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Last week the Supreme Court unanimously held that §13(b) of the Federal Trade Commission Act does not give the Federal Trade Commission the power to seek equitable monetary relief such as disgorgement or restitution. The Court’s opinion in AMG Capital Management LLC v. Federal Trade Commission removes a powerful tool that the FTC has long relied on to pursue monetary relief for consumers in both consumer protection and competition matters.

By way of background, the FTC has authority to protect consumers from unfair or deceptive acts or practice (“UDAP”) and unfair methods of competition (“UMC”) with an overlapping but distinct set of tools it can use to pursue its dual consumer protection and competition missions:

  • Administrative Proceeding: The FTC can initiate an administrative proceeding to seek a cease and desist order for either a UDAP or UMC violation from an administrative law judge. If necessary, the FTC can later bring a contempt proceeding in federal court seeking to enforce the terms of an administrative order. A defendant may respond by arguing that it has “substantially complied” with the terms of the order. If the FTC prevails in such a case, it can seek civil penalties and other equitable relief necessary to enforce the order (however monetary relief only applies to UDAP violations).
  • Rulemaking: The FTC has authority to promulgate rules that define UDAP with specificity. Generally, this requires a lengthy, formal rulemaking process that allows for public comment, and a final rule can be challenged in federal court. If a defendant later violates a duly enacted UDAP rule, the FTC can seek civil penalties for a knowing violation. The FTC can also file suit in federal court and obtain monetary relief “to redress consumer injury,” including an order compelling “refund of money or return of property,” but only if “a reasonable man would have known under the circumstances [that the challenged conduct] was dishonest or fraudulent.”
  • Federal Court: The FTC can sue in federal court under §13(b) of the FTC Act to enjoin a defendant when the defendant “is violating, or is about to violate” a law that the FTC enforces and such an injunction is in the public’s interest. While courts have historically read §13(b) as giving the FTC an implied right to recover equitable monetary relief in addition to injunctive relief, the Supreme Court’s ruling now limits the FTC to seeking injunctive relief only.


Continue Reading The Supreme Court Limits FTC’s §13(b) Powers

On April 15, 2021, the FTC filed its first complaint under the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act (the CCP Act). The complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, alleges that an in-state chiropractor and his company violated both the CCP Act and the FTC Act by deceptively marketing Vitamin

This article was originally published in Automotive World.

The future of the mobility is dependent on AI, but without greater understanding among consumers, trust could be hard to build.

The mobility sector is keen to realise the full benefits of artificial intelligence (AI), not least to open up the revenues which data-driven connected services could offer. But moving forward, it must balance these opportunities with the rights of drivers, passengers and pedestrians. A number of concerns have already surfaced, all of which will become more pressing as the technology is further embedded into vehicles, mobility services and infrastructure.

Privacy and liability are two of the major challenges. As Christian Theissen, Partner, White & Case explains, mobility has become inherently connected to consumer habits and behavioural patterns, much like the e-commerce and social media industries. “The access, ownership, storage and transmission of personal data, such as driving patterns, must be taken into consideration by both lawmakers and companies gathering and using data,” he says. Meanwhile, in a world of AI-powered self-driving, at what point do regulators start blaming the machine when something goes wrong?

Part of the challenge in considering these issues is that as things stand, there is limited understanding among consumers around what rights there are. “Consumers appreciate AI,” says Cheri Falvey, Partner, Crowell & Moring, “and in particular the ease with which navigational apps help guide them to their destination. Whether they appreciate how their data is accumulating and developing a record of their mobility patterns, and what their rights are in respect to that data, is another question.”

There is often little precedent for regulators to rely on when making new policy in this arena, so it’s a good time to create a proactive regulatory strategy that invites discussion and collaboration from the start

This is in part because it is not always clear when AI is at work. A driver may register when a car’s navigation system learns the way home, but won’t necessarily realise that data on how a car is driven is being collected for predictive maintenance purposes, or that their data is being fed into infrastructure networks to manage traffic flow.


Continue Reading Automakers and Regulators Must Educate Consumers on Mobility AI

Federal Trade Commission
Federal Trade Commission

Presidential advisor Steve Bannon famously told the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that the Trump Administration seeks to “deconstruct” the regulatory state. The President has issued several Executive Orders (EOs) on regulations designed to implement this policy, including the “two for one” EO, an EO on enforcing the regulatory agenda, and an EO on reorganizing the executive branch.  The three orders collectively promote a policy of deregulation and wholesale elimination of administrative functions deemed overly burdensome to business, redundant, or outdated.

This week, the White House followed through on that agenda by publishing a proposed budget that would impose sweeping budget reductions on almost every federal agency, with the exception of the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security.

The key consumer protection agencies—the Federal Trade Commission, Federal Communications Commission, and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—are not directly subject to any of these EOs or addressed in the President’s Budget Request. But that does not mean these agencies are in the clear in terms of budget-cutting or deregulatory efforts.  Rather, it seems more likely that the administration is preoccupied with bigger fish at the moment; in the meantime, they are treading carefully.  Which raises the question:  what else is in store for these agencies once they regain the Trump Administration’s focus?


Continue Reading The President’s Regulatory Agenda and the FTC