The theme for this Recall Roundup is effectiveness of recalls. In October, the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation released an investigative report criticizing the CPSC’s data-handling breaches from the spring. This month, the Office of Oversight and Investigations Minority Staff from the same US Senate committee released a report criticizing the CPSC’s handling of three “high-profile failures to effectively recall dangerous products” last year. The report summarizes the CPSC’s actions related to jogging strollers, infant reclined sleeping products and home elevators. The report concludes that the CPSC’s “failures” are “the result of a pattern of inappropriate deference to industry that has characterized CPSC leadership in recent years.” The report recommends that the CPSC “at a minimum” increase the use of imminent health and safety warnings, fine companies that fail to timely report substantial products hazards and use refunds or consumer-friendly repairs as default remedies.
On January 7, 2020, the Federal Trade Commission announced a settlement with Mortgage Solutions FCS, Inc., d/b/a Mount Diablo Lending, and its sole principal, Ramon Walker, to resolve allegations that the lender violated the FTC Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley (GLB) Act, by improperly disseminating consumers’ personal information on Yelp in response to consumers’ negative reviews posted to that site. In its complaint, the FTC alleges that Walker posted on Yelp responses that included customers’ nonpublic and personal financial information—their credit histories, debt-to-income ratios, taxes, health, sources of income, family relationships and other personal information, and in some instances, their names—in violation of the mortgage broker’s notice and disclosure obligations under Regulation P of the GLB Act, and which further constitute an impermissible use of a consumer report under the FCRA. Under the terms of the settlement, Walker and Mount Diablo will pay a $120,000 civil penalty, and must not misrepresent their privacy and data security practices, misuse credit reports or improperly disclose personal information to third parties. They also are required to implement a comprehensive data security program and obtain biannual third-party assessments of this program. The defendants must designate a senior corporate manager responsible for overseeing compliance with the FTC’s order.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a consumer-fraud class action lawsuit against Diet Dr Pepper maker Dr Pepper/Seven Up, Inc., holding that use of the word “diet” in the product’s name was not false or deceptive advertising in the proper context of the soft drink market. The court found that, despite allegations that the product was long promoted with advertising featuring thin models, the common consumer would not read the “diet” in a soda’s brand name to promise the weight loss or other health benefits commonly associated with the word. Rather, given the relative ubiquity of diet soft drink products in the marketplace, the reasonable consumer interprets the use of the term as merely a claim that the “diet” version of a soft drink has fewer calories than its “regular” counterpart.
As reported on December 30, 2019 on the Hunton Employment & Labor Perspectives blog, Judge Kimberly J. Mueller of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California granted a temporary restraining order that temporarily prohibits the state of California from enforcing AB 51, a law that would prohibit companies in California from requiring arbitration agreements as a condition of employment.
As reported on December 10, 2019 in Hunton’s environmental law blog, “The Nickel Report”, additive manufacturing, more commonly known as 3D printing, has already found commercial application in various industries and its use is on the rise. 3D printing converts 3D digital models created on a computer or with a scanner into physical objects, usually by successively adding material layer by layer. The process allows manufacturers to make complex designs, rapid prototypes and final products while offering the potential to limit process waste and reduce production costs.
3D printing is no longer a novelty, as manufacturers in the automotive, aviation, medical, consumer goods, entertainment and numerous other industries are integrating 3D printing into their production processes…
Earlier this month, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill—the Counterfeit Goods Seizure Act of 2019—to expand the authority of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to seize counterfeit goods that infringe intellectual property rights, specifically design patents, at the border. The senators expect the legislation, if passed, to help stem the tide of counterfeits (with a global trade value estimated at over $1 trillion) by preventing their importation into the US.
On Friday, December 6, 2019, a business coalition led by the US Chamber of Commerce filed suit challenging a new California law that forbids employers from offering and entering into certain arbitration agreements with their workers. Signed into law by California Governor Gavin Newsom on October 10, 2019, Assembly Bill 51 (AB 51) will impose criminal liability on employers who require applicants or employees, “as a condition of reemployment, continued employment, or the receipt of any employment-related benefit,” to “waive any right, forum, or procedure for a violation of any provision of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act” and other related employment statutes. Additionally, AB 51 will impose criminal liability on employers who retaliate against applicants or employees who refuse to enter into banned mandatory arbitration agreements.
Last month, the CPSC and three affiliated retailers issued a joint warning to consumers after the retailers discovered they sold nearly 1,200 units of 19 previously recalled consumer products between 2014 and 2019. The range of products at issue varied, including infant sleepers, scarves, portable speakers, barstools, children’s cardigan sets, hoverboards, beer mugs, coffee presses and infant rattles. It remains to be seen whether any further CPSC action, such as a civil penalty or a requirement to implement stronger recall systems and protocols, will be taken with respect to these three retailers.
On December 5, 2019, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced a $4.1 million settlement against A.S. Research, LLC (ASR), the marketer of the dietary supplement Synovia. The Commission alleged that ASR misled consumers by purporting Synovia could dramatically reduce or cure chronic joint pain, stiffness and swelling caused by arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow and muscular atrophy.
Imagine a future in which Artificial Intelligence (AI) does the recruiting and hiring at US companies. Every new hire will be the uniquely perfect candidate whose skills, personality, presence, temperament and work habits are a flawless match for the job. Performance management and poor performance become extinct, relics from an age in which humans brought primitive instincts, biases and flawed intuition to hiring and employment decisions. While there are risks and challenges to employers in introducing this technology, manufacturers of AI software say that some version of that future may not be too far off. AI software such as Mya, HireVue and Gecko are among the numerous platforms that retail employers are now leveraging to hone in on and hire the best candidates more quickly. Generally speaking, AI interviewing products combine mobile video interviews with game-based assessments. The AI platform then analyzes the candidate’s facial expressions, word choice and gestures in conjunction with game assessment results to determine the candidate’s work style, cognitive ability and interpersonal skills.