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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

FDA Delays Implementing Nutrition and Supplement Facts Label Rules

The FDA has announced that it is delaying implementation of 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, although manufacturers with annual food sales of less than $10 million were given an additional year to comply.

The FDA did not elaborate on the new timeframe for implementation, but stated in a revised online guidance that it will provide details of the extension through a Federal Register Notice at a later time.

The rules require a revamped Nutrition Facts format that would increase the type size of certain nutrition information, require mandatory declarations for “added sugars,” Vitamin D and potassium, impose a new definition of “dietary fiber,” and revise serving sizes for certain food products.

The FDA explained that the extension was in response to

Unicorn-Themed Drinks Spawn Trademark Dispute Between Coffee Retailers

While the mythical unicorn is a rare creature, it has recently become a marketing phenomenon, with the unicorn’s rainbow-laden powers being harnessed to sell unicorn-themed products that can cover you from literally head to toe, i.e., from makeup (such as “Unicorn Snot®”, a glitter gel) to slippers and even a toilet spray made with “unicorn farts” (Squatty Potty’s “Unicorn Gold®”). Perhaps inevitably, brand owners have begun to battle over who can lay claim to a unicorn trademark. And this includes drinks that sound like coffee (but largely are not).

In April, caffeine aficionados found it was nearly impossible to avoid Starbucks’ limited-time promotion of its Unicorn Frappuccino. Purple and turquoise, and made of créme frappuccino syrup, milk, ice, mango syrup and “whipped cream-sprinkled pink and blue fairy powders,” the reportedly coffee-less drink was heavily promoted. One Brooklyn-based coffee and juice bar, however, was not enchanted by Starbucks’ frappe.

The End

Retailers and Other Food Importers Must Ensure Food They Import Meets U.S. Safety Standards

Requirements take effect today under the FDA’s new Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP), which makes retailers and other businesses that import food into the United States responsible for verifying that the food has been produced in a manner that meets applicable U.S. safety standards.

FSVP is one of the seven foundational rules of the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the most sweeping reform of our food safety laws in more than 70 years. It aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it.

A central tenet of the FSVP is that the same preventive food safety standards should apply to all food consumed in the U.S., regardless of where the food is produced. The FSVP therefore requires that importers have a program in place to verify that their foreign suppliers are producing food in a manner that satisfies

Arizona Employers Prepare to Implement New Paid Sick Time Law

After surviving a legal challenge rejected by the Arizona Supreme Court, Arizona’s $10 minimum wage enacted under Proposition 206 is already in effect, and the sick leave portion of the law takes effect in July. For many companies, this will require new paid time off and sick leave policies, or at least revisions to their existing policies.

With enactment of Proposition 206, Arizona joins other states with sick leave laws, including Illinois, California, Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Washington, D.C. As previously reported by the Retail Law blog, the Illinois law took effect in January 2017.

The Arizona law generally applies to all Arizona employees; it makes no distinction between salaried, hourly, full-time, part-time, temporary or seasonal employees. All employees must accrue one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked.

Paid sick leave can be used for medical care of a mental or physical illness, injury

Avoid Potential Liability for Violating Laws Related to Email Marketing

Email is an important marketing tool for retailers, who should be aware of federal and state laws regulating its commercial use. Since its enactment in 2003, the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (“CAN-SPAM”) Act has attempted to curb the number of unwanted emails and impose some rules on a largely unregulated frontier. When followed, CAN-SPAM Act’s restrictions give email recipients some control over their inboxes and also maintain fairness in how emails present themselves. Failure to follow the CAN-SPAM Act can lead to penalties of up to

FDA’s Delay in Implementing Calorie Labeling Law Leaves Fate Uncertain

The latest delay by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in implementing new calorie labeling rules gives restaurants and food retailers a little breathing room. Originally set for May 5, the agency pushed back the deadline a second time, now requiring compliance by May 2018.

Seven years ago, the menu labeling law was passed as Section 4205 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the FDA has been working on the details ever since.  Its final rule requiring calorie labeling requires restaurants and “similar retail food establishments” (such as convenience stores, grocery stores, concession stands, and food takeout or delivery establishments) that are part of a chain of 20 or more locations and that sell substantially the same menu items to, among other things, post the following on menus and menu boards:

  • calorie information;
  • a succinct statement on suggested daily caloric intake; and
  • a statement that written nutrition

Ninth Circuit Revives Baby Food False Advertising Class Action

The Ninth Circuit has revived a proposed class action against Gerber, saying the mother who sued it for labeling its sugar-laden baby food as “natural” only had to prove the labels were misleading, not necessarily false. “Even technically correct labels can be misleading,” the panel wrote in an unpublished order reversing the district court’s dismissal of the putative class action.

In Bruton v. Gerber Food Products Co., Case No. 5:12-cv-02412-LHK, the plaintiff alleged that labels on certain Gerber baby food products included claims about nutrient and sugar content that were impermissible under Food and Drug Administration regulations incorporated into California law. She challenged the labels that describe the food as “excellent source,” “good source,” “as healthy as fresh,” “no added sugar” and “natural.” The products include a variety of snack foods that allegedly mislead consumers about being good sources of vitamins C and E, iron and zinc, and support “healthy

Businesses Beat Lawsuits Alleging Website Terms Violate New Jersey Law

Every retailer that does business in New Jersey needs to know about New Jersey’s Truth in Consumer Contract, Warranty and Notice Act (“TCCWNA”), which was passed in 1981 to protect the rights of consumers from allegedly deceptive practices in consumer contracts, warranties, notices and signs. Recently, however, the TCCWNA has been the basis of a flurry of pre-suit demand letters to retailers and class action lawsuits filed in state and federal courts in New Jersey.

