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Last month, we wrote about the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in FTC v. Shire Viropharma Inc., holding that the FTC may only bring a case under Section 13(b) of the FTC Act when the FTC can articulate specific facts that a defendant “is violating” or “is about

The current and future definition of what qualifies as an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS or autodialer) remains a hotly debated and evaluated issue for every company placing calls and texts, or designing dialer technology, as well as the litigants and jurists already mired in litigation under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).  Last year, the D.C. Circuit struck down the FCC’s ATDS definition in ACA International v. FCC, Case No. 15-1211 (D.C. Cir. 2019).  Courts since have diverged in approaches on interpreting the ATDS term.  See, e.g., prior discussions of Marks and Dominguez.  All eyes thus remain fixed on the FCC for clarification.

In this post, we revisit the relevant details of the Court’s decision in ACA International, and prior statements of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai concerning the ATDS definition to assess how history may be a guide to how the FCC approaches this issue.

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In a decision that will limit the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) ability in both consumer protection and antitrust matters to bring certain claims in federal court, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals held in FTC v. Shire Viropharma, Inc. that the FTC may only bring a case under Section 13(b) of the FTC Act when

In support of its request for an en banc rehearing of a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel decision in FTC v. AT&T over the jurisdictional boundaries between the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) authority over phone companies, broadband providers, and other common carriers, the FTC sent a letter to the

Just over one week after being named acting chair of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Maureen Ohlhausen delivered the keynote address at the American Bar Association’s biennial Consumer Protection Conference in Atlanta on February 2.

During her remarks, acting chair Ohlhausen offered insight into consumer protection priorities during her tenure as acting chair.

First, acting

Showing that it’s not about to slow down its aggressive enforcement of its open Internet regulations, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced a settlement yesterday resolving claims that T-Mobile USA Inc. (T-Mobile) failed to adequately disclose material restrictions on T-Mobile and MetroPCS data plans that were advertised as “unlimited” from August 2014 to June 2015.  Specifically, the FCC’s investigation found that T‑Mobile failed to adequately disclose that it would significantly slow the speed of its customers’ “unlimited” data after they reached preset, undisclosed thresholds for data usage.

The FCC’s settlement requires T-Mobile to pay a total of $48 million. It further requires T-Mobile to clearly and conspicuously disclose any material limitations on the amount and speed of mobile data for its “unlimited” plans, and includes reporting and training obligations.
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On October 13, 2016, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a petition in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit requesting a rehearing en banc of the court’s decision in the FTC’s case against AT&T alleging that the company dramatically reduced – or “throttled” – data speeds for certain customers on unlimited data

Are hyperlinked and hovering disclosures enough to adequately inform consumers about the terms of your offer? Is requiring consumers to click on a button to accept all terms and conditions enough to obtain their informed consent to each of your terms and conditions? A recent federal court decision demonstrates that the answers to those questions

On advertisements, websites, and legal documents, disclosures are everywhere.  But how do consumers notice, understand, and use disclosures in their decision-making?  And how can businesses and advertisers effectively design and evaluate disclosures?  These were questions that the Federal Trade Commission explored during its September 15 public workshop, “Putting Disclosures to the Test.”  Throughout the one-day workshop, academics, industry researchers, and regulators (from the FTC and CFPB) presented research and discussed issues related to the use of disclosures, including evaluation criteria, testing methods, and future areas for exploration.

In opening the workshop, Chairwoman Ramirez identified three primary goals of disclosures: (1) ensure that consumers see or hear the disclosure; (2) convey information in a manner that promotes consumer understanding of the disclosure’s content; and (3) facilitate consumer’s use of the information to make informed choices.  Unlike effective disclosures, ineffective disclosures have a tendency to overwhelm, confuse, or distract consumers.  Chairwoman Ramirez stated that the same legal principles that have guided the Commission’s approach to disclosures for some time have been applied to new media and technology.  She highlighted the Commission’s efforts to provide guidance on these emerging issues, such as through the 2013 updates to the .Com Disclosures Guide and the May 2015 release of “The FTC’s Endorsement Guides: What People Are Asking.”

FTC Disclosures WorkshopSome speakers noted that even disclosures that comply with the FTC’s clear and conspicuous standard may still be ineffective at communicating necessary information to consumers.  Chairwoman Ramirez suggested that use of disclosures in certain areas may be inappropriate altogether, although she declined to specify those areas.  Other speakers emphasized the ways that effective disclosures can benefit consumers by preventing advertisements from being deceptive, communicating privacy policies, and providing consent mechanisms.  Private research also suggests that there may be additional benefits to businesses from effective disclosures through improved market differentiation and customer satisfaction.  Some disclosures, however, may have adverse consequences like increasing complexity, producing consumer confusion, and creating unintended biases.

Testing disclosures can be helpful to ensure that that they have the intended effect without adverse consequences.  Testing can also help advertisers design simpler and more comprehensible disclosures.  Speakers generally lauded the capacity for disclosure testing to improve the effectiveness of disclosures, although they stopped short of suggesting that testing was legally required and acknowledged that testing is not always feasible.  Evaluating disclosures can be expensive and require resources outside of the reach of many businesses.  Further, there often is a lack of agreement over the ideal methods and procedures for testing disclosures.  
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On Monday, August 29, 2016, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion that may dramatically alter the boundaries between the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) authority over phone companies, broadband providers, and other common carriers.  The Ninth Circuit dismissed a case that the FTC brought against AT&T over its