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FDA Extends Date for Compliance with New Nutrition Facts Label; Menu Labeling Rules Take Effect

The FDA has extended the date for compliance with the Nutrition Facts and Supplement Facts Label and Serving Size final rules.  As we previously reported, the rules were finalized in May 2016 and initially set a general compliance date of July 26, 2018. Manufacturers with annual food sales of less than $10 million were given an additional year to comply.

The FDA has now issued a Federal Register notice extending the compliance dates by “approximately 1.5 years.”

The Nutrition Facts labeling rules:

  • Require an updated “Nutrition Facts” label with dual-column labeling for certain containers;
  • Require mandatory declarations for “added sugars” in grams and as a percentage of Daily Value (% DV);
  • Update the list of declared nutrients. Disclosure of vitamin D and potassium will be required. Calcium and iron will continue to be required. Vitamins A and C will no longer be required but can be included on a voluntary basis.

FTC Warns Against Warranty Conditions That Violate Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act

The FTC has sent warning letters to six major companies that market and sell automobiles, cellular devices, and video gaming systems warning against warranty tie-in provisions that state consumers must use specified parts or service providers to keep their warranties intact.

Unless warrantors provide the parts or services for free or receive a waiver from the FTC, such statements generally are prohibited by the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, the federal law that governs consumer product warranties.

Each company that received a warning letter used different language, but here are examples of questionable provisions:

  • The use of [company name] parts is required to keep your . . . manufacturer’s warranties and any extended warranties intact.
  • This warranty shall not apply if this product . . . is used with products not sold or licensed by [company name].
  • This warranty does not apply if this product . . .  has had

Eleventh Circuit to Consider Whether Prior Settlement Moots Website Accessibility Case

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals is set to hear oral arguments on April 11 concerning whether a website accessibility plan pursuant to a prior settlement agreement moots injunctive relief claims under Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

In Haynes v. Hooters of America, LLC, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida granted Hooters’ motion to dismiss on grounds that the company has already agreed to make its website accessible pursuant to a prior settlement agreement.  Judge Robert Scola held that the prior agreement rendered moot the plaintiff’s ADA action, since the ADA does not provide for recovery of damages, only injunctive relief.  Judge Scola is the judge that previously ruled after trial that Winn Dixie’s website was not accessible in violation of the ADA.

Other retailers, including Outback Steakhouse and Panda Express, have also been successful in using the same argument against the same plaintiff to

Washington Bans PFAs in Food Packaging

Washington Bans PFAs in Food Packaging

March 27, 2018

Authored by: Bryan Cave and Merrit Jones

Washington has signed into law the Healthy Food Packaging Act (H.B. 2658/S.B. 6396), making the state the first in the country to ban perfluorinated chemicals (PFAs) in food packaging.

If the Washington’s Department of Ecology identifies safer alternatives to PFAs by January 1, 2020, the law will ban PFAs in paper food packaging effective January 1, 2022. If the state is unable to find a safer alternative, the law will not go into effect and the Department of Ecology must annually review the availability of alternatives. When the department finds an acceptable alternative, the ban will go into effect two years later.

Washington is not the only state to target chemicals in food packaging.  California is considering regulating food packaging as part of its Green Chemistry Initiative and the Safer Consumer Products (SCP) implementing regulations, based in part on use of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances that “create grease-proof and

California Considers Regulating Food Packaging Under Green Chemistry Initiative

As part of its Green Chemistry Initiative and the Safer Consumer Products (SCP) implementing regulations, California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has released its Draft Three Year Priority Product Work Plan (2018-2020).  The Plan indicates that for the first time it will “address exposures from harmful chemicals that migrate from consumer products into food.”

DTSC selected a total of seven product categories to include in the Plan. Five categories have been carried over from the 2015-2017 Plan:

  • Beauty, personal care, and hygiene products
  • Cleaning products
  • Household, school, and workplace furnishings and décor
  • Building products and materials used in construction and renovation
  • Consumable office, school, and business supplies

DTSC has also added two additional categories – food packaging and lead-acid batteries. Clothing products and fishing and angling equipment, two of the product categories from the prior Plan, will not be evaluated under this Plan.

The Plan states

Beware of Phantom Price Markdowns: Ruling Against Hobby Lobby Highlights Risk

February 16, 2018

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Over the past several years, there has been a rise in class action lawsuits against retailers for allegedly deceptive price comparison advertising. Many of these lawsuits have alleged that retailers advertised “phantom” discounts from their own “former” or “original” prices, or “retail” or “list” prices at which the products were never actually offered for sale.

