On Tuesday, February 13, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) held an informal hearing regarding the Proposed Rule on the Use of Consumer Reviews and Testimonials. Three interested parties each had the opportunity to submit 30 minutes of oral commentary on the proposed rule and generally voiced concerns about the rule’s ability to address the issues surrounding consumer reviews.

The FTC’s proposed rule seeks to prohibit certain unfair or deceptive acts involving consumer reviews and testimonials. Specifically, it would prohibit buying positive reviews, selling or obtaining fake reviews, suppression of negative reviews, and selling fake social media indicators. Perhaps most importantly, if the rule becomes final, the FTC would be able to seek civil penalties against those engaged in violative review and testimonial practices. Previously, the FTC has only been able to obtain injunctive relief when combating fake reviews, and would have to rely on state attorneys general to join a suit to obtain monetary relief.Continue Reading FTC Contemplates Rule Aimed at Combating Deceptive Consumer Reviews

As we anxiously await the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) update of the Green Guides, advertisers should keep in mind the various “green” state laws that could affect the production and marketing of certain products. For example

Voluntary Carbon Market Disclosures Act (VCMDA)

The VCMDA is a new California law that imposes disclosure requirements on public and private companies of all sizes that:

  • Operate in California and/or make claims in California regarding their climate performance, including claims regarding the achievement of net zero emissions, that the entity (or its product) is carbon neutral and/or does not add net carbon dioxide or greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, that the entity has made “significant reductions” to its GHG emissions, or similar claims
  • Operate in California and/or make climate-performance claims in California and use or purchase voluntary carbon offsets (VCOs) sold in California
  • Market or sell VCOs in California (regardless of whether they make climate-performance claims)

Continue Reading Making Green Claims? Keep in Mind New State Laws

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

Tractor maker Kubota North America Corporation will pay a $2 million civil penalty for falsely labeling its replacement parts as “Made in USA,” the largest civil penalty ever in a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Made in USA case.

In its complaint, released last week, the FTC alleges that since at least 2021, Kubota has labeled thousands of replacement parts as Made in USA when, in fact, they were wholly imported. After shifting production of some of its products overseas, the company failed to update its package designs that included the Made in USA labels, resulting in the sale of millions of replacement parts with the false label.  Making matters worse, at least in the FTC’s eyes, Kubota was previously sued by the FTC in 1999 for falsely claiming that a line of lawn tractors it manufactured was Made in USA and was subject to an FTC order in that case that expired in 2019. Continue Reading FTC Issues Record-Breaking Civil Penalty in “Made in USA” Case

Earlier this week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) held its informal hearing on the proposed amendments to the Negative Option Rule. Clearly on display was not only industries’ concern about the impact of the proposed rule, but also concern about the FTC’s haste toward implementing the rule changes.

As a refresher, the FTC generally must promulgate rules under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Federal Trade Commission Improvements Act (Mag-Moss) instead of the less-stringent Administrative Procedures Act. Under Mag-Moss, the FTC must first issue an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) seeking public comment, issue a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), have reason to believe that the conduct at issue is “prevalent,” conduct informal hearings allowing parties to present their views and finally publish the final rule with a “statement of basis and purpose” accompanying the rule.Continue Reading Unpacking the FTC’s Negative Option Rule Informal Hearing

This week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced a Proposed Stipulated Order with lead generator Response Tree LLC and its president, resolving allegations that the company violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) and Section 5 of the FTC Act. The complaint alleged that the company operated “consent farm” websites that misled consumers into providing their telephone numbers, falsified lead data, and obtained leads without requisite consent, resulting in unlawful prerecorded calls and calls made to telephone numbers on the Do Not Call Registry.

First, the complaint alleges that defendant’s websites duped consumers into providing their telephone numbers by misrepresenting that they were consenting to receive calls about home mortgage financing quotes. According to the complaint, the defendant sold the lead to partners who marketed products or services completely unrelated to home mortgages or lending.Continue Reading FTC Bans Lead Generator from Participating in Robocalls in $7 Million Settlement

Last week, the Fifth Circuit handed down an across-the-board rejection of four constitutional challenges raised by gene sequencing company Illumina in defending against the Federal Trade Commission’s merger challenge. Bah! Humbug!

In previous years around the holiday season, we’ve had better news to report to those under the FTC’s thumb. With our coverage of the panoply of constitutional challenges that the FTC has been facing recently, there was a chance that tradition would continue. Alas, that is not the case with the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Illumina v. FTC.

First the Fifth Circuit rejected Illumina’s argument that Congress impermissibly delegated legislative authority by allowing the FTC to choose whether to bring enforcement actions in federal court or in an administrative proceeding. Specifically, the Court based its reasoning on the fact that the FTC’s authority under Section 13(b)—providing for federal action to obtain injunctive relief—and its authority under Section 5(b)—providing for administrative action, after which the FTC can obtain monetary relief such as damages—are two separate and distinct enforcement mechanisms.Continue Reading FTC Constitutional Challenge Update: Fifth Circuit Delivers Illumina a Stocking Full of Coal

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

In March, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) asked for comments on a proposal to replace the Prenotification Negative Option Rule with a more expansive Negative Option Rule. Now that the FTC has had the chance to review those comments, the FTC has set an informal hearing to allow for testimony from six of the over 1,000 commenters.

Each presenter will be limited to ten minutes but can supplement their remarks with written content. The FTC has appointed Carol Fox Foelak, an administrative law judge at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), to serve as presiding officer.Continue Reading New Year, New Rule: FTC to Review Updates to Negative Option Rule During January Informal Hearing

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) continues to focus its attention on “Made in the USA” claims, and this time the agency has fixed its gaze on a Florida-based company and its principal, whose claims regarding patriotic and Second Amendment-themed gifts were out of bounds.

In a recent complaint, the FTC alleged that the business, ExotoUSA LLC d/b/a/ Old Southern Brass, specifically targeted servicemembers and veterans by falsely stating that Old Southern Brass was a veteran-operated business that donated 10% of all sales to military charities. The FTC also charged that Old Southern Brass falsely represented, through express and implied claims, that all of its products were made in the United States. Statements such as “All of our products are made right here in the United States of America” directly contradicted evidence that many of the company’s products were either wholly imported from China or contained a significant amount of imported content.Continue Reading Made in or Made up? The FTC Closely Reviews “Made in USA” Claims