Advertising & Marketing
One of the key issues relating to the NPRM pertains to consent being sent directly to/obtained by one seller at a time.
The FCC has now circulated its proposed rule. It has not been adopted yet but it looks like it will be in December when voted upon. It looks like the rule will become effective in or around August or September of 2024.
In pertinent part, the FCC ruling would require terminating mobile wireless providers to block all texts from a particular number when notified by the FCC of illegal texts from that number; codify that the National Do-Not-Call Registry’s protections extend to text messages; and close the lead generator loophole by making unequivocally clear that comparison shopping websites must get consumer consent one seller at a time.
Additionally, as amended “prior express written consent” shall be revised to read, as follows: “The term prior express written consent means an agreement, in writing, that bears the signature of the person called that clearly and conspicuously authorizes no more than one identified seller to deliver or cause to be delivered to the person called advertisements or telemarketing messages using an automatic telephone dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice.” The “seller” is not the a lead generator. It is the provider of the products or services
Moreover, “calls must be logically and topically associated with the interaction that prompted the consent and the agreement must identify the telephone number to which the signatory authorizes such advertisements or telemarketing messages to be delivered.” “[R]obotexts and robocalls that result from consumer consent obtained on comparison shopping websites must be logically and topically related to that website.
On October 18, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it has agreed to a $3.4MM settlement with New Jersey for-profit Sollers College over alleged deceptive ads that lured prospective students into unlawful contracts, purportedly falsely touting relationships with prominent employers and inflating job placement rates. The charges were brought by the FTC and the state of New Jersey.
According to the FTC’s complaint, Sollers, and its parent company, used their website, social media, and email campaigns to falsely advertise their partnerships with prominent employers in the fields of information technology, clinical research and drug safety. According to the complaint, Sollers falsely claimed that its partnerships with prominent employers, such as Pfizer, Weill Cornell Medicine, and Infosys, resulted in jobs for its graduates at those companies. Many of the businesses featured on Sollers’ website had no partnership with the school at all, says the FTC.
The complaint states that, since at least 2018, Sollers advertised that the vast majority of Sollers graduates are placed in jobs. For example, the company purportedly advertised, “90% of our students are placed within 3 months of graduation,” on its website. In reality, the job placement rate for Sollers graduates is substantially lower than the 80 percent, 82 percent, 90 percent or “near perfect” rates featured prominently on its website and in its advertising campaigns, the FTC states. According to the FTC, the school’s own data suggests that the current job-placement rate for graduates of its Life Sciences programs remains as low as 52 percent.
On October 10, 2023, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the Delete Act (SB 362). The Act is new legislation that requires businesses that meet the definition of “data broker” to provide detailed disclosures about its practices, register with the state and delete any personal information relating to a California resident upon receiving a verifiable deletion request.
The Act requires the California Privacy Protection Agency to establish a simple deletion mechanism that permits individuals to submit deletion requests that data brokers must adhere to starting August 1, 2026. Importantly, beginning in 2028 data brokers will be subject to audits intended to demonstrate compliance with the Act.
What Businesses are Covered Under the Act?
The Delete Act defines “data broker” as a business that knowingly collects and sells personal information of a consumer that it does not have a direct relationship with, to third parties. Excluded are certain entities that may be covered by various federal and state laws relating to data, such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the Confidentiality of Medical Information Act and the California Insurance Information and Privacy Protection Act.
Data brokers must register with the CPPA and pay registration fees, as well as fees for access to the deletion mechanism.
What are the Applicable Registration and Disclosure Requirements?
Data brokers are required to register with the CPPA on or before January 31 for each year that they meet the statutory definition of “data broker.” In fact,
On September 21, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it has joined the Federal Communications Commission in signing a renewed memorandum of understanding (MOU) between public authorities who are members of the Unsolicited Communications Enforcement Network (UCENet). The MOU aims to promote cross-border collaboration to combat unsolicited communications, including email and text spam, scams, and illegal telemarketing.
“The FTC is committed to using all of its tools to fight robocalls and other unsolicited communications that try to prey on consumers,” said FTC attorney and Chair Lina M. Khan. “This scourge does not respect borders, and our recommitment to this MOU underscores the importance of international communication and cooperation to combat this problem.”
