As we enter November and turn our clocks back, the FTC has not slowed its enforcement efforts. The Bureau of Consumer Protection announced multiple settlements resulting in millions in consumer refunds with an apparent focus on the credit, loan, and debt collection industries. Further, the FTC released multiple annual reports including its Do Not Call Registry Data Book. This and more, after the jump.
Monday, October 30, 2023
Bureau of Consumer Protection: Advertising and Marketing; Tobacco
- The FTC released its reports on cigarette and smokeless tobacco sales and marketing expenditures for 2022. Overall, cigarette and smokeless tobacco sales and marketing have decreased from 2021 to 2022. The FTC has issued the Cigarette Report periodically since 1967 and the Smokeless Tobacco Report periodically since 1987.
Bureau of Consumer Protection: Deceptive Business Conduct; Credit and Loans; Debt Collection
- The FTC announced a favorable summary judgment ruling from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, resulting in a permanent ban of Jonathan Braun from the merchant cash advance and debt collection industries. Mr. Braun operated the small business funding company RCG Advances and allegedly targeted small business consumers with an array of tactics, including predatory contract terms, misrepresentation of contract terms, and unfair collection practices such as violent threats. The lawsuit against Braun was originally filed in June 2020 for his role with RCG Advances, formerly d/b/a Richmond Capital Group. The court’s opinion granting summary judgment found that Braun engaged in “extensive misconduct” and would be liable for damages to consumers. The Southern District of New York found liability for consumer damages under Section 19 of the FTC Act based on a rules violation, in contrast with Section 13 considered under AMG Capital Management. The court has scheduled a trial in January 2024 to determine appropriate monetary relief.
Thursday, November 2, 2023
Bureau of Consumer Protection: Deceptive Business Conduct; Credit and Loans; Debt Collection; Payday Lending; Online Advertising
- The FTC announced a proposed settlement with Brigit, a personal finance application provider, providing $18 million in refunds to consumers harmed by the company’s deceptive practices. The FTC’s complaint alleged Brigit, also known as Bridge It, Inc., advertised instant access to cash advances, but consumers were rarely able to obtain any cash advance at all, among other misleading advertising statements. The complaint also alleged that Brigit engaged in dark patterns to create a confusing cancellation process that prevented cancellation of subscription services as required by ROSCA. The proposed settlement order requires the payment of $18 million in consumer refunds as well as prohibits Brigit from misleading consumers about its cash advance services, especially as related to the amount, efficiency, and fees associated with advances. Brigit agreed to settle the FTC’s charges. The FTC voted 3-0 to file the complaint and proposed settlement order in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Friday, November 3, 2023
Bureau of Competition: Merger Guidelines; Horizontal Mergers; Vertical Mergers
- The FTC and Justice Department co-hosted a workshop as part of their ongoing efforts to facilitate public dialogue on the 2023 Draft Merger Guidelines at the University of Chicago Law School. The event featured three panel discussions with FTC and Justice Department leaders, state enforcers, academics, and practitioners regarding questions and issues that the FTC is seeking public comment on related to the Merger Guidelines.
Bureau of Consumer Protection: Telemarking; Do Not Call Registry
- The FTC released its National Do Not Call Registry Data Book for fiscal year 2023. The data book illustrates that consumer complaints about robocalls and unwanted telemarketing calls have decreased to a five-year low, but still reflects that the FTC received over two million Do Not Call complaints. The 2023 Data Book marks the fifteenth year the FTC has created the publication.
Bureau of Competition: Horizontal Mergers; Vertical Mergers; Real Estate
- As reported by Crowell in September, the FTC finalized a proposed consent order to resolve antitrust concerns surrounding Intercontinental Exchange, Inc.’s (“ICE”) proposed $13.1 billion acquisition of Black Knight, Inc. (“BKI”). At the time, the FTC voted 3-0 to accept the consent order, but allowed a public comment period. Following that period, the FTC has voted 3-0 again to finalize the order. The FTC announced the finalized order, settling the FTC’s charges that the deal would have increased consumer costs, reduced innovation, and limited lenders’ choices for mortgage origination tools. The proposed order addressed the FTC’s concerns by providing structural relief to preserve competition, such as BKI’s divestiture of Empower and Optimal Blue, which are two businesses that provide services in the mortgage origination process. Further, the consent order requires ICE and BKI to seek prior approval from the FTC before acquiring any divested asset or an interest in a loan origination system business for ten years.