On August 17, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) voted to adopt amendments to duplicative, overlapping, outdated or superseded disclosure rules for public companies. The new rules take effect on November 5, 2018 and are effective for all SEC filings made on or after that date.  Continue Reading New SEC Disclosure Standards Effective November 5

Brick and mortar retailers are rapidly diversifying checkout and payment methods to combat the erosion of sales to online channels and provide an improved shopping experience for consumers. From self-checkout kiosks, to store-specific mobile applications for payment, scan-as-you-go devices, and even ‘just walk out’ models, retailers are reinventing consumer’s notions of the traditional checkout line by going cashierless. Some estimates predict that these automated technologies could account for 35% of retail sales in the next 20 to 30 years. Continue Reading Lawyering Cashierless Technologies

As reported on the Hunton Employment & Labor Perspectives blog, the NLRB’s Office of the General Counsel (“the General Counsel”) recently issued an internal directive regarding the manner in which NLRB Regions prosecute duty of fair representation charges against unions. Under the National Labor Relations Act, unions have a duty of fair representation to the members of the bargaining unit it represents by engaging in conduct that is not arbitrary, discriminatory or in bad faith, particularly with regard to the processing of worker grievances. Board law has established (and unions typically offer as a defense) that “mere negligence” alone does not amount to arbitrary conduct that would serve to breach the duty of fair representation. Continue Reading NLRB General Counsel Elevates Standard for Unions’ Duty of Fair Representation

Branded keyword advertising (“BKA”)—bidding for your company’s website to feature prominently near a search engine’s results for branded or trademarked terms—has been around for over a decade. Under this practice, search engines auction off keywords, and the highest bidders receive advertising space adjacent to search results for those terms. Brand owners commonly bid on their own keywords and those of their competitors and related third parties.

Concerns that BKA runs afoul of trademark, false advertising, and unfair and deceptive trade practices laws were largely put to rest in 2013 and 2014, when a wave of court decisions held that, on its face, the practice does not constitute trademark infringement or cause customer confusion. However, a new challenge to BKA emerged earlier this year with the filing of Tichy v. Hyatt Hotels Corp., No. 1:18-cv-01959 (N.D. Ill.). In Tichy, a putative class of online consumers alleges that six major hotel chains violated antitrust laws by conspiring with each other and with third-party online travel agencies like Expedia and Priceline to refrain from bidding on each other’s branded keywords. Continue Reading Exposure for Branded Keyword Advertising in Hospitality and Retail

September ushered in a shift in political power at the CPSC with the confirmation of a new commissioner. In June, the U.S. Senate confirmed President Trump’s nomination of Dana Baiocco—a Republican—to the CPSC. Commissioner Baiocco’s appointment created the potential for a 2-2 voting tie if issues presented to the CPSC give rise to voting along party lines. One CPSC vacancy remained for which President Trump nominated Peter Feldman—another Republican—in June to both complete the remainder of former Commissioner Joe Mohorovic’s term, which expires in October 2019, and to serve a full seven-year term starting in October 2019.  Continue Reading Recall Roundup: September

The rise of e-commerce and the struggle many brick-and-mortar retail stores face is nothing new.  Customers are increasingly choosing to shop for clothes, furniture and even groceries from the convenience of their own homes. More recently, however, this shift in the way consumers shop has given rise to new types of retail stores – small showrooms and “pop-up shops.” While showrooms are not entirely new concepts, purely digital companies are increasingly opening up physical showrooms where customers can see and touch merchandise before deciding to buy, while the actual transactions often remain online. Pop-up shops – another retail store model – allow retailers (often online or seasonal retailers) to have a physical presence for a limited duration to essentially test run whether a permanent store would be lucrative.   Continue Reading From Digital to Physical: New Considerations for Retail Leasing with the Rise of E-Commerce into Physical Spaces

This past week, several consumer actions made headlines that affect the retail industry.

Federal Court in Florida Grants FTC a Win in Gastric Bypass Alternative Case

A U.S. district court in Florida has ruled in favor of the FTC in its longstanding litigation against Roca Labs, Inc., a seller of weight-loss powders advertised as an alternative to gastric bypass surgery. The court found that Roca Labs had made deceptive weight-loss claims and misrepresented that one of its promotional websites was an objective information site. The court also found that Roca Labs’ gag clause, which the company used to sue and threaten to sue customers who shared negative comments or complained about their dissatisfaction with the product, was unfair under the FTC Act. After additional briefing, the court will decide how much of the defendants’ $26.6 million in gross sales should be awarded in consumer redress. Continue Reading Consumer Protection in Retail: Weekly Roundup

This past week, several consumer actions made headlines that affect the retail industry.

“Black Truffle Flavored Extra Virgin Olive Oil” Case Dismissed Against Trader Joe’s

On August 30, 2018, the Southern District of New York dismissed class action claims for consumers who purchased Trader Joe’s “Black Truffle Flavored Extra Virgin Olive Oil.” The complaint alleged that the product label contained the words “black truffle” in large black letters, with the words “flavored” and “extra virgin olive oil” in smaller cursive letters underneath. However, DNA testing revealed that the oil did not contain actual truffle, but rather 2,4-dithiapentane, a petroleum-based synthetic injection that imitates the taste and smell of truffles. Continue Reading Consumer Protection in Retail: Weekly Roundup

Hurricane Florence will affect the U.S. east coast later this week with significant damage to property and resulting business disruption. Businesses far removed from the impact zone will also be affected as manufacturing, retail, travel, and supply chains, among other industries, are disrupted by the physical damage. For those in the impact zone, knowing the fundamentals about your property insurance is critical. For those in remote locations, now is a good time to refresh as well, since post-storm disruptions and losses require prompt notice to insurers and fast action to help mitigate any resulting loss. A failure on either front could jeopardize coverage. Continue Reading Hurricane Preparedness: Is Your Insurance Program Ready for the Storm?

Just weeks after a federal judge called the science behind the alleged carcinogenicity of glyphosate “shaky,” a California state court jury hammered Monsanto with a $289 million verdict, blaming a former groundskeeper’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma on his exposure to the Roundup® chemical. The August 10, 2018, verdict in Johnson v. Monsanto Co., No. CGC16550128 (California Superior Court, County of San Francisco)—which included $250 million in punitive damages—was just the first in the nearly 8,000 Roundup-related cases currently pending against Monsanto, many of which are consolidated in multidistrict litigation in California federal court. The intense publicity surrounding the verdict has left retailers whose products contain ingredients that might have been treated with glyphosate wondering whether their products may be targeted next.

Read our full alert.