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

District Judge Boots Putative Class Action Against L.L. Bean

A federal district judge has dismissed an attempted class action against L.L. Bean involving the company’s long-standing no-questions-asked warranty policy. In February 2018, L.L. Bean announced that it was changing its policy to limit customers’ return period to one year, while committing to “work with our customers to reach a fair solution” if a problem arises more than a year after purchase. The plaintiff alleged that changing the warranty violated both the Magnusson-Moss Act and Illinois state law as an anticipatory repudiation of the guarantee. But the District Judge ruled that plaintiff neither alleged an injury nor had he stated a claim for which relief could be granted. Continue Reading Consumer Protection in Retail: Weekly Roundup

On June 25, 2018, the Supreme Court upheld a Second Circuit opinion that American Express did not violate antitrust law by prohibiting merchants from encouraging customers to use non-American Express credit cards. As part of their agreements with American Express, merchants were required not to steer customers to use non-American Express credit cards (merchants could still express a preference for cash, checks or debit cards). The state of Ohio, the United States, and several other states brought suit alleging that these “anti-steering” provisions violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act as an “unreasonable restraint of trade.” The Supreme Court opined that the relevant market in which to assess the anti-steering provisions is two-sided; that is, courts must consider competitive effects and benefits on both the consumer payments and payment processing sides of the transactions.

Bumble Bee Foods’ woes continue to mount as its CEO, Christopher Lischewski, has been indicted for price fixing. The indictment alleges that Lischewski participated in the price fixing conspiracy from approximately November 2010 until about December 2013. Lischewski is not the first Bumble Bee executive to be charged: in late 2016 and early 2017, two Bumble Bee Senior Vice Presidents pled guilty to price fixing, and in May 2017, Bumble Bee agreed to pay $25 million in fines for price fixing.  Continue Reading Bumble Bee CEO Indicted over Price Fixing Allegations

On April 26, 2018, the U.S. Senate confirmed by unanimous consent all five pending nominees to the Federal Trade Commission. Once installed, the agency will have a full complement of commissioners for the first time in nearly three years. The FTC will be comprised of three Republicans—Joseph Simons (Chairman), Noah Joshua Phillips and Christine Wilson—and two Democrats—Rebecca Kelly Slaughter and Rohit Chopra.

FTC Commissioners serve staggered seven-year terms. April 27, 2018, is Democrat Terrell McSweeny’s last day at the FTC, and Simons will take over her seat, which expires in 2024. Christine Wilson, who is slated to take over Acting Chair Maureen Ohlhausen’s seat, must wait until Ohlhausen’s departure from the agency. Ohlhausen has been nominated to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, but has not yet been confirmed.

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

Nectar Brand to Put Its “Made in America” Claims to Bed

Nectar Brand LLC has agreed to stop making unqualified claims that its mattresses were made in the United States. According to the FTC’s complaint, Nectar Brand sells mattresses under several brand names, including Nectar Sleep, DreamCloud LLC and DreamCloud Brand LLC. Nectar Brand’s ads and product labeling included statements that the products were “Designed and Assembled in USA.” In fact, the FTC alleged that the mattresses all are imported from China and that Nectar Brand has no assembly operations in the U.S.

Under the settlement terms, Nectar Brand is prohibited from representing that its products are made in the United States unless it can substantiate its claims. Further, Nectar Brand’s officers are prohibited from misrepresenting the country of origin of its products. Continue Reading Consumer Protection in Retail: Weekly Roundup

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

Department Stores Settle False Discount Claims

Ann Taylor and its parent company, Ann Inc., have entered into settlements amounting to approximately $6.1 million in two unrelated cases alleging false discounts. Ann Inc. settled allegations that it offered misleading “discounts” on clothes sold through its Ann Taylor Factory and LOFT stores. According to the complaint, the stores claimed to sell goods “marked down” from prices that never actually applied to the goods in question.

The Neiman Marcus Group LLC also has reportedly reached a settlement over similar claims; details of this settlement currently are not available to the public. Continue Reading Consumer Protection in Retail: Weekly Roundup

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

Hilton Reaches $700,000 Settlement with New York and Vermont Over Data Breaches

The Attorney Generals of New York and Vermont announced a $700,000 settlement with Hilton Domestic Operating Company, Inc., formerly Hilton Worldwide, Inc. (“Hilton”), over two data breaches in 2014 and 2015.

Hilton was notified in February 2015 that it had likely suffered a data breach in December of 2014. In July of 2015, Hilton was notified of a second data breach from the prior three months. Hilton did not provide notice of either data breach until November 24, 2015. New York law requires that businesses provide notice in the “most expedient time possible and without unreasonable delay.” Vermont requires that businesses provide notice of data breaches to the Vermont Attorney General within 14 days of discovery, and within 45 days of discovery to consumers.

Under the terms of the settlements, Hilton has agreed to pay New York $400,000 and Vermont $300,000 and to comply with certain behavior remedies related to their notification and security procedures. Continue Reading Consumer Protection in Retail: Weekly Roundup

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

App Operator Im-Pacted by FTC Settlement

The Federal Trade Commission has reached a $948,788 settlement with app developer Pact, Inc. over claims that it engaged in unfair and deceptive business practices. Pact users enter into “pacts” to exercise and/or eat better. The app charges between $5 and $50 per missed activity for users who fail to meet their weekly goals. Users who meet their weekly goals were supposed to be rewarded with a share of the money collected from those who did not.

The FTC alleged that Pact charged “tens of thousands” of consumers even if they met their goals or cancelled their participation in the service. Customers had a difficult time getting refunds or even determining how to cancel. The FTC’s complaint alleged violations of the FTC Act and the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act.

Under the terms of the settlement, Pact must disclose its billing practices, and is prohibited from misrepresenting its billing practices or engaging in unfair billing practices. A judgement of $1.5 million will be partially suspended upon Pact’s payment of $948,788.  Continue Reading Consumer Protection in Retail: Weekly Roundup

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

FTC Extends Comment Period for Paint Claims

On August 7, 2017, the FTC extended the public comment period related to four proposed settlements with paint companies. According to the original complaints from June 2017, Benjamin Moore, Imperial Paints, ICP Construction and YOLO Colorhouse deceptively claimed that their paint products were either emission-free or contained zero volatile organic compounds, including during and immediately after application.  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 Consumer Protection in Retail: Weekly Roundup