UCENet members agreed to renew and make evergreen the MOU, a non-binding instrument which the FTC and its partners signed in 2016.
The 2016 MOU was aimed at facilitating information sharing, capacity building, and enforcement assistance among the partners. For the past seven years, it also has facilitated communication about emerging threats and complaint trends related to spam, scams, and illegal telemarketing.
The UCENET MOU is part of the FTC’s continuing to work to fight harms that can arise from unwanted messages. According to the announcement, unsolicited communications in the form of illegal and spoofed robocalls, text messages, and emails are often the source of scams that harm millions of consumers in the United States each year. The revised MOU also has been signed by UCENet partners in Canada,
On August 22, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission announced that as a result of an FTC lawsuit, a federal court has temporarily shut down an alleged business opportunity scheme that purportedly lured consumers to invest $22 million in online stores, using alleged unfounded claims about income and profits.
The operators of Automators also claimed to use artificial intelligence to ensure success and profitability for consumers who agreed to invest with Automators, according to the agency.
In addition to offering consumers high return as “passive investors” in profitable e-stores, Automators, which previously used the names Empire and Onyx Distribution, also offered to teach consumers how to successfully set up and manage e-stores themselves using a “proven system” and the powers of artificial intelligence, according to the FTC.
“The defendants preyed on consumers looking to provide for their families with promises of high returns and the use of AI to power such returns,” said FTC attorney Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Their lies caused consumers to lose tens of thousands of dollars, with many losing their life savings. The FTC is working to hold defendants accountable and to secure redress for their victims.”
The FTC’s complaint against defendants Roman Cresto, John Cresto, and Andrew Chapman, through their companies Automators AI, Empire Ecommerce and Onyx Distribution, claims that the vast majority of defendants’ clients did not make the promised earnings or even recoup their investment. Instead, most clients allegedly lost significant amounts and Amazon and Walmart have routinely suspended or terminated the stores that defendants operated for repeated policy violations,
On August 14, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it will require Experian Consumer Services, which offers consumers access to their Experian credit information, to pay $650,000 to settle charges it sent consumers unsolicited email without offering them a way to opt out of such messages, as required under the CAN-SPAM Act.
In a complaint filed by the Department of Justice on behalf of the FTC, the agency says that California-based Experian Consumer Services (ECS), also known as ConsumerInfo.com, Inc., spammed consumers with marketing offers after they signed up for an account with the company in order to manage their Experian credit report information.
In the emails, the FTC alleges that the company failed to provide clear and conspicuous notice of consumers’ ability to opt out of receiving additional marketing messages and a mechanism for doing so, in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act, according to the complaint.
“Signing up for a membership doesn’t mean you’re signing up for unwanted email, especially when all you’re trying to do is freeze your credit to protect your identity,” said FTC lawyer Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “You always have the right to unsubscribe from marketing messages, and the FTC takes enforcing that right seriously.”
Consumers who wish to freeze or take other steps to manage their Experian credit information online must create an account with ECS. The complaint charges that consumers who signed up for a free membership account with ECS were then sent emails promoting Experian’s products and services such as one touting Experian Boost,
FTC advertising compliance and defense attorney Richard B. Newman was recently quoted in an article for Cybersecurity Law Report titled “Xbox and Alexa COPPA Case Lessons: Avatars, Biometrics and Other New Expectations.”
The article discusses the FTC’s recent privacy enforcement run and how it reinforces regulators’ expanding expectations for companies using video and audio recordings, smart devices and AI. The article further discusses recent agency settlements with Microsoft, Amazon and educational technology provider Edmodo that drew $51 million in penalties, broke new ground on the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule enforcement and signaled new expectations for all companies’ privacy compliance.
In discussing how COPPA is a tool for financial penalties and how these cases highlight the value of COPPA enforcement to the FTC versus its Section 5 authority under the FTC Act, Mr. Newman noted that “[i]n Amazon, obviously, the $25‑million settlement amount leaps out” for Alexa’s improper retention of voice recordings in violation of COPPA.
Mr. Newman further shared that “not just the FTC, but state attorneys general are becoming increasingly interested in expanding regulation of the use and sharing of consumer data, including geolocation data.”
