The FDA and FTC recently issued joint warning letters to seven sellers of products that claimed to treat or prevent “Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019,” known as COVID-19.

According to FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, “The FDA considers the sale and promotion of fraudulent COVID-19 products to be a threat to the public health.”  FTC Chairman Joe

Operators of the LendEDU website entered into a settlement agreement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in response to allegations that LendEDU misled consumers by claiming that its website provided objective, unbiased rankings of financial products, when in fact they offered better ratings to companies that paid for the endorsement.

LendEDU promoted its website as a resource for people to compare and shop for financial products, such as student loans, personal loans, and credit cards, using rankings that LendEDU claimed were based on “objective,” “honest,” “accurate,” and “unbiased” information about the quality of the product being offered, and not based on financial compensation. But, according to the FTC’s complaint, LendEDU solicited payments from financial service companies in exchange for better product ratings, and adjusted the rankings on its website based on the amount of compensation received. The FTC complaint also alleges that LendEDU misrepresented that positive consumer reviews on its website and other third-party websites reflected the actual experiences of impartial customers, when the reviews were actually written by LendEDU employees or individuals with personal or professional relationships with LendEDU.
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Class action plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in February against Gojo Industries, Inc., the maker of Purell hand sanitizers, alleging that Gojo’s marketing and advertising claims on its website and social media accounts give consumers the impression that Purell products “are effective at preventing colds, flu, absenteeism and promoting bodily health and increased academic achievement.”

This lawsuit follows a January 17, 2020 warning letter sent by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to Gojo regarding the same claims. In the letter, the FDA warned Gojo that claims that Purell products “are effective in preventing disease or infection from pathogens such as Ebola, MRSA, VRE, norovirus, flu, and Candida auris, and in preventing the spread of infection” implies that their products are FDA-approved drugs. Similarly, the FDA states that claims that Purell products “are effective in reducing illness or disease-related student and teacher absenteeism” are unsubstantiated.
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On December 20, 2019 the FTC sued FleetCor Technologies, Inc. and its CEO, Ronald Clarke, for alleged misleading advertising practices, claiming FleetCor had collected at least $200 Million dollars in hidden fees from fuel card service customers. According to the Complaint, FleetCor’s ads promised customers that their fuel card service had no setup, transaction, or membership fees. But the FTC alleges that FleetCor charged customers those very fees, merely renamed as “Account Administration Fees,” “Program Fees,” “High Credit Risk Account Fees,” “Convenience Network and Out of Network Fees,” “Minimum Program Administration Fees,” and “Late Fees and Interest and Finance Charges.” 
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In November, the FTC issued a new resource for online social media influencers, titled “Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers,” which provides compliance tips for influencers disclosing payment, free products, and other “material connections” in their social media posts.  This new guide is the latest development in an ongoing effort by the FTC to educate influencers on when disclosure obligations apply and how to make effective disclosures.  A few takeaways from the new guide
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On October 21, 2019, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that it had settled two cases regarding alleged fake indicators of social media influence and fake product reviews.

In the first action, the FTC alleged that Devumi, LLC and its CEO had “sold fake indicators of social media influence, including fake followers, subscribers, views, and likes, to users of different social media platforms, including LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Vine, and SoundCloud.”  These fake indicators were designed to make the influencers more attractive to businesses and individuals hiring the influencers or making purchase decisions related to the influencers (e.g., the more followers or engagement associated with the influencer, the higher fees a business might pay to engage them or more value consumers might give their opinion).
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In late September 2019, California enacted a new law, AB 647, that would impose expanded disclosure requirements on certain cosmetic and disinfectant products. Effective in July 2020, manufacturers and importers of cosmetics and disinfectants that contain hazardous substances, as defined by California’s Department of Industrial Relations (“DIR”), would need to post a safety data sheet (“SDS”) on the entity’s website by the product’s brand or commonly known name. The required SDS must also be translated into Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, and other languages as required by DIR.
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On August 7, 2019, the Federal Trade Commission convened an all-day workshop to discuss consumer protection issues associated with “loot boxes”—randomized virtual items players can purchase or earn in video games. While the production cost of video games has increased significantly, the average price of console games has largely not changed since the 1970s, and many mobile games are free to download. Panelists observed that loot boxes have helped bridge the gap between this high cost of video game production and their relatively flat sale price.
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With increasing attention to lawsuits based on “natural” claims, some litigants have also challenged claims that products were “100% pure.”  Many suits have attempted to use findings of chemical or pesticide residue to attack a product’s marketing regarding its purity.

While the Food and Drug Administration is yet to provide clear guidance on the term