Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Bureau of Consumer Protection: Credit and Finance

  • The Commission is returning over $10 million to consumers who were charged hidden fees by online lender LendingClub Corporation. The disbursement stems from the FTC’s 2018 lawsuit against the corporation, in which the agency alleged that LendingClub falsely promised loan applicants that they would receive a specific loan amount with no hidden fees, when in fact the company deducted hidden up-front fees from the loans. The FTC is sending refunds to 15,748 customers who complained to the company or the FTC about the fees; the agency will also be reaching out to additional Lending Club customers who repaid loans during the period at issue. This order predates the FTC’s loss of its ability to obtain equitable monetary relief in federal court for consumers following an April 22, 2021 Supreme Court decision. Congress has not yet acted on the FTC’s request to reinstate this power.

Bureau of Competition: Merger Guidelines

  • FTC Chair Lina Khan and DOJ Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter announced a new joint public inquiry designed to “ensure that our merger guidelines accurately reflect modern market realities.” The announcement comes in the midst of a merger surge that saw merger filings double from 2020 to 2021. The agencies are seeking public feedback, evidence, and ideas that may inform revisions to the guidelines. The press release highlighted specific areas of inquiry, including (1) the purpose and scope of merger review, (2) presumptions that certain transactions are anticompetitive, (3) use of market definition in analyzing competitive effects, (4) threats to potential and nascent competition, (5) impact of monopsony power, including in labor markets, and (6) the unique characteristics of digital markets. Chair Khan issued a statement explaining the inquiry in more detail, and Commissioners Phillips and Wilson released a statement welcoming the inquiry but encouraging agency leaders to proceed carefully. Comments can be submitted at this link until March 21, 2022.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Bureau of Consumer Protection: COVID-19

  • With an eye on the omicron variant, the FTC sent cease-and-desist demand letters to more than 20 marketers, ordering them to immediately stop making baseless claims that their products and therapies can prevent or treat COVID-19. This is the eleventh set of health-related warnings issued by the agency. The letters advise each marketer that one of more of its efficacy claims are unsubstantiated and unsupported by scientific evidence, and therefore violate the FTC Act. The letter recipient must notify the Commission within 48 hours about the specific actions taken to address the agency’s concerns. The FTC sent similar letters to four multi-level marketing companies, citing the agency’s guidance for MLMs and ordering the companies to remove or address claims made by direct sellers about their products’ ability to treat COVID-19.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Bureau of Consumer Protection: Loans and Credit Contracts

  • The Commission, responding to a series of court decisions, issued an advisory opinion clarifying that the Holder Rule does not prevent state law from awarding costs or attorneys’ fees against loan holders. The Holder Rule protects consumers’ right to assert claims and defenses against a holder of certain loans or sales contracts, even if the loan or contract is assigned to a third party. Consumers who prevail on these claims may sometimes seek costs and attorneys’ fees from the losing loan holder. The FTC’s new opinion clarifies that the Rule does not preempt state laws on this point and does not eliminate any rights that a consumer has under separate state, local, or federal laws.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Bureau of Consumer Protection: Privacy and Identity Theft

  • The FTC announced that Identity Theft Awareness Week will take place this year from January 31 – February 4, 2022. The agency will hold a number of free online events, webinars, and podcasts on topics such as trending issues in identity theft and agency resources to help combat identity theft, including gov. The week will kick off early on January 25th with a joint webinar of FTC and Department of Veterans Affairs experts who will discuss privacy and identity theft issues pertaining to veterans.