While the FTC contests the issue at the federal level, data brokers and those that interact with them should expect that the plaintiffs’ class action bar and state AGs may lodge claims under state “little FTC acts” that echo the FTC’s July 2022 statement about geolocation data or the biometric one,
Florida has become the latest state – approximately ten – to enact a comprehensive privacy law. On June 6, 2023, Governor DeSantis recently signed SB 262 which includes some new privacy provisions. Florida also recently passed a child privacy law that is notably similar to California’s Age Appropriation Act that becomes effective July 1, 2024.
The Florida Digital Bill of Rights Law
Covered entities (“controllers”) include those that earn $1 billion in global gross annual revenues and either (i) receive 50% of gross annual revenue from online ad sales; (ii) operate a consumer smart speaker and voice command service with an integrated virtual assistant through a cloud-connected service and hands-free verbal activation; or (iii) operate an app store or digital distribution platform that has at least 250,000 apps available for download.
Note, however, that non-covered entities that serve as data processors for covered entities may potentially be impacted. More specifically, such processors are required to support a covered entities’ compliance efforts and to maintain responsible contracts that include provisions governing data processing. In fact, the new law sets forth specific requirements that must be included in such data processing agreements.
Not unlike other states, the Florida Digital Bill of Rights Law has numerous exemptions and applies to consumer information. Exemptions include entities covered by HIPAA (and business associates), financial institutions and affiliates (subject to GLBA), non-profits, certain government entities, and higher education institutions. There are also specific data exemptions.
The United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Ocala Division, issued an order permanently banning the defendant from offering for sale or selling any protective goods or services, after granting the FTC’s motion for summary judgment.
The order also includes two monetary judgments against the individual, who has allegedly done business under different corporate names. The first judgment is for $989,483.69, to be returned to consumers allegedly harmed by his violations of the FTC Act and the Commission’s Mail Order Rule. The court also entered a second civil penalty judgment of $2,562.21 for his alleged violations of the FTC Act with regards to the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act.
In a complaint filed in June 2021, the FTC alleged that he preyed upon consumers’ fear of COVID-19 by advertising the availability and quick delivery of PPE, including N95 facemasks, even though he had no basis to make those promises.
The complaint stated that he failed to deliver PPE on time (if at all), failed to notify consumers of delayed shipments, failed to offer the cancellations and refunds required by the Commission’s Mail Order Rule, and failed to honor refund requests.
When the individual eventually did deliver the products, he often sent supplies that were inferior in quality to what consumers ordered, according to the complaint. Based on this conduct, the complaint alleged that his deceptive and unfair conduct violated the Mail Order Rule, the FTC Act, and the FTC Act with regards to the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act.
The Federal Trade Commission has finalized its order against a motocross and ATV parts maker, and its officer, for allegedly falsely claiming that the company’s products were manufactured in the U.S.
The FTC’s order, first announced in April, 2023 would stop both from making deceptive claims about products being “Made in USA” and require them to pay a monetary judgment.
The FTC’s order against both the parts maker and its officer includes a number of requirements about the claims the defendants make:
- Restriction on unqualified claims: The company will be prohibited from making unqualified U.S.-origin claims for any product, unless it can show that the product’s final assembly or processing—and all significant processing—takes place in the U.S., and that all or virtually all ingredients or components of the product are made and sourced in the U.S..
- Requirement for qualified claims: The company is required to include in any qualified Made in USA claims a clear and conspicuous disclosure about the extent to which the product contains foreign parts, ingredients or components, or processing.
- Requirement for assembly claims: The company must also ensure, when claiming a product is assembled in the U.S., that it is last substantially transformed in the U.S., its principal assembly takes place in the U.S., and U.S. assembly operations are substantial.
The order includes a monetary judgment of $872,577,
About This Blog and Hinch Newman’s Advertising + Marketing Practice
Hinch Newman LLP’s advertising and marketing practice includes successfully resolving some of the highest-profile Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state attorneys general digital advertising and telemarketing investigations and enforcement actions. The firm possesses superior knowledge and deep legal experience in the areas of advertising, marketing, lead generation, promotions, e-commerce, privacy and intellectual property law. Through these advertising and marketing law updates, Hinch Newman provides commentary, news and analysis on issues and trends concerning developments of interest to digital marketers, including FTC and state attorneys general advertising compliance, civil investigative demands (CIDs), and administrative/judicial process. This blog is sponsored by Hinch Newman LLP.