The retail industry has seen a rapid adoption of chat robots, or “chatbots,” by retailers looking to deploy new technologies to more effectively engage consumers and drive sales on their e-commerce platforms. So what exactly are chatbots? Chatbots are interactive software that can converse and interact with end users, much like a customer service representative would, by leveraging the power of artificial intelligence. Continue Reading Rise of the Chatbots

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

On November 17, 2016, the Federal Trade Commission released a staff report assessing the issues confronting consumers and regulators stemming from the rise of peer-to-peer platforms such as Uber and Airbnb. The report, The ‘Sharing’ Economy: Issues Facing Platforms, Participants, and Regulators, describes how the Internet has allowed sellers and consumers to connect in order to provide services between individuals. For example, apps such as Uber and Lyft allow passengers to bypass traditional taxi services in favor of matching with an individual drivers. These services have had major disruptive effects on traditional industries. Continue Reading FTC Releases Report on “Sharing Economy” Platforms

On June 22, 2016, the Federal Trade Commission announced a settlement with Singaporean-based mobile advertising network, InMobi, resolving charges that the company had deceptively tracked hundreds of millions of consumers’ locations, including children, without their knowledge or consent. Among other things, the settlement orders the company to pay $950,000 in civil penalties.  Continue Reading Ad Network to Pay a Civil Penalty to Settle FTC Charges

This week, the following consumer protection actions made headlines:

Self-Regulatory Decisions:

Steuart’s Pain Formula Referred to the FTC

The National Advertising Division (“NAD”) referred Steuart Laboratories, Inc., the producer of Steuart’s Pain Formula, to the FTC for the second time after it failed to provide the NAD with substantiation for challenged claims. Steuart was initially referred to the NAD by Steuart’s competitor, EuroPharma, Inc., who challenged several efficacy and testimonial claims. Continue Reading Consumer Protection in Retail: Weekly Roundup

On April 27, 2016, a federal district court judge in the Western District of Washington ruled that the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) had proven that Amazon.com had engaged in unfair business practices in billing Amazon account holders for in-app charges without express, informed consent to such charges. At the same time, the judge denied the FTC’s request for a permanent injunction against Amazon, finding no cognizable danger of a recurring violation. The judge ordered additional briefing on calculating monetary relief. Continue Reading Judge Rules that Amazon Unfairly Billed Parents for Their Kids’ In-App Purchases

This past week, the following consumer protection actions made headlines:

NAD Actions

Rust-Oleum to Appeal NAD Ruling on “2X” Product Names and Marketing

The National Advertising Division of the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council (“NAD”) has recommended that Rust-Oleum Corp. stop making claims that its “Painter’s Touch Ultra Cover 2X Spray Paint” has double the coverage capacity as competing spray paints. The NAD also has recommended that Rust-Oleum change the product name. Rust-Oleum plans to appeal NAD’s decision to the National Advertising Review Board. NAD also found Rust-Oleum’s in-house testing to be lacking and its marketing claims to be unsupported by testing. Continue Reading Consumer Protection in Retail: Weekly Roundup