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Strikethrough Price Lawsuits

Retailers Settle Strikethrough Pricing Lawsuits

Strikethrough Price Lawsuits

In California and other states, several major retailers have settled strikethrough pricing lawsuits after being accused of violating false advertising laws. The lawsuits were filed in response to a common retail sales strategy: enticing customers to make purchases by highlighting comparison prices, which can include previous list prices that have since been reduced by the retailer or higher prices on similar items currently sold by competitors. This is especially prevalent among major retailers that advertise and sell products online. But comparison pricing is not without risks for the companies. That’s because there are both state and federal regulations of deceptive sale pricing. When a retailer violates these laws, it can lead to retail discount pricing litigation. Moreover, these lawsuits are often filed as class actions that involve many different consumers who were deceived into purchasing items because of deceptive pricing information.

To find out more about some of the major retailers that have been sued for strikethrough pricing violations, keep reading this blog.

Strikethrough Pricing in Retail Ads Can Violate California & Federal Consumer Protection Laws

Since price is often the deciding factor for consumers when the time comes to make a purchase, many retail companies use something known as compare-at pricing or strikethrough pricing. This is a sales and marketing strategy that emphasizes a product’s lower ticket price by comparing it to a higher list price or Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). Unfortunately, some retailers go too far with strikethrough pricing by offering deceptive discounts that mislead customers. Basically, the company mentions an inflated original price in an ad so that the “for sale” price appears greater by comparison.

What happens when a business misrepresents a sales price? For example, a company might offer a product at a perpetual sale price, meaning that it’s just a regular price that the company is lying about and passing off as a discounted price. Or a retail store might carelessly compare their price to another store’s price without acknowledging that the item offered at the other store is substantially different. It’s also possible that a business will use false reference pricing to compare their current price to a much higher price from many months or even years earlier. These kinds of fraudulent marketing and advertising practices may be unlawful violations of both California state and federal laws governing false advertising, consumer fraud, and unfair competition.

California Law

Under California’s comparison pricing law, retail companies that use reference prices when advertising or marketing their merchandise must follow strict guidelines. Most importantly, the original full price mentioned in the ad must be legitimate. If the item was never offered for sale at the higher price, or if it was only offered at that price for a short period of time, consumers may be able to file a lawsuit against the company for false advertising.

When a company cites a comparison price in an advertisement, they must be prepared to show that it was the prevailing market price within the three-month window preceding the publication of the ad. Absent that, the company must “clearly and conspicuously” indicate the date when the former price was in effect. Companies that fail to do either of these things may face consumer litigation in the form of a false advertising claim filed in California court.

Federal Law

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a mission of enforcing federal consumer protection laws. To this end, the FTC has issued guidelines that strictly regulate former pricing. These promotional pricing guidelines stipulate that companies citing a former price in their ads or promotional materials must use an “actual, bona fide price” that was offered to the general public “on a regular basis for a reasonably substantial period of time.”

Major Retailers Named as Defendants in Comparison Pricing Lawsuits

Comparison pricing is a sales strategy used by retailers in a lot of different consumer categories:

  • Clothing & Department Stores: Dillard’s, JCPenney, Kmart, Kohls, Macy’s, Marshalls, Nordstrom, Ross Stores, Sears, Target, TJ Maxx
  • Auto Parts: Advance Auto Parts, AutoZone, Carquest, NAPA Auto Parts, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Pep Boys
  • Tools & Home Improvement: Ace Hardware, Harbor Freight Tools, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, True Value Hardware
  • Sporting Goods: Bass Pro Shops, Champs Sports, Dick’s Sporting Equipment, REI
  • Home & Kitchen Supplies: Bed Bath & Beyond, Best Buy, The Home Depot
  • Alcohol & Wine: BevMo, Total Wine & More

Calvin Klein, The Children’s Place, Dressbarn, Eddie Bauer, JCPenney, Pier 1 Imports, Shutterfly, and Zales are just some of the major retailers that have been named as defendants in nationwide class action lawsuits alleging false reference pricing. Other major retailers have been ordered to pay large judgments in California comparison pricing cases. For instance, a court ordered Overstock.com to pay almost $7 million when state regulators filed suit against the internet retailer.

Amazon Settles California Deceptive Pricing Lawsuit for $2 Million

California district attorneys also filed a complaint against Amazon for using unlawful comparison prices when advertising products. The case was brought by district attorney’s offices in six California counties: Alameda, Riverside, San Diego, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Yolo.

