June 30, 2022

Advertising Law News and Analysis

3 min

Dark Patterns: Are They as Shady as Everyone Claims?

July 19, 2022 | Webinar

Although the concept is not new, challenges to "dark patterns" are rising all over the country. The Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, state attorneys general, and class action plaintiffs increasingly cite this phrase in such complaints as deceptively enrolling consumers into negative option programs, signing consumers up for spam emails, and forcing arbitration agreements and class action waivers. But what are dark patterns, really? What makes them different from legitimate advertising designed to encourage consumers to buy products and services? And how are they unlike age-old unfair and deceptive practices that the FTC, state AGs, and class action plaintiffs have targeted for decades?

Gig Platforms, Wake Up. All Eyes Are Upon You.

Constant connectivity through smartphones has ushered in a new way for small businesses to connect with potential customers and gig workers looking for flexible employment. The emergence of companies like Uber, GrubHub, AirBnB, DoorDash, TaskRabbit, and Angie's List has allowed for greater participation in today's booming gig economy, with 16% of all U.S. adults having reported earning money through an online gig platform in a 2021 survey.

Repair Your Warranty Terms: FTC Takes Action Against Unlawful Repair Restrictions

Last week, the FTC brought and settled enforcement actions against two manufacturing companies for allegedly limiting customers' right to repair purchased products under unlawful warranty terms. The FTC alleged that the two companies, Harley-Davidson Motor Company Group, LLC (a motorcycle manufacturer) and MWE Investments, LLC (a Westinghouse outdoor generator maker), acted illegally when using voidable warranties that required customers to use manufacturer-supplied parts and service instead of allowing customers to use independent dealers to either supply parts or perform repairs. In the settlements, the FTC ordered both companies to remove these warranty terms, admit to customers what they did, and ensure fair competition between dealers and independent third parties providing repair services and parts.

Another Florida Telephone Solicitation Act First—A Class Settlement Is on Its Way

Everyone remember that Alvarez v. Sunshine Life & Health Advisors LLC putative Florida Telephone Solicitation Act (FTSA) litigation we've covered? You know, the one where the plaintiff's counsel argued that the FTSA extends to text messages, whereas its federal counterpart, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), "doesn't even regulate text messages"? It's the case where the state trial court (wrongly) denied the defendant's motion to dismiss—the first dismissal decision in an FTSA case, although it had virtually nothing to do with the substance of the statute—finding that the receipt of two allegedly unsolicited, autodialed marketing text messages was enough to confer standing under Florida law. Yeah, that Alvarez case.

Compliance Deadline Approaching: Amendments to California's Autorenewal Law Take Effect in July

On July 1, new requirements under California's automatic renewal will take effect. As we previously blogged, the amendments will require businesses to make it even easier for consumers to cancel and impose new requirements on free trials, promotional offers, and offers with an initial term of one year or longer.

Tied Up with the FTC: Agency Dusts Off 20-Year-Old Settlement to Pursue Civil Penalties

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit in federal court in California against Gravity Defyer Medical Technology Corporation alleging the company made unsubstantiated claims that its footwear reduces knee, back, ankle, and foot pain and helps with conditions such as plantar fasciitis, arthritis, joint pain, and heel spurs.