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“Made in USA” Claims Can Be Considered Deceptive Unless Substantiated

Although every product (unless excepted) that is imported into the United States must be marked with its country of origin pursuant to Section 304 of the Tariff Act of 1930, most products manufactured domestically are not required to list the United States as the country of origin. However, if manufacturers or retailers do choose to market their products as “Made in the USA,” these claims must be substantiated, or risk being considered deceptive under federal or state law.

On the federal level, the Federal Trade Commission has issued guidelines and considers representations that a product is “Made in the USA” to be deceptive, unless (1) “all or virtually all” of a product’s components are of U.S. origin, and (2) “all or virtually all” processing takes place in the United States.  Furthermore, the FTC considers phrases such as “Produced in the USA,” “Built in the USA,” or “Manufactured in

How to Avoid ADA Claims as Service Animals Increase in Popularity

February 24, 2017


As retailers see an increasing number of customers seeking to bring animals into their stores, they should ensure that they have well-defined policies and train their employees concerning compliance with the ADA’s provisions regarding service animals. This is the third in a three-part series addressing ADA compliance. In earlier posts we addressed how to improve accessibility and reduce potential liability for premises barriers and website accessibility.

Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals “on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations of any place of public accommodation,” which includes retail stores.

Under regulations issued by the Department of Justice, service animals are dogs (or miniature horses, since some people are allergic to dogs) that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Some state laws define service animals

Retailers Seek to Improve Website Accessibility Following Surge of ADA Claims

January 19, 2017


Retailers have faced a wave of demand letters and lawsuits recently alleging that their websites are inaccessible in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (the “ADA”), despite the fact that the ADA and its implementing regulations do not expressly address websites. This is the second in a three-part series addressing ADA access claims.  In a December 1st post we addressed how to reduce potential liability for premises issues, and this post focuses on website accessibility.

Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals “on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations of any place of public accommodation,” 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a), which includes brick and mortar retail stores.

The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) is the government agency that enforces the ADA and issues regulations concerning its implementation. The DOJ is in the

California Extends Prop. 65 Point-of-Sale Warning for BPA for Businesses That Report Food and Beverage Product Information

California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has extended for another year the regulation allowing businesses to provide a Prop. 65 point-of-sale warning for bisphenol A (BPA) in canned and bottled food and beverage products.

In order to rely on the point-of-sale warning for another year, however, businesses must provide information to OEHHA concerning any such products where BPA has been intentionally added.

The requested information includes the brand name, product description, FDA product category, and UPC code or other specific information. Where bsiphenol A is no longer used in the product but the product is still available in commerce, the last expiration or “use by” date should be given.  The information can be provided in a form or template on OEHHA’s website by clicking here.

The regulation allows businesses to rely on the point-of-sale warning through December 30, 2017. After that date, businesses will need to sell

Retailers Face False Advertising Cases on Discounts From Original Prices, Rewards Points

December 22, 2016


Retailers that advertise sale prices in comparison with regular prices in California should ensure that the products were actually offered for sale at those regular prices within the preceding three months, in order to avoid potential litigation.

Los Angeles prosecutors have sued four national retailers for allegedly failing to do just that, accusing them of misleading shoppers into believing they got bigger discounts than they actually did by falsely stating the original prices in advertising sales prices on thousands of products.

The lawsuits assert false advertising and unfair competition based on alleged violation of a state law that prohibits advertising a former price unless it was “the prevailing market price” within three months before the ad runs, unless the ad “exactly and conspicuously” states the date when that price was in effect.  California law also prohibits as a deceptive practice “[m]aking false or misleading statements of

Avoid ADA Lawsuits for the Holidays by Ensuring Stores are Accessible

December 1, 2016


In order to help retailers improve access to all customers and reduce potential liability, this is the first in a three-part series offering tips for compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). This week we offer tips to improve access to brick-and-mortar stores and their facilities.

Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals “on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations of any place of public accommodation,” which includes retail stores.

