With the holiday shopping season in full swing, companies will soon begin the annual fight for every consumer dollar. But before companies can make the sale, they will face an even more daunting task: grabbing customer attention in the crowded world of online shopping.

As social media companies integrate shopping features into their base platforms, an industry shift often called “social commerce,” influencer marketing becomes an increasingly important method for driving sales.

As innocuous as those 30-second influencer marketing social media clips may seem to be, companies and influencers should be aware that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is keeping a watchful eye. This month, the agency issued dozens of warning letters to influencers for the lack of adequate disclosures in their social media posts as required by the recently updated FTC Endorsement Guides.Continue Reading Influencers on Notice: FTC Issues Warning Letters for Inadequate Disclosures

This week, a federal court in California issued an 80-page opinion that painstakingly walks through claims made against several celebrities who had promoted the Ethereum Max (EMAX) cryptocurrency, also called tokens.

The lawsuit was filed last year against Kim Kardashian, Floyd Mayweather, and former professional basketball player Paul Pierce, challenging their EMAX endorsements and social media posts. Since then, the plaintiffs have amended the complaint multiple times.

Among other issues it addressed, this week’s court decision provided a helpful reference point showing where a court aligned with and diverged from the Federal Trade Commission’s Endorsement Guides.

First, the court found that the “#AD” disclaimer in the following post made clear that Kardashian was being paid, even though it appeared toward the bottom of the post.Continue Reading Court Provides Guidance on Social Influencer Advertising in Ethereum Max Crypto Lawsuit

Starting June 27, operators of online marketplaces will need to comply with a new federal statute, the Integrity, Notification, and Fairness in Online Market Retail Marketplaces for Consumers Act or INFORM Act.

The purpose of the law, which passed in December as part of the appropriations bill, is to help combat e-commerce fraud and the sale of counterfeit goods online. Although the law directly applies to the operators of these marketplaces, individuals and companies that sell their products on the marketplaces will be impacted.

The INFORM Act requires online marketplaces to undertake specific due diligence of “high-volume third-party” sellers. The statute defines high-volume third-party sellers as sellers that, in any continuous 12-month period during the previous 24 months, (1) have entered into 200 or more discrete sales or of new or unused consumer products and (2) have an aggregate total of $5,000 or more in gross revenues on the marketplace. The law does not apply to used goods or to services sold via online marketplaces.Continue Reading New Law Regulating Online Marketplaces Will Impact Sellers, Too

In what could be a seminal case of the Internet age, the U.S. Supreme Court this week heard arguments in Gonzalez v. Google, its first case concerning the hotly debated Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The case’s potential ramifications might be gleaned from the 70-plus amicus briefs filed by major companies, states, elected officials, and organizations.

Section 230 provides immunity to Internet platforms from liability arising out of third-party content posted to the platform’s websites.  The statute prevents a “provider or user of an interactive computer service” from being treated as “the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” In this case, the Gonzalez family sued YouTube for making targeted recommendations of recruitment videos created by the terrorist organization ISIS. The Gonzalez’s daughter died in an ISIS terrorist attack, and they claim that Section 230 should not shield YouTube from civil liability when its algorithms recommended harmful content such as these videos.Continue Reading For the First Time, Supreme Court Considers Section 230 Immunity for Third-Party Content on Internet Platforms Such as Google and YouTube

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

Customer reviews and ratings are powerful, low-cost marketing tools. Technology now allows marketers to harness this power on a scale that was unimaginable even five years ago. The ability to solicit, capture, and post reviews and ratings is virtually seamless. But it is just as easy to seek shortcuts or abuse the system. In response, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has devoted resources to addressing consumer review fraud, including through public education. Early in the year, it issued nonbinding guidance for both marketers and online review platforms, warning against potentially deceptive acts, such as faking, manipulating, or suppressing online reviews, as well as paying for higher rankings from purportedly “independent” consumer ranking websites. Online reviews should reflect customers’ honest opinions. So how does the FTC suggest you get there?Continue Reading A Sign of the Times: Federal Trade Commission Releases Guidance on Consumer Reviews

By a unanimous 5-0 vote, the Federal Trade Commission last week released a staff report that sheds light on the agency’s enforcement positions and priorities regarding digital “dark patterns,” which the FTC defines as interface designs used to manipulate consumers into making decisions about purchases and personal data that they otherwise would not have.

Stemming from a public workshop the FTC hosted in April 2021, the report, “Bringing Dark Patterns to Light,” uses examples and illustrations to catalog and criticize numerous commonly seen practices in e-commerce, and includes an appendix describing types of dark patterns, while also stressing that dark patterns have a stronger effect, and by extension cause greater consumer harm, when they are used in combination, rather than in isolation.

Given Chair Lina Khan’s ambitious enforcement and policy goals for the agency, which we’ve previously discussed, anyone who engages with consumers online should consider the report both a reference and a warning.  Continue Reading The FTC Brings More Light to Dark Patterns in New Staff Report

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