FTC Releases Guidance on COPPA Compliance

As reported on Hunton’s Privacy and Information Security Law blog, on June 21, 2017, the Federal Trade Commission updated its guidance, Six-Step Compliance Plan for Your Business, for complying with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”). The FTC enforces the COPPA Rule, which sets requirements regarding children’s privacy and safety online. The updated guidance adds new information on situations where COPPA applies and steps to take for compliance. Continue Reading

Putative Data Breach Class Action Dismissed for the Third Time

On June 13, 2017, Judge Andrea R. Wood of the Northern District of Illinois dismissed with prejudice a putative consumer class action filed against Barnes & Noble. The case was first filed after Barnes & Noble’s September 2012 announcement that “skimmers” had tampered with PIN pad terminals in 63 of its stores and exposed payment card information. The court had previously dismissed the plaintiffs’ original complaint without prejudice for failure to establish Article III standing. After the Seventh Circuit’s decision in Remijas v. Neiman Marcus Group, the plaintiffs filed an almost identical amended complaint that alleged the same causes of action and virtually identical facts. Although the court found that the first amended complaint sufficiently alleged Article III standing, the plaintiffs nevertheless failed to plead a viable claim. The court therefore dismissed the first amended complaint under Rule 12(b)(6).  Continue Reading

Supreme Court Again Tightens Jurisdictional Requirements for Claims Against Out-of-State Defendants

On June 19, 2017, the United States Supreme Court announced important constitutional limitations on state courts’ ability to exercise specific jurisdiction over nonresidents’ claims against out-of-state defendants. The Court’s nearly unanimous decision in Bristol-Myers v. Superior Court, 582 U.S. (2017) has potentially far-reaching implications for companies facing claims brought by nonresident and resident plaintiffs in states in which those companies are neither incorporated nor maintain their principal place of business. In holding that mere joinder of nonresident plaintiffs’ claims with those of resident plaintiffs does not permit a state court to exercise specific jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant, the Court’s decision is the latest in a trend of important personal jurisdiction decisions rendered by the high court in recent years which provide companies with significant constitutional protections in terms of where plaintiffs may force companies to litigate. Continue Reading

Consumer Protection in Retail: Weekly Roundup

This past week, several regulatory and self-regulatory consumer protection actions made headlines affecting the retail industry.

FDA Continues to Reverse Course on Obama-Era Food Label Regulations

After delaying the Menu Labeling Rule effective date to May 7, 2018, the FDA also has indefinitely delayed the launch of changes to the Nutrition Facts labels. These updates, which include information regarding added sugars and emphasized caloric counts, originally were planned to go into effect in July 2018. Despite the delay, a number of manufacturers already have rolled out new labels. Continue Reading

Sharing Business Contracts with a Benchmarking Consultant? You Might Be Breaching Vendor Agreements

Measuring your costs against the competition is an important tool for staying competitive and minding the bottom line. Benchmarking studies performed by outside consultants are an increasingly common way for businesses to gain insight into how their contracts stack up against others’ in the industry. In an age where retailers rely on outside vendors to provide many integral functions, making sure you are getting the best deal matters. Continue Reading

Consumer Protection in Retail: Weekly Roundup

This past week, several consumer actions took place that affect the retail industry.

Trader Joe’s Catches a Winner in Tuna Can Underfilling Litigation

A California judge has granted Trader Joe’s motion to dismiss in the case In re: Trader Joe’s Tuna Litigation, 2:16-cv-01371, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, where plaintiffs had alleged fraud, breach of warranty and other claims for the company’s alleged underfilling of its cans of tuna as prescribed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

According to the court’s order, plaintiffs improperly made claims under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, which does not allow for a private right of action.

“Consequently, the theory underlying plaintiffs’ state law claims depends entirely on an FDA regulation,” the court wrote. “Plaintiffs’ state law claims are in reality claims violations of an FDA regulation, and therefore, the FDCA prohibits plaintiffs from bringing them.”

This case was a consolidation of a number of similar cases filed in California, Illinois and New York. The court’s order does give plaintiffs a month to amend their lawsuit should they wish to refile. Continue Reading

Proposed Budget Cut to the Food Stamp Program Worries Many Food Retailers

At the end of May, President Trump unveiled his latest proposed budget blueprint for 2018. The proposed budget contains significant funding cuts for many government programs, including more than a 25 percent cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program. Continue Reading

DOL Announces Rollback of Policies on Joint Employment and Employee Classification

On June 7, 2017, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) announced that it is withdrawing two administrative interpretations issued by the DOL under the Obama administration in 2015 and 2016 relating to misclassification of independent contractors and joint employment. These two administrative interpretations sought to expand the definition of “employee,” thereby increasing the possibility of misclassification cases, and, as some argued, expanding the concept of joint employer under the Fair Labor Standards Act. While this is a welcomed announcement for employers, the DOL emphasized in the press release that the withdrawal “does not change the legal responsibilities of employers under the Fair Labor Standards Act.” This is the first effort by the DOL under the Trump administration to dismantle some of the more controversial policies issued by the DOL in the Obama-era. The decision to withdraw these administrative interpretations may also signal that the DOL intends to return to the opinion letter writing process, making compliance much simpler for employers.

Recall Roundup: May

May’s 30 recalls – more than any month thus far in 2017 – cover furniture, toys, appliances, lithium batteries, recreational vehicles, kitchen gadgets and more. Conspicuously absent so far from the list are fidget spinners, the now viral children’s toy making headlines recently for choking-related dangers. Retailers catching up to the hot demand should keep an eye on those warnings to see if they convert into recall activity in case the gadget is deemed worthy of a market exit that rivals the pace of its entry. In light of the CPSC’s willingness to impose penalties on retailers who sell recalled items, retailers should take stock of their recall plans of action. Continue Reading

Consumer Protection in Retail: Weekly Roundup

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

FTC Jumps to Consumers’ Defense in Trampoline Marketing Deception

On May 31, 2017, brothers Son Le and Bao Le agreed to settle FTC charges that their trampoline marketing deceived consumers by directing them to review websites that were not, but claimed to be, independent, and by failing to disclose financial interests when posting online product endorsements. The Le brothers created fictitious trampoline experts, including “Trampoline Safety of America” and the “Bureau of Trampoline Review,” and built fake websites with fake expert reviews to induce customers to buy their trampolines. The administrative consent order prevents the Le brothers from engaging in such deceptive behavior and requires clear and conspicuous disclosure of any material connections between the reviewer and the product.  Continue Reading

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