Allegations concerning the accessibility of parking spaces, entrances and aisles, checkout and sales counters, and restrooms continue to attract the most ADA lawsuits. Detailed federal regulations covering all of these areas appear in the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design (ADA Standards), and state building codes may provide additional requirements. ADA requirements may differ depending on the construction date of your stores, and

California Upholds Statewide Plastic Bag Ban

November 10, 2016


California Upholds Statewide Plastic Bag Ban

November 10, 2016

Authored by: Bryan Cave and Merrit Jones

Californians narrowly validated the statewide plastic bag ban previously passed by the state Legislature, while rejecting a proposition that would have required retailers to remit money charged for single-use carry-out bags to an environmental fund.

Proposition 67 was approved by 52 percent of voters. It continues the statewide ban prohibiting grocery stores and other selected retailers from handing out single-use plastic bags, but allows them to sell recycled paper bags and reusable bags for a minimum of 10 cents.

The state Legislature approved the ban and the governor signed it into law in 2014, but a referendum forced the issue onto the ballot. The law applies to the following retailers:

  • Full-line, self-service retail stores with gross annual sales of at least $2 million that sell dry groceries, canned goods, or nonfood items, and some perishable items.
  • Pharmacies with at least 10,000 square feet of retail space.
  • Convenience stores,

Prop. 65 Conference Focuses on Compliance With New Warning and Settlement Regulations

The Prop. 65 Clearinghouse held its annual conference in San Francisco recently, and the speakers and panelists had a number of recommendations for both retailers and manufacturers following the adoption of Proposition 65’s new warning regulations.

The New Warning Regulations

As we reported on September 7th, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has adopted new warning regulations which take effect in two years on August 30, 2018.  Businesses can choose to comply with either the current or new regulations in the interim, but all retailers and manufacturers who sell products in California should review their Prop. 65 compliance protocols to ensure that they will continue to comply.

The new regulations seek to put the primary responsibility for providing warnings on product manufacturers or suppliers, who must either label their products with any required warnings or provide notice and warning materials to retailers.

The regulations expressly

California Adopts New Prop. 65 Warning Regulations

California Adopts New Prop. 65 Warning Regulations

September 7, 2016

Authored by: Bryan Cave, Merrit Jones and Marcy Bergman

California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has adopted new Proposition 65 warning regulations.  The new regulations will take effect in two years, on August 30, 2018.  In the interim, businesses may choose to comply with either the current or new regulations.

Prop. 65 prohibits businesses from knowingly and intentionally exposing California consumers to a chemical known to the state of California to cause cancer or reproductive harm without first providing a “clear and reasonable warning.”  As we reported on a draft of the regulations in April 2016, the new regulations substantially change what constitutes a clear and reasonable warning.

Products with label warnings manufactured prior to the effective date of the new regulations would continue to receive protection from liability. Parties to existing settlement agreements or court-approved consent judgments also can continue to provide warnings that comply with those agreements or orders.

Regulations Seek to

Receipt With Credit Card Data Constitutes Sufficient Injury for Class Action to Proceed

A recent federal court ruling allows a class action lawsuit to proceed against luxury fashion retailer Jimmy Choo for violating the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (FACTA).  This ruling, which will likely be appealed, has important implications for other consumer class action lawsuits against retailers.

Jimmy Choo was accused of violating FACTA by printing credit card expiration dates on customer receipts in Wood v. J Choo USA, Inc., S.D. Fla. Case No. 15-cv-81487.  Jimmy Choo argued that the plaintiff had no standing to sue because she was not damaged when the retailer printed her credit card expiration date on her receipt. The court disagreed, holding that the consumer was sufficiently damaged to maintain the action as soon as soon as the receipt was printed.

Companies facing lawsuits alleging FACTA violations should be aware that although the U.S. Supreme Court held in Spokeo Inc. v. Robins,

FDA Releases Final Rule Allowing Voluntary Risk Reviews of Food Additives to Continue

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says its final rule allowing outside groups to evaluate food additive risks will streamline its “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) reviews.

The agency recently released its GRAS final rule for its food additive program, switching reviews from a more formal but slower “petition-based” process to a voluntary “notification” process.  For retailers with private label food products, that means that they or their vendors can continue to convene their own expert panels to review the safety of many food additives, and provide notice of their findings to the FDA.

