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Supreme Court to Review Antitrust Suit Over AmEx Merchant Rules

The retail industry should have great interest in a case set to be decided the Supreme Court this term, the outcome of which will affect the terms and conditions of credit card acceptance for all merchants.

The Supreme Court has granted certiorari to review the Second Circuit’s decision in Ohio v. American Express, an antitrust case in which a group of states have challenged American Express Co.’s rules preventing merchants from steering customers to other credit cards as being anti-competitive.

The case is based on the American Express (“AmEx”) “anti-steering” rules, also known as “non-discriminatory provisions” or “NDPs.” AmEx’s NDPs are provisions in the contracts between AmEx and merchants that prohibit merchants from showing a preference for credit cards other than Amex (like Visa or MasterCard) or otherwise offering customers discounts for using non-Amex credit cards.

In 2010, the federal government and several states filed suit against AmEx, arguing that its anti-steering

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

Bans on Credit Card Surcharges Face First Amendment Challenges

State laws that prohibit retailers from charging customers a surcharge for using a credit card are being challenged on First Amendment grounds.

For more than four decades, California’s Song-Beverly Credit Card Act of 1971 prohibited retailers from charging credit card customers such a surcharge. In Italian Colors Restaurant, et al. v. Harris, 99 F.Supp.3d 1199 (E.D. Cal. 2015), a federal judge ruled that the law unconstitutionally limits retailers’ freedom of speech. The California attorney general appealed, and the case is set for oral argument before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on August 17.

The outcome may be influenced by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in March of this year in Expressions Hair Design v. Schneiderman, 137 S. Ct. 1144 (2017), that a similar New York ban on credit card surcharges implicates the First Amendment. That case has been remanded to the Second Circuit to determine whether the ban

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

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