The complaint, which was filed in San Diego Superior Court, alleged that the reference prices mentioned by Amazon in their ads did not match the prevailing market prices for the items being sold. The Amazon ads distinguished former prices from current prices by stating “Was” or “List” next to the higher price. Many of the online ads also had strikethrough lines across the former price, making it clear to consumers that the newer “sale” prices were lower. But California prosecutors said that these comparison prices were misleading because there was no evidence to suggest that they were real prices.

Shortly after the legal complaint was filed, Amazon agreed to settle the deceptive advertising case for approximately $2 million. This included civil penalties and restitution to the consumers who purchased products because of the misleading price listings. The court also ordered Amazon to make significant changes to its pricing disclosures in online ads. (E.g., including hyperlinks on the website that clearly define key terms such as “Was” and “List” when used with prices.)

Contact the California False Advertising Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP

Tauler Smith LLP is a California law firm that represents consumers in false advertising cases throughout the United States. Call 310-590-3927 or send an email to find out if you might have a legal claim against a retailer for using deceptive comparison prices in product advertisements.

Deceptive Pricing Class Action

California Deceptive Pricing Class Action Lawsuits

Deceptive Pricing Class Action

It has become increasingly common for consumers to join California deceptive pricing class action lawsuits against retailers that market and sell products with deceptive pricing information. California’s false advertising law is often used as the basis for consumer class action litigation concerning false reference pricing because the state law is favorable to consumers. In recent years, there have been a number of class action suits filed in state court as consumers sued major retailers because of misleading pricing. Some of these cases settled, with the retail company agreeing to change their sales policies and paying out large settlement amounts to consumers. If you bought an item because of a comparison price in an advertisement, the Los Angeles consumer protection attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP can help you.

Keep reading this blog to learn more about California consumer class action lawsuits alleging deceptive pricing by retailers.

Reference Pricing Is a Tool Used by Retailers to Generate Sales

A comparison price, reference price, or strikethrough price might refer to the full price at which the retailer previously sold the product, the list price at which another seller currently offers the product, or the Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of the product. Retail companies often rely on reference pricing as a marketing strategy to entice customers to make purchases by emphasizing that the ticket price represents a significant discount over full price. The idea is that the customer will see a sales price next to a higher regular price and be more likely to buy the item because it is on sale. This is commonly known as comparison pricing or strikethrough pricing (because the original price may have a line through it), and it can be an effective tool to increase sales revenues.

The general idea behind comparison pricing laws regulating these advertising strategies is that retailers should be transparent about the pricing of their products, including older prices that have been discounted for current sales. Common examples of unlawful comparison pricing include the following:

  • The retail company includes a former price in an advertisement even though the item was never offered at that price.
  • The company mentions a former price that was used in the distant past and is therefore no longer relevant. (Under the law, this may be allowed if the ad discloses when the former price was used.)
  • The retailer references a former price that was not used in the regular course of business.
  • The company uses a former price that may have been available to some customers but that was not openly offered to the public.
  • The retail company artificially inflates the initial price of an item just so that they can later reduce the price and misleadingly call it a “sale.”

Jurisdiction in Deceptive Pricing Class Action Lawsuits

The jurisdiction matters a great deal when bringing consumer litigation. For example, California’s law is more plaintiff-friendly than other states, with California courts often finding in favor of plaintiffs who file legal claims alleging false reference pricing. There is also a reduced standard for establishing economic injury in California cases, since the plaintiff merely needs to show that the former pricing representations were misleading and that the false information is what prompted the purchase.

It is also possible for consumers to file a federal comparison pricing claim. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines prohibit retailers from deceptive sale pricing that uses inflated former prices as a point of comparison. For example, companies are not allowed to artificially inflate the price of a product for a short period of time just so that they can later reduce the price and then claim that the product is “on sale.” In false advertising and unfair competition cases, a federal court may look to the intent of the business to determine whether the initial price was set high solely for the purpose of later offering a large discount. Evidence of this unlawful intent could be that the retailer immediately reduced the inflated price and did not maintain it for a reasonable amount of time.

Winning Your California Comparison Pricing Class Action

False advertising claims involving deceptive pricing information are often filed as class action lawsuits in California. That’s because the plaintiffs are typically consumers who made a single purchase of a discounted retail item. The good news is that when you join other consumers in a comparison price class action, you are more likely to get the benefit of experienced legal counsel that can help you and all the other plaintiffs get reimbursed for the difference in value from your purchase, as well as statutory damages.

