United States: Advertising News & Analysis - October 17, 2013

Last Updated: October 28 2013

Edited by Jeffrey D. Knowles and Gary D. Hailey

Welcome to the 100th issue of Venable's Advertising Law News and Analysis. Over the past 27 months, our goal has been to provide information that helps inform your business, legal and marketing decisions. We hope you find each Thursday's issue insightful and useful. If you would like, click here and let us know how we are doing.

We look forward to providing you with advertising law insights for the next hundred issues – and beyond. Thank you for reading.


Venable Opens Bay Area Office

On October 9, Venable opened a new office in San Francisco, the firm's second office on the West Coast. In a Venable press release, firm Chairman James L. Shea discussed how Venable's legislative and regulatory teams, including its advertising practice, are uniquely positioned to help the Bay Area's burgeoning technology industry, and other Northern California industries, navigate the inner workings of the federal government.

Click here to read Venable's press release announcing the new San Francisco office.

Click here to read the San Francisco Business Journal's coverage of Venable's Bay Area office.

District of Columbia, 48 States Reach $30 Million Settlement with Buying Club Marketers

On October 10, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi announced that Florida, 47 other states, and the District of Columbia reached an agreement with Affinion, Inc., Trilegiant Corp. and Webloyalty.com to settle allegations that the companies enrolled consumers in buying clubs and then billed consumers' credit cards without authorization. The $30 million settlement, which highlights the importance of disclosures and the regulatory scrutiny faced by continuity marketing programs, requires the companies to inform consumers that they can be enrolled in clubs if they accept certain offers, periodically remind consumers that they are enrolled in the clubs, and make cancellation policies more generous.

Click here to read Attorney General Bondi's press release announcing the settlement.

Click here to view a copy of the consent judgment.


The Government is Open. Now What?

Early this morning, the federal government reopened. Now marketers and advertisers are looking for guidance on how the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will handle backlogged work, paused investigations, and everything else that ground to a halt over the past two weeks. Shutdowns are few and far between and each one is unique, write Venable partners Amy Ralph Mudge and Randal M. Shaheen in a post to Venable's advertising law blog, so there is not much useful precedent. In the post, they share insights gleaned from interaction with the FTC earlier today and thoughts on how the agency is likely to view some other situations. In any case, marketers can expect the FTC to provide some guidance soon, perhaps even by the time you read this.

Click here to read the full text of the post by Mudge and Shaheen to Venable's advertising law blog, www.allaboutadvertisinglaw.com.

Sweepstakes and Promotions a Minefield for Marketers

Only a handful of consumers may win a marketer-sponsored sweepstakes or contest. However, write Venable attorneys Melissa Landau Steinman and Maura A. Marcheski in a recent post to Venable's advertising law blog, it is far too easy for the real loser to be the company sponsoring the promotion. In an area littered with legal landmines, there are countless ways a promotion sponsor can become the subject of litigation or an enforcement action. To highlight this point, Steinman and Marcheski detail a number of recent sweepstakes and contests that have gone awry and given marketers more than they bargained for.

Click here to read the post by Steinman and Marcheski on Venable's advertising law blog, www.allaboutadvertisinglaw.com.

CFPB Keeps Pressure on Credit Card Marketing

In September, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced a third enforcement action involving a major bank and alleged unfair billing practices for "add-on" products such as credit monitoring services. This enforcement action is part of a larger trend, write Venable attorneys Jonathan L. Pompan and Alexandra Megaris in a recent post to Venable's advertising law blog. They point to a recent CFPB report outlining the Bureau's "outstanding concerns" with certain disclosure practices as a signal that the CFPB is watching and that credit card companies and their marketing partners should ensure the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed when developing advertising.

Click here to read the post by Pompan and Megaris on Venable's advertising law blog, www.allaboutadvertisinglaw.com.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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