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While seventeen new state attorneys general are now sworn in and getting settled into their offices across the country, consumer protection continues to be the top of their agenda. Enforcement continues to take shape in different forms including individual actions, multistate investigations, and partnering with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  This year we expect states to target particularly salient issues such as dark patterns, autorenewal concerns, and/or data security and privacy, but those priorities will continue to evolve through discussions at the forums of their main national organizations.

For our first State AG webinar of the year, we dove into consumer protection in the Tennessee attorney general office with our guests, Chief Deputy Lacey Mase and Executive Counsel Jeff Hill. If you missed it, we’ve recapped what we learned.

Background of the Office

Unlike other states,  Tennessee is the only state where the AG is appointed by the state Supreme Court, with the AG serving for an eight year term. Qualified attorneys submit applications to the Supreme Court and are interviewed publicly before being selected to serve as AG.

Within the AG’s office, the Consumer Protection Division handles both consumer protection and antitrust work. The AG’s consumer protection priorities are constantly shifting in order to respond to consumer needs. The office evaluates whether resources should be allocated to large scale litigation needs such as multistate actions or whether there are smaller consumer concerns that need to be addressed within the state.

The Consumer Protection Division now houses the Division of Consumer Affairs which serves as the point of contact for consumer complaints about unfair or deceptive acts conducted within the state (until a few years ago, the Division was a separate agency). Tennessee does provide complaint mediation for consumers, where the office will routinely ask businesses for a response.

Continue Reading State AGs and Consumer Protection: What We Learned from….Tennessee

While State Attorneys General have been clear that social media companies are generally on their radar for a variety of consumer protection concerns, TikTok has been the latest to make headlines in recent weeks. For example, multiple states have banned TikTok from government phones, and a federal government ban may soon follow, because of concerns about the Chinese government’s control over the platform. Higher education institutions are also joining in the app’s ban with Georgia public colleges and the University of Oklahoma being two of the most recent to do so.

Earlier this month, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita filed two complaints focused on the TikTok app, which were based on two very different theories, including a foreign component in one. The cases both allege violations of the state’s Deceptive Consumer Sales Act.

Representations About Audience-Appropriateness

In its first complaint, the state alleges that TikTok makes a variety of misleading representations and omissions to claim a “12+” rating on the Apple App Store and a “T” for “Teen” rating in the Google Play and Microsoft Stores. Instead, the state asserts, TikTok should self-report ratings of “17+” (in the App Store) and “M” for “Mature” (in the Google Play and Microsoft Stores). To support these allegations, the state details the frequency and severity of alcohol, tobacco, and drug content, sexual content, nudity, mature/suggestive themes, and profanity on the TikTok platform, which it claims are much more frequent and severe than what TikTok self-reports. In its filings, the state also includes an affidavit by outside counsel detailing the mature content she recorded posing as a teen user and the number of views related to specific videos.

In addition, the complaint takes aim at TikTok’s “Restricted Mode,” a feature which can be used by parents to limit inappropriate content. The state alleges that much of the mature content described in its complaint was also accessible in Restricted Mode. Moreover, the complaint alleges that TikTok actually suggests mature content through the functionality of its “Autocomplete” search feature and by including content on a user’s personalized “For You” page.

Continue Reading It May Be Time for TikTok to Change its Ways if State AGs Have Any Say

Earlier this month, we reported that the AGs (including the DC Attorney General’s Office) are paying close attention to delivery and service fees. Sure enough, the DC AG’s office filed yet another lawsuit related to delivery fees on December 7.

The District alleges that Amazon’s Flex tipping practices deceived customers from 2016-2019, stopping only

At last week’s National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Capital Forum, consumer protection multistate investigations and enforcement actions were once again a subject of discussion. In a session specifically on the topic, NAAG Consumer Protection Committee Co-Chairs Generals Kwame Raoul of Illinois and Jonathan Skrmetti of Tennessee, as well as Susan Ellis and Jeff Hill, long time top consumer protection staff in their respective offices, spoke at length about the multistate process, responding to alleged misinformation about consumer protection multistates that has been reported through media and elsewhere.
Continue Reading State AGs Highlight Changes to NAAG and Multistate Enforcement for 2023

At this week’s National Association of Attorneys General Capital Forum, FTC Chair Lina Khan and CFPB Director Rohit Chopra addressed state AGs and their staff on a number of pressing issues, including antitrust, enforcement authority, privacy and other priorities. And most importantly to the state AG observers, both agency heads expressed the value of state

In late November, the Pennsylvania AG’s office announced a settlement with Grubhub. In its action, the AG alleged among other claims that Grubhub’s platform did not clearly disclose to consumers that they were sometimes charged higher prices for items ordered through the platform compared to ordering from the restaurant directly. Attorney General Shapiro settled for

Earlier this month at the 2022 NAAG Consumer Protection Fall Conference panelists including current and former AG personnel discussed recent consumer protection legislation and rulemakings that have been implemented or proposed, as well as recent court actions affecting consumer protection laws to provide AGs and staff a year in review.

In the wake of the

On Thursday, November 10th, the Colorado Attorney General’s Office held the first of three stakeholder meetings on its Colorado Privacy Act draft rules. The initial meeting covered Universal Opt Out Mechanisms (UOOMs) and consumer rights. Pre-registered participants were given three minutes to present on each topic. AG staff then posed a variety of

Last week, multiple state Attorneys General (AGs) and staff from offices nationwide gathered in Washington, DC for the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) 2022 Consumer Protection Fall Conference. The conference addressed pressing and relevant consumer protection issues facing attorney general offices. The public portion of the conference included a panel of current and former

Early this week, a coalition of 40 attorneys general obtained two multistate settlements with Experian concerning data breaches it experienced in 2012 and 2015 that compromised the personal information of millions of consumers nationwide. The 2012 breach investigation was co-led by the Massachusetts and Illinois AG offices, and the 2015 investigation was co-led by the AGs of Connecticut, DC, Illinois, and Maryland. An additional settlement was reached with T-Mobile in connection with the 2015 Experian breach, which impacted more than 15 million individuals who submitted credit applications with T-Mobile.

In an effort to change corporate behavior, both settlements require Experian and T-Mobile to enhance their data security practices and to pay a combined amount of more than $16 million. Experian has agreed to bolster its due diligence and data security practices by adhering to the following:
Continue Reading AG Settlements Call for Stronger Data Security