The TCCWNA’s prohibition of the use of certain terms or disclaimers in warranties, consumer contracts, and other consumer-facing  materials  has been interpreted to include language typically used by retailers in their websites’ terms and conditions, rules of use, on social media, and in contracts – such as commonly used provisions seeking to hold the retailer harmless/limit liability, requiring the customer to assume risks, provisions waiving certain fees and costs, and cost-shifting language.  A general

Think Your Market Is Global? Then Global Consumer Regulators Likely Are Watching Your Business

 

Advances in internet technologies, global social media platforms, and inventory order management and shipping delivery systems have revolutionized our businesses. Shopping-at-home and catalog sales, markets most retailers never would have considered as recently as 20 years ago, are now vibrant. Your business now may have customers in many different countries. You should be aware of the growing collaboration among the consumer watchdogs across the world, because those regulators may well be aware of your business through consumer complaints.

econsumer.gov is a site sponsored by the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN) and supported by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as well as approximately 35 other countries’ consumer regulators. The site provides consumer education and publishes trends regarding consumer fraud complaints. As the tag line of the site reveals, it also is a portal for the collection of global consumer fraud complaints: “Report international scams

Beware of Making Unsubstantiated Anti-Aging Claims

Manufacturers, distributors, and retailers often tout the anti-aging effects of certain cosmetics and nutritional supplements. Of course, the term “anti-aging” is not intended to literally mean that a product prevents aging. To the contrary, it is understood by both the industry and consumers as describing a product that is designed to mitigate, mask, or soften certain cosmetic indicators that come with age. These typically include wrinkles, discoloration, greying of the hair, or a loss of skin firmness.

Anti-aging litigation has proven popular with the plaintiffs’ bar. In the past five years, there have been at least 31 class action complaints filed alleging deceptive advertising of anti-aging products, and at least 10 enforcement actions brought by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Often such putative class actions allege that advertising which touts a product’s anti-aging properties is deceptive and misleading to consumers. Typically, complaints over anti-aging claims lack affirmative evidence that a

Taking the Stress Out of Distress for Retailers

Taking the Stress Out of Distress for Retailers

March 31, 2017

Authored by: Bryan Cave and Andrew Schoulder

Despite the downturn in many retail sectors, retailers should not automatically adopt a “glass half empty approach” but instead view the impending cycle as creating opportunities for companies in both the U.S. and globally.

In recent months, a steady stream of analyst coverage has painted a bleak outlook for the retail industry. Between February and March 2017, BCBG Max Azria, Eastern Outfitters, hhgregg, Gander Mountain, and Gordmans were among the companies added to the long list of retailers to seek bankruptcy protection. In February 2017, Moody’s Investors Service reported that the number of distressed U.S. retailers has tripled since the 2008-2009 recession. With 19 companies currently in Moody’s Caa/Ca retail portfolio, industry analysts are forecasting this current distressed cycle will surpass the conditions that existed for the industry in 2008-2009. The continued growth of online retailers is expected to hasten that result.

For companies with healthier balance sheets, the current

Court Dismisses Website Accessibility Case as Violating Due Process, Since DOJ Still Has Not Issued Regulations

Recent court decisions from California and Florida may provide ammunition to retailers battling claims that their websites and mobile applications are inaccessible in violation of Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act (the “ADA”). As we reported in a previous blog post, retailers and other businesses have faced a wave of such demand letters and lawsuits.  Most of these claims settled quickly and confidentially.

However, a California district court recently granted Dominos Pizza’s motion to dismiss under the primary jurisdiction doctrine, which allows courts to stay or dismiss lawsuits pending the resolution of an issue by a government agency. In Robles v. Dominos Pizza LLC, U.S. Dist. Ct. North Dist. Cal. Case No. CV 16-06599 SJO, the court held it would violate Domino’s due process rights to hold that its website violates the ADA, because the Department of Justice still has not promulgated regulations defining website accessibility –

Give Me … “Separability!” Supreme Court Holds Cheerleading Uniform Designs Copyrightable

In an important copyright case for retailers, the Supreme Court, in Star Athletica, L.L.C. v. Varsity Brands, Inc., 580 U.S. (2017), resolved “widespread disagreement” among the circuits, and adopted a single test to determine the copyrightability of designs incorporated in “useful articles.” The Court held that “an artistic feature of the design of a useful article is eligible for copyright protection if the feature (1) can be perceived as a two- or three-dimensional work of art separate from the useful article and (2) would qualify as a protectable pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work either on its own or in some other medium if imagined separately from the useful article.” Applying that test to Varsity Brands’ cheerleading uniforms, the Court concluded that the “arrangement of colors, shapes, stripes, and chevrons on the surface of the cheerleading uniforms” are separable from the uniforms and eligible for copyright protection.

In Star Athletica,

“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

Mitigate Consumer Litigation Risk by Watching the FTC: Five Good Reasons

2017 already has been, and surely will continue to be, a year of great change. Regulatory agencies are re-envisioning their mandates. Many have or soon will have new leadership. And advocacy groups for consumers are mobilized.

Some of the regulatory changes may favor retail businesses. But others may continue to bring increased scrutiny and require more transparency with consumers. What can retail businesses do to help mitigate their risk and understand the headwinds they may be facing?  One thing that may be helpful would be to monitor the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)’s website. Why? Five good reasons.

  • Consumers are going to the FTC website. You should know what your customers are learning.
  • The Consumer Information section of the site offers a breadth of information, including tabs for Money & Credit, Homes & Mortgages, Health & Fitness, Jobs & Making Money, and Privacy, Identity & Online Security. In addition,

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