Lifewatch battles the FTC's Consumer Sentinel database, state attorneys general urge Senate to HANGUP on robocalls, and more in this issue of Advertising Law News & Analysis

5 min


Knowles Named to Direct Response Hall of Fame

Response Magazine and its advisory board this week announced that Jeffrey D. Knowles, the founder and chair of Venable's Advertising, Marketing and New Media practice, is a member of the 2016 class of the Direct Response Hall of Fame. Knowles' 2016 Hall of Fame classmates include direct response luminaries John Cabrinha, Dan Danielson, Leeza Gibbons, Linda Goldstein, Jack Kirby, Toni Knight, and Bob Marsh. The group will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in San Diego on April 28, during the Response Expo.

Read the press release announcing the DR Hall of Fame class.


Who's Watching the Sentinel?

The Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) Consumer Sentinel database contains millions of records and is touted as the gold standard in consumer complaint databases. However, write Venable attorneys Daniel S. Blynn, Samuel D. Boro, and Christopher Boone in a recent post to the firm's advertising law blog, that notion is being challenged by the defendant in a Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) case brought by the FTC and the Florida Attorney General in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

As Lifewatch Inc. battles the FTC's motion for a preliminary injunction in FTC v Lifewatch, the company alleges that the Commission's complaint is based on "unreliable" and "manipulated" consumer complaint data it harvested from the Consumer Sentinel complaint database. Lifewatch notes that of the 17,000 complaints the FTC used to build its case, only two actually reference Lifewatch, and many of the complaints have no connection to medical alert devices. In fact, some of the complaints are specifically about Lifewatch's competitors.

Read the full alert to learn how the FTC's evidentiary burden will be far greater at the preliminary injunction stage if Lifewatch's challenge is successful.

Click here to review a Venable-compiled list of recently filed TSR and Telephone Consumer Protection Act TCPA cases.

Will FTC's "Made in USA" Standard Stick?

Earlier this month, the FTC filed an action against Chemence, Inc., alleging that the company's advertising for its cyanoacrylate (often called "superglue") deceives consumers by claiming its glues are "American-made," despite the fact that a "significant proportion" of the chemical components in the glues are derived from imported chemicals.

In a recent post to the firm's advertising law blog, Venable attorneys Leonard L. Gordon, Amy Ralph Mudge, Randal M. Shaheen, and Michael S. Isselin note that the Chemence suit is the first FTC Made in USA enforcement action to be litigated, rather than settled. This means the case will also mark the first time a court has examined the FTC's position on how consumers interpret the phrase "Made in USA." The writers wonder whether the consumer survey data both sides deploy in the case will interpret "Made in USA" to mean "the factory is located in the United States," or will it adhere to the FTC's position that "Made in USA" means all or virtually all of products costs are domestic?

Read the blog post to learn why, for the time being, manufacturers and advertisers should carefully consider the makeup of their products before making a Made in USA claim.

Read the FTC's Chemence press release and complaint here.

Read the FTC's Enforcement Policy Statement on U.S. Origin Claims here.

State AGs Telegraph Their TCPA Displeasure to Senate

On February 10, a bipartisan coalition of 25 state attorneys general sent a letter to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation urging passage of the Help Americans Never Get Unwanted Phone Calls Act of 2015 (HANGUP Act). The letter should be of particular interest to companies in the debt collection industry and to marketers who use debt collectors to resolve delinquent accounts, write Venable attorneys Kevin L. Turner and Jonathan L. Pompan in a recent client alert.

If passed, the Act would repeal recent changes to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) that allow businesses to use new dialer technology to contact borrowers owing U.S. government-backed debt, such as student loans or VA mortgages, on their cell phones. The letter, Turner writes, is just the latest in a series of actions by state attorneys general targeting certain telemarketing practices as well as the debt collection industry.

Read the alert to learn which industries would be most affected by passage of the HANGUP Act and what specific changes the Act would make to current law.

Fun and Games:

The Big Game is over, and with it goes the one week of the year where advertising is almost as big a story as football. Some may have grumbled that the ads were more exciting than the game. And we say, why let the fun end? Participate in All About Advertising Law's first "pick your favorite" survey by clicking on the link below and ranking your favorites. Then keep an eye on the blog for the results. We promise we won't make you wait long.

Pick your favorites here.

Upcoming Events:

Electronic Retailing Association's Great Ideas Summit

February 22-24 | Orlando, FL

The Great Ideas Summit brings together the direct-response industry's most influential leaders to hold high-powered meetings, close global deals, and develop new digital marketing strategies. Join Venable partners Randal M. Shaheen and Claudia Lewis for their Masters Series session, titled "Matching Claims to the Evidence: Brainstorming with the Experts," on February 23 at 1:30 p.m. ET.

Click here to learn more about the Great Ideas Summit and register for the event.

Click here to schedule a meeting with a Venable attorney during the Great Ideas Summit.

Grocery Manufacturers Association Legal Conference

February 23-25 | Rancho Mirage, CA

The GMA Legal Conference is the preeminent gathering for consumer packaged goods professionals focused exclusively on issues that affect food, beverage, and consumer product manufacturers. Top in-house counsel, defense attorneys, and regulatory experts will cover a wide array of legal topics, with an emphasis on how to protect the company brand from litigation risks and complying with government regulations.

Click here to learn more about GMA and to register for the event.