As previously reported in the Hunton Employment & Labor Perspectives Blog, on April 7, 2020, the City of Los Angeles joined San Diego County and issued an Order that requires certain workers to wear cloth face coverings. Notably, the Order is more expansive than San Diego County’s face-covering mandate because it covers workers in more occupations, applies to customers and visitors of certain businesses, provides face-covering maintenance requirements, and requires certain employers to furnish face coverings and other sanitary products.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed most aspects of the economy. The world of consumer products is no exception to this trend. The CPSC has the following notice posted on its website warning that not all recall remedies may be currently available:
Listen as Phyllis H. Marcus, partner at Hunton Andrews Kurth and Co-Chair of the ABA Antitrust Law Section’s Privacy and Information Security Committee, speaks about the privacy concerns over using smart devices on the ABA’s Our Curious Amalgam podcast, Is Your Assistant Spying on You? Understanding the Privacy Law Issues Involving In-Home Assistants.
On April 3, 2020, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and leading retailers participated in a conference call to discuss ways to protect American consumers from fraudulent COVID-19 disinfectant product claims. As the pandemic continues to wage on, some manufacturers have started to advertise their products as effective against the virus despite a lack of scientific evidence supporting the claim. Such advertising may violate federal law and potentially endangers consumer health and the environment, and could expose retailers to liability.
On March 30, 2020, the United States Environment Protection Agency (EPA) issued its long-awaited draft risk evaluation for asbestos. In it, EPA preliminarily concludes that certain uses of asbestos pose unreasonable risks to human health. If those conclusions are made final, EPA will issue regulations addressing those risks in what would arguably be the most significant action the agency has taken to regulate asbestos since its 1989 ban was successfully challenged by industry groups.
Williams-Sonoma, Inc., has agreed to pay $1 million to the FTC in settlement of claims that the home furnishing company made false and unsubstantiated representations that certain products were made in the United States. In its complaint, the FTC alleged that Williams-Sonoma—also doing business as Pottery Barn, West Elm, Rejuvenation, Outward, Mark & Graham and other brands—deceptively claimed that the company’s Goldtouch Bakeware products, Rejuvenation-branded products and Pottery Barn Teen- and Pottery Barn Kids-branded upholstered furniture were made in the USA. In reality, many of these products were wholly imported or contained significant imported materials.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that it will provide retail companies with significant relief from its Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) Fees Rule. In a formal “No Action Assurance” (NAA) letter released to the public on March 25, 2020, EPA confirmed that companies importing products containing any amount of certain common “high-priority” chemicals will not be required to share in the fees for EPA’s upcoming risk evaluations for those chemicals. EPA also announced that it will provide exemptions for companies that manufacture a high-priority chemical only as a byproduct or impurity.
In a favorable decision for retailers, a California federal court judge scaled back a proposed class action seeking to bring nationwide class claims. Plaintiff Todd Carpenter alleged that he bought a rodent habitat at a California PetSmart and that the habitat was defective in such a way that his rodents were able to chew through and escape. He filed a class action in the US District Court for the Southern District of California for violations of California consumer protection laws, violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, and common law fraud. The plaintiff sought to represent a nationwide class consisting of all purchasers of the rodent habitat along with a California subclass. PetSmart moved to strike the nationwide class on the grounds that the court lacked personal jurisdiction over PetSmart with respect to the nationwide class.
In light of the various restrictions on retail businesses being issued nationwide in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19—such as the “safer at home” orders issued in Los Angeles County and throughout California last week—one Southern California city is taking action to support local businesses, while continuing to push compliance with the new legal restrictions.
This month’s Recall Roundup starts with the wish that the coronavirus could be recalled. Perhaps the would-be CPSC commissioner who could deliver that recall would be unanimously approved.
On the topic of would-be commissioners, President Trump recently announced his intent to nominate Dr. Nancy Beck to be Chairman and Commissioner of the agency. Beck currently serves as the Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. She previously worked in various capacities at the EPA and Office of Management and Budget during the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations. Beck also worked as the Senior Director for Science Regulatory Policy at the American Chemistry Council, which is a chemical industry lobbyist group.