve summarized the highlights of the circular below.

Continue Reading The CFPB Joins the FTC on Negative Option Marketing and Dark Patterns in New Circular

Last week the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced it had issued a complaint and proposed consent order against Instant Brands LLC for allegedly marketing products as “Made in the USA,” when they were actually made in China. Instant Brands, which manufactures Pyrex-brand products that include a range of mostly glass baking and cooking accessories, has already agreed to the settlement, which requires a payment of a monetary judgment of $129,416.

The company also agreed to three marketing restrictions:

  1. The FTC restricts the company from making unqualified U.S.-origin claims unless the product’s final assembly or processing, and all significant processing, takes place in the United States, and that all or virtually all ingredients or components of the product are made and sourced in the U.S.
  2. The agency requires that qualified “Made in USA” claims be accompanied by a disclosure regarding the presence of foreign parts, ingredients or components, and processing
  3. For any U.S.-assembly claims, it must be the case that the product is last substantially transformed in the U.S., principal assembly takes place in the U.S., and U.S. assembly operations are substantial


Continue Reading FTC Brings the Heat on Pyrex Manufacturer’s “Made in USA” Claims for Products Made in China

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

On December 20th, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission published new guidance regarding claims about the benefits and safety of health-related products: Health Products Compliance Guidance. This guidance replaces the Commission’s previous guidance, Dietary Supplements: An Advertising Guide for Industry, issued in 1998. The new guidance expands the scope to include other health-related products, such as foods, over-the-counter drugs, and devices.

Continue Reading FTC Announces Health Products Compliance Guidance

This week the Federal Trade Commission unveiled hefty settlements with Epic Games Inc.—the creator of the video game Fortnite—to resolve separate actions alleging violations of Section 5 of the FTC Act and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), respectively.

Epic Games will pay $245 million in consumer redress to settle the alleged Section 5 violations in an FTC administrative proceeding and will pay $275 million in monetary penalties to settle the COPPA action in federal court. The cases highlight two hot spots for the FTC—dark patterns and children’s privacy.

In its administrative complaint, the FTC alleges that Epic Games used dark patterns, making the gameplay interface confusing and tricking players into making in-game purchases, often when they did not intend to. Specifically, the complaint alleges that:

Continue Reading Ready, Aim, Fire: FTC Scores Record-Breaking $520 Million Settlement with Fortnite Creator Epic Games

At its December 14, 2022 open meeting, the Federal Trade Commission announced it would publish a notice in the Federal Register seeking comment on potential updates or revisions to its existing Green Guides. The Green Guides are the agency’s guidance document intended to “help marketers avoid making environmental marketing claims that are unfair or deceptive under Section 5 of the FTC Act.” Earlier, the FTC had indicated that the guides would be revised this year, but that has apparently slipped to next year.

The pre-publication version of the notice, which will be published later in the Federal Register, indicates that the FTC is requesting comments on all aspects of the Green Guides, and in it the agency notes that in the 10 years since the last update, increased attention to environmental concerns has resulted in “the proliferation of environmental benefit claims [which] includes claims not currently addressed in the Guides.” In addition, the FTC wants to ensure that the guides respond to changes in consumer perception.

Continue Reading FTC Seeks Public Comment on Possible Green Guides Revisions

FTC investigations require companies to act quickly. Failure to do so can have draconian consequences. Read more for recent case examples.
Continue Reading Spoliation and Failure to Disclose: What Gets Swept Under the Rug in FTC Investigations Lands in a Dangerous Pit

On November 10, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released an aggressive new Policy Statement outlining the current FTC’s view on what constitutes “unfair methods of competition in or affecting commerce” under Section 5 of the FTC Act. Section 5 of the FTC Act covers conduct that violates other federal antitrust laws but also other methods of unfair competition. How broadly that “penumbra” of Section 5 should be interpreted has been the subject of debate for years. Consistent with her stated intent to increase broadly the reach of the antitrust laws, FTC Chair Lina Khan has used the Policy Statement to advocate for an exceptionally aggressive view of the conduct that the FTC may challenge under its antitrust authority, eschewing economics-based analysis for conduct that the Commission believes is coercive, exploitative, or abusive. The Statement also dismisses past litigation setbacks where the FTC has asserted Section 5 authority but has been rebuffed by the courts, explaining that even when courts find against the agency on factual grounds, they have still generally affirmed the FTC’s broad and robust authority under Section 5.

FTC Commissioner Christine Wilson issued a detailed and scathing critique of the Policy Statement, citing the legal and policy problems she believes the Statement causes.

Continue Reading What the FTC’s Aggressive New Policy Statement on Unfair Methods of Competition Means for Advertisers

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general in Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, and Texas settled with advertising giants Google and iHeartMedia for deceptive advertising and endorsements under Section 5 of the FTC Act.

The FTC and states allege that Google paid iHeartMedia to record and broadcast ads featuring “radio personalities” endorsing Google’s phone, the Pixel 4. In the ads, the radio personalities lavished praised on the Pixel 4, using first-person language to describe the Pixel 4’s functionalities and calling it their favorite phone.

The ads aired over 11,200 times between October and December 2019. The problem? The Pixel 4 had not been released for sale, and Google was unable to provide the phones to the radio personalities before the ads aired. In essence, the radio personalities were extolling the Pixel 4 without ever having used one.

Continue Reading FTC Sues Advertising Behemoths Google and iHeartMedia for Deceptive Endorsements by Radio Personalities