On April 29, 2021, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will host a public workshop to examine consumer protection issues related to “dark patterns”—website and app interface features designed to subvert or impair consumer autonomy, decision-making, or choices.

In a recent statement, FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra defined dark patterns as “design features used to deceive, steer, or manipulate users into behavior that is profitable for an online service, but often harmful to users or contrary to their intent.” According to Chopra, examples of dark patterns include “misdirection, confusing language, hidden alternatives, or fake urgency to steer people toward or away from certain choices.”  The FTC recently warned against employing a “roach motel” dark pattern scenario, specifically where it is easy for consumers to enter into a digital subscription program, but nearly impossible to escape (unsubscribe).
Continue Reading FTC Announces Workshop to Address Digital “Dark Patterns”

In a published ruling, the Ninth Circuit recently held that a company potentially stated a claim for false advertising under the Lanham Act when it alleged that a product review site had significant undisclosed financial connections to a competitor while purporting to be independent. In Ariix, LLC v. NutriSearch Corp., 985 F.3d 1107 (9th

Key Takeaways:

  • The FTC’s Enforcement Policy on S. Origin Claims and related compliance guide apply to advertising of “Made in USA” or similar U.S. origin claims, including manufacturer advertisements of private label products to trade customers who will later market and sell such products under retail brand names.
  • The $1.2 million settlement is the largest obtained by the FTC in a Made in USA case and reinforces prior signals that the agency will continue to seek monetary penalties when enforcing against allegedly deceptive Made in USA


Continue Reading FTC and Glue Maker Reach $1.2 Million Settlement Over Deceptive “Made in USA” Claims

On June 25, 2020, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced a $22 million settlement with the marketers of a low-level light therapy device called Willow Curve to enjoin them from making unsubstantiated and deceptive claims about the device’s ability to treat chronic, severe pain and associated inflammation. The settlement comes amid ongoing attention from the FTC and state attorneys general regarding false and deceptive advertising relating to pain products (such advertising is largely reactive to the opioid crisis). It also represents another enforcement action involving “native advertising,” in which paid advertisements are formatted to appear as independent content—a practice that the FTC finds deceptive without clear disclosure.
Continue Reading FTC Enters Into $22 Million Settlement With Manufacturer of Willow Curve Regarding Unsubstantiated Pain Relief Claims and Deceptive Native Advertising

As part of its routine monitoring program, the National Advertising Division (NAD) recently announced several decisions involving social media posts that advertised products as having health benefits that could help protect against COVID-19. The NAD’s inquiries are consistent with similar efforts by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) intended to combat false and misleading advertising in connection with the pandemic. In its decisions, the NAD noted that it shares the FTC and FDA concerns related to advertising that touts a product can treat or protect consumers from COVID-19 and is therefore using its monitoring resources to identify misleading health claims.
Continue Reading NAD Uses Monitoring to Discourage Misleading COVID-19 Health Claims

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently announced a settlement with online fashion retailer, Fashion Nova, requiring it to pay $9.3 million in refunds to consumers for violations of the FTC’s Mail, Internet, or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule (“Mail Order Rule”).

In its complaint, the FTC alleged that Fashion Nova (1) made false representations to consumers about the speed of its shipping and (2) failed to refund consumers for items that were never shipped.  For example, according to the complaint, Fashion Nova regularly advertised “Fast Shipping, “2-Day Shipping,” “Fast International 6-10 Shipping,” and “Expect Your Items Quick!,” but regularly did not meet these promises or notify consumers of shipping delays.  Also, instead of issuing refunds to consumers for orders that were never shipped, Fashion Nova issued gift cards, which do not qualify as appropriate refunds under the Mail Order Rule.
Continue Reading Fashion Nova Settles with FTC for $9.3 Million for Alleged Violations of the Mail Order Rule

California courts remain a top forum for food litigation matters. So many matters are heard in the Northern District of California that it has gained a reputation as the “Food Court.” Now, the California Supreme Court has held that two of the state’s most widely used consumer protection statutes must be tried by a judge rather than a jury.

California’s False Advertising Law (“FAL”), codified at Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17500 et seq., and the Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”), codified at Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200, et seq., represent two of the most common vehicles for plaintiffs to bring suits alleging false product claims or purported misrepresentations on food labels.
Continue Reading Notable Ruling: No Jury for False Advertising and UCL Suits, California Supreme Court Rules

The FTC has announced a settlement with furniture and houseware seller Williams-Sonoma, requiring it to cease making unsubstantiated “Made in USA” claims about its products and pay $1 million to the FTC.

Williams-Sonoma previously received a warning letter from the FTC in 2018 regarding its “crafted in America from local and imported materials” mattress pad claims because the pads were purportedly crafted in China.  Williams-Sonoma promptly corrected its advertising and agreed to review their country-of-origin verification process.  In response, the FTC closed the matter without further action.
Continue Reading $1 Million Settlement Announced in FTC’s “Made in USA” Enforcement Against Williams-Sonoma

The FTC recently sent another round of warning letters to ten sellers related to advertising claims that their products treat or prevent COVID-19. Consistent with prior warning letters jointly issued by the FDA and FTC, the FTC’s letters allege that the sellers are falsely claiming that the products are proven to prevent or treat coronavirus when, in fact, there is no competent and reliable scientific evidence that is currently known to exist for products that prevent or treat COVID-19.
Continue Reading FTC Sends More Warning Letters Regarding Unsupported Coronavirus Prevention and Treatment Claims

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