As we recently reported, fashion retailer Ann Taylor recently settled for $6.1 million a false discounting class action in New York federal court alleging that prices at its outlet stores were listed as “marked down” from prices that never applied to the items.

In another recent example, last week a California federal court denied Hobby Lobby’s motion to dismiss a proposed class action lawsuit alleging the retailer used a fake marked price to create the false perception that products were being sold at a discounted rate. In Chase v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.,

A New Year for Online Businesses: DOJ Ends 2017 by Withdrawing Website Accessibility Rulemaking

2017 was a busy year for retailers and businesses with an online presence, as they faced a wave of demand letters and lawsuits alleging that their websites are inaccessible to the visually impaired and/or hearing impaired in violation of Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (the “ADA”).  As we have previously reported, courts across the country weighed in on the issue throughout the year.  To bring an end to 2017, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) withdrew its proposed rulemaking for accessible websites.

In July 2010, the DOJ announced an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking related to the issuance of new regulations to cover the accessibility of websites of public accommodations.  While businesses with an online presence were waiting for those regulations to be promulgated, plaintiffs began taking the issue to the courts, resulting in a patchwork of conflicting decisions.  As we previously reported, in

Online Retailers Support Challenges to Repeal of Net Neutrality Rules

December 15, 2017

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In response to the Federal Communications Commission’s vote yesterday to dismantle the net neutrality rules regulating businesses that connect consumers to the internet, online retailers have responded that they will support legal and legislative efforts to challenge the repeal.

The FCC’s action reversed the agency’s 2015 Open Internet Order, during the Obama administration, to have stronger oversight over broadband providers. That order, commonly referred to as net neutrality rules, prohibits internet service providers from blocking websites, charging more for access to certain websites, or secretly slowing, or “throttling,” website content. The federal government will also no longer regulate high-speed internet delivery as if it were a utility, like phone service.

“The FCC has effectively ended net neutrality, undoing years of hard work and bipartisan agreement,” said Bill McClellan, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Electronic Retailing Association (ERA). “It is unfortunate that the FCC has disregarded the will of

Online Retailers Beware: Court Holds Website Violates ADA Despite Lack of Physical Store

Courts across the country continue to weigh in on the issue of website accessibility. Last week, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire denied a motion to dismiss filed by online food delivery servicer Blue Apron.  In denying the motion, the court found that Blue Apron’s website is a place of public accommodation – despite the fact that Blue Apron operates only online and has no traditional brick and mortar locations. Access Now, Inc. v. Blue Apron, LLC, Case No. 17-cv-00116, Dkt. No. 46 (D. N.H. Nov. 8, 2017).

In so finding, the court relied on binding precedent in the First Circuit, and noted that other Courts of Appeals, namely the Third, Fifth, Sixth and Ninth Circuits, have held that in order to be considered a “public accommodation,” an online business must have a nexus to an actual, physical space. Id. at pp. 9-10.  This decision highlights

California Proposition 65 Actions Expected to Target Furfuryl Alcohol in Food and Beverages

The next wave of lawsuits involving California Proposition 65 and food products may allege exposure to furfuryl alcohol, a chemical commonly found in a wide variety of thermally processed foods and listed as a carcinogen under Proposition 65. The warning requirement for furfuryl alcohol took effect on September 30, 2017.  As of the date of this post, there have been no 60-day notices alleging exposure without a warning. Given the prevalence of this chemical, however, future enforcement actions seem likely.

Furfuryl alcohol forms when amino acids react with sugar in a process known as the “Maillard reaction” that gives many foods a golden brown color.  Much like acrylamide, which has been the subject of numerous 60-day notices and lawsuits, furfuryl alcohol can be found in a wide variety of foods, including:

  • baked goods
  • coffee
  • pasteurized milk
  • alcoholic beverages such as wine and beer
  • ice cream
  • juice beverages
  • toasted nuts

Ninth Circuit Blocks San Francisco’s Warnings Ordinance for Sweetened Beverages

In a decision likely to have important implications for regulation of commercial speech, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has blocked a San Francisco ordinance requiring warnings about the health effects of certain sugar-sweetened beverages on fixed advertising.

In American Beverage Association v. the City and County of San Francisco, a three-judge panel held that the California Retailers Association, American Beverage Association, and the California State Outdoor Advertising Association are likely to prevail in their lawsuit challenging the ordinance as violating the First Amendment, and reversed the district court’s denial of a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the ordinance.

