Key Takeaways:

  • Brands should honor advertised product benefits and avoid techniques to block product use.
  • Under the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act (and state auto-renewal laws), advertisers must disclose material terms and conditions and obtain consumers’ express consent before charging a payment card or account.

The FTC and MoviePass recently settled related to allegations that the company used deceptive tactics to prevent subscribers from using its service and insecurely held subscribers’ private information. The FTC’s complaint alleged that MoviePass used three tactics, described below, in a perceived attempt to save money on their $9.95 per month subscription service that was advertised as providing unlimited access to certain films in theaters.

Limiting Subscribers’ Usage: The FTC alleged that MoviePass, its parent company Helios and Matheson Analytics, Inc. (Helios), and its principals Mitchell Lowe and Theodore Farnsworth, scrambled at the high demand for the subscription service and took steps to prevent users from receiving the advertised “one movie per day” that they had paid for in order to cut costs. The FTC listed the following deceptive or unfair tactics that MoviePass operators allegedly engaged in to set up roadblocks for consumers:
Continue Reading MoviePass Settles with the FTC Regarding Limitations on Subscribers’ Usage

Key Takeaways:

  • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is actively using the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act to protect consumers, with a new case alleging the defendant failed to timely deliver masks and failed to process refunds or cancellation requests. The complaint also alleges the defendant promised N95 masks but delivered cloth masks instead.
  • The FTC’s Mail Order Rule requires a seller to notify customers when a delay is discovered, make adjustments to website content to give appropriate notice, and offer the right to cancel with an adequate refund.


Continue Reading FTC Brings Action Alleging False PPE Delivery Claims

On April 22, 2021, in a unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court in AMG Capital Management v. FTC held that the authorization to seek a “permanent injunction” under Section 13(b) of the Federal Trade Commission Act does not permit the FTC to obtain equitable monetary relief such as restitution and disgorgement. While the FTC may

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”

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

Key Takeaways:

  • Marketers should continue to ensure that all health claims are supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. While the scientific community’s understanding of COVID-19 is still relatively new, marketers should be particularly careful making any express or implied advertising claims related to COVID-19.
  • NAD continues to monitor and challenge misleading health claims related to COVID-19. NAD will refer these claims to the FTC and FDA as needed.


Continue Reading NAD Refers Implied COVID-19 Claims to FDA and FTC When Marketer of Dietary Supplement Fails to Respond to Inquiry

While regulator actions related to the COVID-19 pandemic have understandably received the bulk of consumer protection headlines in recent months, influencer marketing remains a hot topic for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and National Advertising Division (NAD). As we continue into the latter half of 2020, we recap key enforcement actions, press releases, guidance, and letters related to endorsements and influencer marketing that brands may have missed during the pandemic.
Continue Reading Check in on Influencer Marketing

On July 9, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in two cases to review whether the FTC has authority to seek restitution under Section 13(b) of the FTC Act. Section 13(b) provides that the FTC “may seek, and after proper proof, the court may issue, a permanent injunction.” For decades, courts have interpreted this language to authorize the full panoply of equitable remedies, including restitution and disgorgement of ill-gotten gains.
Continue Reading Supreme Court to Review FTC Authority to Obtain Restitution

Last week, the FTC sent another 50 warning letters related to COVID-19 advertising claims, adding to the growing list of FTC warnings and actions intended to address false and deceptive marketing during the pandemic. The latest round of letters targets companies advertising their products and services as effective in preventing or treating COVID-19 without adequate scientific support, including acupuncture, intravenous (IV) therapies, ozone therapy, stem cell treatments, sound frequencies, air-purifiers, and immune-defense supplements.
Continue Reading FTC’s COVID-19 Response: Latest Developments

A global marketer who charged consumers after they signed up for “free trials” has settled with the FTC. The FTC alleged that the defendants made $74 million by enrolling customers for paid subscriptions of cosmetics and dietary supplements without their consent. The FTC characterized its complaint as part of an effort to hold companies accountable when they supposedly offer “free trials” but hide the real terms and conditions.

The FTC filed a complaint in July 2019, seeking a permanent injunction and other equitable relief against AH Media Group, LLC, and the company’s owners, Henry Block and Alan Schill. The FTC later filed an amended complaint in October 2019, adding Zanelo, LLC (“Zanelo”) as a defendant. The complaint alleged that Zanelo was also active in the deceptive scheme.
Continue Reading FTC Stops Online Subscription Service Offering “Free” Trials with Hidden Terms