Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

There’s a “request for investigation” pending at the FTC that some of our readers might have missed.  The April 12 complaint, filed by Georgetown Law professor Laura Moy on behalf of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, urges the FTC to conduct a wide-ranging investigation of the location data industry.

The complaint focuses in particular on alleged abuses harming the Muslim community, including the government’s purchase of location data from popular Muslim prayer apps to conduct “warrantless surveillance” on Muslim individuals.  According to the complaint, these practices have led to a “sense of constant surveillance” that has chilled Muslims’ practice of religion, freedom of assembly, and use of technology to communicate. The allegations have broader implications, too, as they describe the “unfettered” and “surreptitious” data collection across many contexts by multiple industry actors, including the operating systems, app and SDK developers, data brokers, and participants in digital advertising’s real time bidding (RTB) process.

As I write this blogpost, the complaint does not appear to have been posted on the FTC’s website.  Although the FTC seeks public comment on petitions for rulemaking, this complaint may not fall within that process since it chiefly seeks investigations, citing rulemaking as a “longer term” goal.  (Of course, stakeholders may want to consider providing input to the FTC anyway to assist in its consideration of the issues.)       
Continue Reading Complaint Urges FTC to Investigate the Location Data Industry

Q: It has been nearly a year since the Supreme Court’s decision in AMG Capital Management, LLC v. FTC foreclosed the FTC’s ability to pursue monetary remedies under Section 13(b) of the FTC Act.  How has AMG affected the FTC’s enforcement program, particularly in consumer protection cases? 

A: As an initial matter, it’s Important to emphasize that the Supreme Court did not take any authority away from the FTC; it concluded 9-0 that the FTC did not have the authority in the first place.  Justice Breyer put it this way: Section 13(b) produces a “coherent enforcement scheme. The Commission may obtain monetary relief by first invoking its administrative procedures and then Section 19’s redress provisions; it can use Section 13(b) to obtain injunctive relief while administrative proceedings are foreseen or in progress, or when it seeks only injunctive relief.”

The inability to obtain equitable monetary relief under Section 13(b) has taken away the FTC’s weapon of choice, but it has not left it without other means to carry the attack, and it continues to push the boundaries of its authority.  Chair Khan has made clear that it will litigate on principle, and that often means without regard for litigation risk.  In many ways, the agency is less predictable and, from a respondent’s or defendant’s perspective, dangerous. I had expected more restraint, given the AMG decision.

During oral argument, Justice Kavanaugh commented that, as former Executive Branch employee, he understands how “with good intentions the agency pushes the envelope and stretches the statutory language to do the good or prevent the bad – the problem is it results in a transfer of power from Congress to the Executive Branch.”

I heard something similar from Commissioner Wilson, in her concurring opinion in Resident Home.  There, she said that AMG “should have been a wake-up call, a reminder to the Commission that, no matter how egregious the conduct or righteous our cause, the Commission is not entitled to go beyond the bounds of what the law permits.” Despite these warnings, in response to AMG, continues to explore the frontiers of its authority.

This means that the FTC has assumed an aggressive adversarial position, using all means at its disposal in an attempt to redress what it perceives to be consumer injury, even if it means advancing a litigation position that is ultimately unsuccessful.  In short, I doubt that companies currently adverse to the FTC consider the agency to be compromised to any significant extent – in many ways, it is emboldened.
Continue Reading ABA Antitrust Spring Meeting: John Villafranco On Monetary Redress and FTC Enforcement Post-AMG

This month’s update kicks off spring with a Best in Show throwback ad comparing dog flea and tick medication, pivots to claims for survivalist ready-to-eat meals (don’t even try to act like you saw that coming), highlights FDA’s recently-issued voluntary recall guidance, provides a food court update on the latest ingredient class actions and cleans

Lina Khan’s Privacy Priorities – Time for a RecapRumors suggest that Senator Schumer is maneuvering to confirm Alvaro Bedoya as FTC Commissioner sooner rather than later, which would give FTC Chair Khan the majority she needs to move forward on multiple fronts. One of those fronts is consumer privacy, for which  Khan has announced ambitious plans (discussed here and here) that have stalled for lack of Commissioner votes. With Bedoya potentially on deck, now seems like a good time to recap those plans, as they might provide clues about what’s in the pipeline awaiting Bedoya’s vote. We focus here on three priorities Khan has emphasized in statements and interviews since becoming Chair.
Continue Reading Lina Khan’s Privacy Priorities – Time for a Recap

Did the Other Shoe Drop? Another Class Action Against New Balance for its “Made in USA” ClaimsThe FTC regularly investigates Made in USA claims, but private actions have been less frequent. New Balance, however, has faced at least two class action lawsuits alleging it falsely advertises its footwear products as “Made in the USA.” The most recent complaint , proposing a nationwide class, was filed in the U.S. District Court for

Last week, 49 State Attorneys General joined in a National Association of Attorneys General letter authored by Florida, Iowa, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee responding to the FTC’s Request for Public Comment concerning impersonation scams. While a bipartisan coalition from the State AGs on consumer issues isn’t particularly surprising, the call for additional federal oversight into

The replay for our May 19, 2022 Privacy Priorities for 2022 webinar is available here.

Under Chair Lina Khan, the Federal Trade Commission has announced an aggressive privacy agenda, which is unfolding on the enforcement, regulatory, and policy fronts. In recent enforcement actions, the FTC has sought stringent remedies, including data deletion, bans on