#ShowMeTheMoney: Sofia Vergara’s Settlement of Social Media False Endorsement Lawsuit Highlights Modern Legal Issue

Last month, Sofia Vergara, star of ABC’s Modern Family, reached a settlement in a lawsuit brought by the actress against beauty company Venus Concept for alleged improper use of her likeness on television and in social media, which Vergara alleged created the false impression that she endorsed the Venus Concept brand or its treatment products. In the lawsuit, Vergara claimed $15 million in damages. Continue Reading

Dancing On Their Own: The California Supreme Court’s Decision in McGill v. Citibank, N.A. that Class Action Waivers Do Not Apply to Claims for Public Injunctive Relief under California’s Consumer Protection Laws

On April 6, 2017, the California Supreme Court struck another blow in its contentious battle with the United States Supreme Court on the enforceability of consumer arbitration clauses subject to the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA).  In McGill v. Citibank, N.A., No. S224086, Slip Op. at 1 (Cal. Apr. 6, 2017), the Court held that an arbitration clause in Citibank’s credit card  agreement purporting to waive the plaintiff’s right to seek public injunctive relief under the Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA), the Unfair Competition Law (UCL), or the False Advertising Law (FAL) in any forum was unenforceable as against California public policy.  The Court further held that, notwithstanding the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions on the subject, including in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, 131 S. Ct. 1740, 1747 (2011), the FAA did not preempt California’s policy.  As discussed below, these holdings are troubling and likely inconsistent with federal law. Continue Reading

Don’t Game Your Players with False Advertising

Advertising for new games can present some troublesome legal issues, if due care is not taken. A recently concluded matter in the UK highlights an example of the potential issues. Hello Games was investigated by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), based on complaints from customers that advertised features of its game (No Man’s Sky) either did not actually appear in the game or did not appear in the way advertised. The ASA ruled, in this case, that the advertising was not in fact legally misleading. Notwithstanding this ruling, game publishers need to be careful when advertising new games.

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FTC Requires that iSpring’s “Built in USA” Claims Hold Water

On February 1, 2017, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and iSpring Water Systems, LLC (“iSpring”) reached a settlement regarding its false, misleading, and unsupported claims that its water filtration systems and parts are “Built in USA,” “Built in USA Legendary brand of water filter,” and “Proudly Built in the USA.”

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FTC / DAA Extend Data Privacy Focus to Cross-Device Tracking

Enforcement of the Digital Advertising Alliance “Application of the Principles of Transparency and Control to Data Used Across Devices” (DAA Cross-Device Principles) officially began on February 1, just a week after the FTC issued a staff report discussing the application of the FTC Online Behavioral Advertising Principles in the context of “Cross Device Tracking” and suggesting that the DAA Cross-Device Principles, while commendable, could be stronger. Continue Reading

Using Hashtag #Disclosures in Social Media Advertising

The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) has been cracking down on brands for paying Instagram users to endorse their products or to share brand content without disclosing the relationship.  Indeed, the recent settlements entered between the FTC and several media and entertainment companies as well as a specialty retailer make it clear that the FTC is paying close attention to endorsements of all kinds – whether by celebrities, sponsors, or paid “influencers.”

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FTC Grants Summary Judgment Against California Naturel, Inc. Falsely Advertising “All Natural” Sunscreen Products

In its opinion in In re California Naturel, Inc., the Federal Trade Commission held that the California Naturel, Inc. advertising promoting its “all natural” sunscreen on its website as containing “only the purest, most luxurious and effective ingredients found in nature” violated Section 5 and 12 of the FTC Act.  The opinion, written by Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, noted that California Naturel admitted that eight percent of its sunscreen formula is in fact dimethicone, a synthetic ingredient.

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St. Louis Rams’ Relocation to Los Angeles Sets Stage for Colossal Stadium Naming Rights Agreement

On Tuesday, January 12, the NFL owners voted 30–2 to formally approve the relocation of the St. Louis Rams to Los Angeles, which concluded a hostile, multiple-year-long review process that ultimately deprives the city of St. Louis of its beleaguered NFL franchise that has called that city home since 1995. Also in Tuesday’s vote, NFL owners approved the possible relocation of the San Diego Chargers to Los Angeles to share a new stadium with the Rams.  Chargers owner Dean Spanos has one year to decide whether to move the team or stay in San Diego and attempt to construct a new stadium there, where efforts have, thus far, been wholly unsuccessful. Continue Reading

Another Gambling Class Action Fails – Court Finds Social Casino Games Not Gambling

A Federal Court in Washington state dismissed a Plaintiff’s class action claims that social casino games using purchasable virtual casino chips  constitute gambling under Washington state law. The Court found that the virtual chips have no “value” and therefore the game did not constitute gambling because Plaintiff was not “staking or risking something of value.” Continue Reading

Court Rules Virtual Currency Casino Not Illegal Gambling Despite Secondary Market

A Maryland Court recently dismissed a case in which Plaintiff alleged that a virtual currency casino within a social game constituted illegal gambling, despite the existence of a secondary market for the player accounts. For purposes of assessing whether the game was skill or chance-based game, the Court found that the social game, as a whole, was a game of skill, and refused to adopt the Plaintiff’s approach of considering the “casino” itself a chance-based game. This ruling is significant for social game companies that use virtual currency to engage in gamblification (i.e., the use of gambling mechanics for non-gambling purposes). Continue Reading

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