The ordinance, S.F. Health Code § 4200 through 4206, was enacted in June 2015 and would require the following warning on any advertisement that “identifies, promotes, or markets a Sugar-Sweetened Beverage for sale or use”:

“WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. This

Tiffany’s Trademark Infringement Victory a Costly Lesson for Costco

Tiffany’s Trademark Infringement Victory a Costly Lesson for Costco

September 19, 2017

Authored by: Bryan Cave, Merrit Jones, Alex Whitworth and Nancy Franco

A federal district court has ordered Costco to pay Tiffany at least $19.4 million in a trademark infringement battle based on generic diamond engagement rings bearing the “Tiffany” name.

Judge Laura Taylor Swain in the Southern District of New York ruled that Tiffany is entitled to $11.1 million as profits for trademark infringement, plus interest, representing triple its lost profits, plus $8.25 million in punitive damages awarded by a jury last October. Judge Swain also permanently barred Costco from using “Tiffany” as a stand-alone term, without modifiers such as “setting,” “set” or “style.”  Tiffany did not assert any infringement claims based on Costco’s use of the terms “Tiffany style” and “Tiffany setting,” leaving open the question of whether these modifiers could provide a fair use defense.  Costco has appealed the ruling.

In an unsuccessful bid to dismiss the case before trial, Costco had argued that “Tiffany” has become a generic

DOJ Puts Website Accessibility Regulations on Inactive List

Retailers and other businesses that have been waiting for the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) to promulgate regulations concerning website accessibility under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”) will now have to wait a lot longer. Eight years after the DOJ began the rulemaking process on this issue, it has now listed the rulemaking as “inactive.”

Federal agencies typically provide public notice of the regulations that are under development twice a year in the Unified Regulatory Agenda. The first Agenda was issued by the Trump Administration on July 20, 2017, and contains noteworthy changes from the last Agenda issued by the Obama Administration.

For the first time, the Agenda breaks down all agency regulatory actions into three categories: active, long-term, or inactive. While the Agenda does not define these terms, only the active and long-term matters receive a description and projected deadlines. The inactive matters appear in a

Ninth Circuit Reconsiders, Nixes Deceptive Labeling Claim Against Gerber

Baby food maker Gerber has scored a partial victory in a false labeling would be class action. The Ninth Circuit in Bruton v. Gerber Prods. Co., Case No. 15-15174, has reversed itself and thrown out a deceptive labeling claim based on the plaintiff’s lack of evidence that reasonable consumers would be deceived.

Plaintiff Natalia Bruton filed the putative class action against Gerber Product Co. alleging that labels on certain baby food products included claims about nutrient and sugar content that were impermissible under Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations that prohibit such claims on products intended for children less than 2 years old. Bruton did not allege that the labels were false, but that the lack of such claims on competitors’ products (in compliance with FDA regulations) made Gerber’s labels likely to mislead the public into believing that Gerber’s products were healthier.

As we reported in a previous

Website Accessibility Update: California Federal Court Denies Hobby Lobby’s Motion to Dismiss

Another website accessibility decision against a retailer, this time involving Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. in the Central District of California, highlights the uncertainty of the law and of litigating such cases while courts continue to reach different conclusions.

In Gorecki v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., Case No. 2:17-cv-01131-JFW-SK (C.D. Cal. June 15, 2017), the district court denied Hobby Lobby’s motion to dismiss and held that the retailer’s website constitutes a “public accommodation” under Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”).  In so holding, the court noted that the website allows consumers to purchase products, search for store locations, view special pricing offers, obtain coupons, and purchase gift cards.

The court also relied on Department of Justice (“DOJ”) regulations requiring public accommodations to use auxiliary aids and services to “communicate effectively” with disabled customers.

This decision was issued only two days after a federal judge in the Southern

Retailer Loses ADA Website Accessibility Trial

Retailers with both physical locations and a website should take note that a United States District Court has held that Winn-Dixie violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) because its website was inaccessible to the visually impaired plaintiff.

The Court’s decision in Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., No. 16-cv-23020, Dkt. No. 63 (S.D. Fla. June 13, 2017) is significant for a number of reasons.  First, Gil appears to be the first website accessibility lawsuit to go to trial.

Second, despite the fact that Winn-Dixie does not conduct sales through its website, the Court found that the website was “heavily integrated” with the physical store locations because customers can use the website to access digital coupons, find store locations, and refill prescriptions through the website.

Third, the Court considered the cost of making Winn-Dixie’s website accessible in light of the total cost to launch and upgrade a website. While the

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