With a new commissioner confirmed in September, the Commission once again has five commissioners. A philosophical divide along party lines surfaced this month in two decisions.

The first decision involved the settlement of an administrative lawsuit filed by the CPSC in February. The lawsuit alleged that a distributor refused to recall three-wheeled jogging strollers after consumer complaints that the front wheel can detach suddenly during use, causing injuries to at least 50 children and 47 adults. To settle the lawsuit, the distributor agreed to notify dealers and retailers and to “develop and launch an information campaign that will include an instructional video demonstrating how to safely and correctly operate” the stroller.  Eligible consumers who participate in this campaign can receive “incentives,” such as hardware to repair the stroller or a 20% discount towards the purchase of a new stroller from the same distributor.

Continue Reading Recall Roundup: November

October began with a CPSC announcement that a major retailer agreed to pay a $3.85M civil penalty for failing to report that a trash can it sold contained a defect or created an unreasonable risk of serious injury. The retailer sold 367,000 of the trash cans nationwide between December 2013 and May 2015. Allegedly the trash can’s plastic collar may dislodge, exposing a sharp edge and posing a laceration hazard to consumers. The retailer received 92 consumer complaints about this alleged defect but did not immediately notify the CPSC of the defect. The CPSC announced a recall of the trash can in July 2015. In addition to the civil penalty, the retailer agreed to maintain a compliance program and a system of internal controls and procedures to ensure it discloses information to the CPSC in accordance with applicable law. The Commission voted unanimously (4-0) to accept the settlement. Continue Reading Recall Roundup: October

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

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

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

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.

July served as another quiet month in the world of recalls. With only 11 recalls issued, July has had the fewest recalls for any month in over a year.

The CPSC made an important announcement this month regarding cedar chests. A company designed cedar chests with lids that automatically lock when closed. The company stopped making the cedar chests in 1987. From 1977 to 2015, 14 children have suffocated to death after climbing into the cedar chests and becoming locked inside. During this time, the company recalled 12 million cedar chests and offered a replacement latch to remedy the defect. Still, the CPSC predicts that millions of these cedar chests remain unfixed in consumers’ homes, posing a continuing danger to children. The CPSC’s announcement served as a plea urging consumers to immediately replace or remove the dangerous latches. Continue Reading Recall Roundup: July

On July 3, 2018, Governor David Ige of Hawaii signed SB 2571 into law, banning the sale or distribution of any “SPF sunscreen protection personal care product” that contains chemicals oxybenzone or octinoxate without a prescription issued by a licensed healthcare provider. “SPF sunscreen protection personal care product” is broadly defined to include, without limitation, any lotion, paste, balm, ointment, cream, solid stick applicator, brush applicator, roll-on applicator, aerosol spray, non-aerosol spray pump, and automated and manual mist spray. The ban, which Governor Ige indicated is intended to protect marine ecosystems including coral reefs, will go into effect on January 1, 2021. Estimates indicate that at least 70 percent of sunscreen products contain oxybenzone or octinoxate. Continue Reading Hawaii Governor Signs Law Banning Chemicals from Sunscreen Products