Under the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act), any substance that is intentionally added to food is a food additive that is subject to premarket review and approval by FDA, unless the substance is generally recognized, among qualified experts, as having been adequately shown to be safe under the conditions of its

New Federal Law Will Require Disclosure of GMO Content in Food

A new federal law will require food makers to disclose when foods contain genetically modified ingredients.

The law, which was recently signed by President Obama, will require such food products to be labeled with text, a symbol, or an electronic code readable by smartphone indicating the presence of GMOs. Small businesses will also have the option to label food products with a telephone number or Internet website directing customers to additional information.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has two years to draft regulations concerning which products require such disclosure, and additional details concerning what food makers must do to comply. After the regulations are finalized, food makers will have at least another year before the law takes effect.

Law preempts state and local GMO labeling laws.

The federal law preempts a similar Vermont law, Act 120, that took effect in July, as well as any other state or local

Personal Care Product Companies Targeted for “All-Natural” Claims

July 18, 2016


The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) has approved four final consent orders against companies that allegedly misrepresented their personal care products as “All-Natural” or “100% Natural.”

In the past several years, numerous private lawsuits have been filed by consumers, particularly in California, alleging that food products labeled and advertised as “natural” violate false advertising laws. The FTC orders demonstrate that other products may be at risk for such claims as well.

The FTC has authority for enforcing the Federal Trade Commission Act, which broadly prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practices.” The FTC views labels and ads as deceptive if there is a material misrepresentation or omission that is likely to mislead consumers and affect their choices regarding a product.

The FTC complaints allege the following companies made deceptive all-natural claims in labeling and advertising a variety of personal care products, ranging from sunscreen to shampoo: Trans-India Products, Inc., doing business

California Proposition 65 Notices Allege BPA in Receipts, Water Cooler Jugs

July 11, 2016


Since the Prop. 65 warning requirement for bisphenol-A (BPA) took effect on May 11, 2016, two 60-day notices have been served alleging harmful exposure to the chemical without providing a warning. Those notices, both served by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) on June 27, 2016, allege the presence of BPA in receipt paper and polycarbonate plastic water containers used for water coolers.

The receipt paper notices were served against Del Taco and Grewal Superfoods Inc., and the water jug notice was served against Home Depot and DS Services of America, Inc.

BPA is listed under Prop. 65 as a chemical known to cause harm to the female reproductive system. OEHHA recently adopted a safe harbor exposure level for BPA, for dermal exposure from solid materials, of 3 micrograms per day. Exposure below this level does not require a warning. The safe harbor level would apply to BPA in receipt paper.  

California May Collect Certain Information from Businesses to Support Its New Proposition 65 Website

June 23, 2016


California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has launched a website,, intended to provide both businesses and consumers with information regarding the requirements for Proposition 65 warnings.

The website provides information regarding listed chemicals, including when they were listed, the basis for listing, and whether they are listed as a carcinogen or as causing reproductive harm.  The website also identifies products and places that require a specific Prop. 65 warning under the new regulations being considered by OEHHA, such as alcoholic beverages, furniture products, amusement parks, and dental offices.  It provides the current language for the current Prop. 65 warning for those products as well as the newly proposed language.  It also provides information about the types of listed chemicals likely to be found in those products, the likely routes and levels of exposure, and ways to reduce that exposure.

In order to develop information

Native Advertising: Recent FTC Cases Require Disclosure of Paid Endorsements on Social Media

May 12, 2016


Two recent cases by the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) demonstrate its position that paid endorsements in social media must be disclosed. These cases reinforce the FTC’s stance on transparency in native advertising, which is paid advertising made to look like the media content around it.

The FTC has approved a final consent order with Machinima, Inc. requiring the company to disclose when it has compensated “influencers” to post online videos or product endorsements. According to the FTC’s complaint, the California-based online entertainment network engaged in deceptive advertising by paying influencers to post online videos endorsing a home video game system and several games, without disclosing that they were being paid for their opinions.

Although not yet final, the FTC has also proposed a consent order with department store chain Lord & Taylor, based on that company’s advertising campaign for a new apparel line using a paid article in online fashion

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