The FTC teamed up with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, sending warning letters to three companies: NutraPure, LLC, PotNetwork Holdings, Inc., and Advanced Spine and Pain LLC (d/b/a Relievus) that advertised CBD supplements as treatments for serious diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, fibromyalgia and “neuropsychiatric disorders.” The two agencies told the companies to steer clear of false or unsubstantiated health claims and instructed the companies to notify the FTC within 15 days of the specific action taken to address the agencies’ concerns.
The FTC recently sent warning letters to eight marketers of lab-created diamonds concerning implied claims on social media that their diamonds are mined (rather than simulated) and that their jewelry is “eco-friendly” or “sustainable.” The FTC’s Jewelry Guides contain specific requirements for disclosing lab-created properties and avoiding misperceptions that gems are natural. Moreover, the FTC’s Green Guides require that marketers have a reasonable basis for all express and implied environmental benefits claims.
In a case signaling that the FTC intends to continue its crackdown on review manipulation, snack company UrthBox, Inc. has reached a settlement with the FTC after allegedly misrepresenting that its customer reviews were independent, despite the fact that reviewers had been incentivized with free products and other goodies. According to the FTC, UrthBox also failed to adequately disclose to consumers key terms of its “free trial” automatic renewal programs. The settlement requires UrthBox to take all reasonable steps to remove any reviews or endorsements with which it has a material connection from online review websites, to disclose negative option and free trial features, and to pay $100,000 in consumer redress.
Each year, the California Chamber of Commerce (“Chamber”) identifies proposed state legislation that the Chamber believes “will decimate economic and job growth in California.” The Chamber refers to these bills as “Job Killers.” In March, the Chamber identified the first two Job Killers of 2019: AB 51 and SB 1. Both bills would negatively impact retailers in California. You can view the Chamber’s Job Killer site here.
Ghost kitchens are one of the hottest trends in food. Ghost kitchens (also known as dark kitchens, cloud kitchens, and virtual restaurants, among a slew of other flashy names) are delivery-only restaurants found almost exclusively on food delivery apps like UberEats and Grubhub. Rather than storefronts with dining areas, they usually operate out of existing restaurants, commissary kitchens or food trucks.
The FTC has announced that it will host a workshop on July 16, 2019, called Nixing the Fix: A Workshop on Repair Restrictions, aimed at examining manufacturer restrictions on consumer and third-party product repairs and the extent to which such restrictions implicate consumer protection. The announcement lists covered topics, including the interplay between repair restrictions and consumer protection laws like those in the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act; the impact of repair restrictions on extended warranties and service agreements; the types of repair reductions in the United States and extent to which these restrictions are used; and consumers’ understanding about the existence and effects of repair restrictions, among other subjects.
With the partial federal government shutdown over, the CPSC appears to be quickly returning to normal—it issued 18 recalls in this month. The agency also took an unusual and noteworthy step by issuing notice that the CPSC would regard clothing storage units that do not meet the industry standard designed to reduce tip-over events to have a defect which could present a substantial product hazard.
On March 4, the FTC published the revised Hart-Scott-Rodino (“HSR”) thresholds in the Federal Register. Retail (or other) companies contemplating mergers or acquisitions need to be aware of the new thresholds. Companies may need to file with the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice if the value of the deal exceeds $90 million. The revised thresholds will apply to all transactions closed on or after April 3, 2019.
On February 25, the National Advertising Division (“NAD”) referred Nectar Sleep’s “Limited Offer: $125 Off + 2 Free Pillows” claim to the FTC after the advertiser declined to participate in the NAD’s self-regulatory process. The complaint was brought to the NAD’s attention by challenger Tuft & Needle, LLC, who alleged that Nectar’s offer was always available to consumers, and therefore was not a “limited” offer. The challenger also complained that Nectar’s pillows are not independently offered for sale and therefore should not be advertised as “free.” NAD requested substantiation from the advertiser but did not receive a substantive response from Nectar.
On February 26, the FTC announced a settlement with a weight-loss pill company that is alleged to have purchased 5-star Amazon reviews from a third party. The settlement includes a judgment of $12.8 million (which will be suspended upon payment of $50,000 to the FTC and payment of outstanding taxes), and ongoing compliance requirements for 10 years. Notably, the settlement also requires the company to have competent and reliable scientific evidence substantiating any appetite suppressant, weight loss, “blocks fat,” or disease-treatment claims in the form of human clinical testing supporting the claims. This is the FTC’s first case challenging fake reviews purchased by a marketer and posted to an independent retail site.