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

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

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

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

Last week, the FTC brought and settled enforcement actions against two manufacturing companies for allegedly limiting customers’ right to repair purchased products under unlawful warranty terms. The FTC alleged that the two companies, Harley-Davidson Motor Company Group, LLC (a motorcycle manufacturer) and MWE Investments, LLC (a Westinghouse outdoor generator maker), acted illegally when using voidable warranties that required customers to use manufacturer-supplied parts and service instead of allowing customers to use independent dealers to either supply parts or perform repairs. In the settlements, the FTC ordered both companies to remove these warranty terms, admit to customers what they did, and ensure fair competition between dealers and independent third parties providing repair services and parts.

According to the FTC’s complaints against Harley-Davidson and MWE Investments, the companies’ unlawful warranty terms violated the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act for conditioning warranty coverage on using the companies’ respective parts or services without either seeking the FTC’s waiver or providing the parts or services free of charge under the warranty. The FTC also alleged the manufacturers acted deceptively in failing to disclose these conditions properly. The FTC alleged that Harley-Davidson also violated the FTC’s Rule Governing Disclosure of Written Consumer Warranty Terms and Conditions (“Disclosure Rule”) when it failed to provide a single document containing the warranty terms, so customers would need to contact authorized dealers to understand the full terms of their warranties.

Continue Reading Repair Your Warranty Terms: FTC Takes Action Against Unlawful Repair Restrictions

Webinar | June 28, 2022 | 2:30 – 3:00 p.m. ET | REGISTER

Venable partners Len Gordon and Alexandra Megaris will present “What You Need to Know About FTC’s Proposed Changes to Its Endorsement Guides.” The Endorsement Guides, first issued in 1980 and last amended in 2009, reflect the Commission’s interpretation of how the FTC

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit in federal court in California against Gravity Defyer Medical Technology Corporation alleging the company made unsubstantiated claims that its footwear reduces knee, back, ankle, and foot pain and helps with conditions such as plantar fasciitis, arthritis, joint pain, and heel spurs.

But the FTC’s case is less about footwear than it is about the imaginative ways the agency continues to find ways to pursue monetary relief in the wake of AMG Capital Management LLC v. FTC. There are a few things here worth discussing.

First, the FTC is seeking civil penalties. How, you might ask? The complaint alleges that Gravity Defyer’s owner, Alexander Elnekaveh, violated a 2001 FTC consent order involving his former business, Gadget Universe, which sold an automotive aftermarket fuel-line magnet device. Under the order, Elnekaveh and Gadget Universe agreed to “not mispresent, in any manner, expressly or by implication, the existence, contents, validity, results, conclusions, or interpretations of any test, study or research.”

Continue Reading Tied Up with the FTC: Agency Dusts Off 20-Year-Old Settlement to Pursue Civil Penalties

The Federal Trade Commission has requested public input about potential updates to its “Dot.Com Disclosures.” The guidance document was last updated nearly a decade ago and has not addressed much of the new technology that has emerged and the evolution in online advertising. As a result, the agency’s call for comments will allow those interested to provide feedback and suggestions to modernize the guides. Comments are due by August 2, 2022.

The FTC has asked for industry stakeholders’ input on many issues, including:

Continue Reading FTC Asks Online Advertisers to Weigh in on Dark Patterns, Calls for Comment on Its .Com Disclosures Guidance