Certifying the Class

A knowledgeable California consumer fraud lawyer can make sure that you meet the requirements of a class action suit, which include establishing commonality among all plaintiffs through similar questions of fact and law. For example, your attorney may be able to get the class of plaintiffs certified by showing that all class members were victimized by the retailer’s sales price misrepresentations and that the same deceptive advertisement with false former prices was used in all instances.

In a California comparison pricing class action, it might also be easier for additional members of the class to gain standing to sue. That’s because at least one California appellate court held, in Branca v. Nordstrom, Inc., that the class members in retail pricing cases do not necessarily need to have purchased the same retail items as the named plaintiff. Rather, all that is needed for the additional individuals to join the class action suit is proof that they purchased items advertised with a comparison price.

The Discovery Process

One major advantage to filing a class action consumer lawsuit in retail discount pricing litigation is that the defendant will be subject to discovery during the class certification process, and discovery could produce significant evidence of wrongdoing. In order to certify the class, the plaintiffs’ attorney must show that there are common questions of law or fact among the plaintiffs and that those common questions predominate over any individual issues in the case. Since the discovery process allows the plaintiffs’ attorney to request documents from the defendant, this is an opportunity to potentially press the retailer for emails, price reports, and other internal documents that the retailer might not want exposed.

Depending on the type of information that is turned over during discovery, the plaintiffs may have strong evidence that the retailer violated consumer protection laws and intentionally misled consumers with deceptive comparison prices.

Damages & Financial Compensation Available in California Strikethrough Pricing Cases

The damages that might be available to plaintiffs in California strikethrough price cases include both compensatory damages and statutory damages. This gives consumers a lot of leverage against a retail company that violates state or federal promotional pricing guidelines by using fraudulent advertising practices. Moreover, when the retailer engaged in willful violations of the law, they may be subject to treble damages that can triple the compensatory damages available in the case.

Contact the California Consumer Class Action Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP

Tauler Smith is a Los Angeles law firm that represents plaintiffs in consumer class action litigation in California and across the U.S. If you bought a retail item because the retailer used deceptive advertising, you should contact our legal team today.

Call 310-590-3927 or email us to discuss your eligibility to join a consumer class action lawsuit.

Federal Law on False Reference Pricing

Federal Law on False Reference Pricing

Federal Law on False Reference Pricing

A lot of major retailers have an online presence these days with company websites and advertisements on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The explosion in online sales has also led to competition between traditional retailers and e-commerce businesses that are all fighting for the same internet-savvy customers. Sometimes, those companies become too aggressive and employ fraudulent marketing practices, such as using deceptive pricing information in ads. This type of advertising violates the federal law on false reference pricing. If you purchased a product because of a comparison price in an advertisement, the experienced consumer protection lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP can help you file a lawsuit against the retailer and get financial compensation.

For more information about federal laws on deceptive pricing by retailers, keep reading.

Why Do Retail Companies Use Comparison Pricing in Advertisements?

It’s a simple fact that retail businesses often rely on sales to get customers to make purchases. That’s because sales and discounts on an item’s full price can be attention-grabbers in promotional materials and advertisements, particularly when the customer believes that they are getting a once-in-a-lifetime bargain or deal. One of the strategies that retailers utilize in their sales ads is to include strikethrough pricing or comparison pricing. This is when the business provides two prices that the customer can compare to each other: a former list price or MSRP and a reduced current price. The original price usually has a line through the text to differentiate it from the new lower price, and the price with the line through it is known as the strikethrough price.

Sometimes, consumers feel pressured to buy an item because they are worried that the sale won’t last. But when the discount wasn’t real to begin with because the “full price” was inflated, the consumer ends up being tricked into making a purchase. A retail company that violates comparison pricing laws by using deceptive advertising is subject to government investigations, retail discount pricing litigation, and significant monetary penalties. They may also be named as the defendant in a consumer class action lawsuit, where consumers could be eligible for both statutory damages and actual monetary damages. In fact, a number of consumer class action lawsuits alleging deceptive sale pricing have been filed against major retail companies in California and other states. Some of these cases concluded with judgments in favor of the plaintiffs, while others concluded with pre-trial settlements totaling tens of millions of dollars.

FTC Guides Against Deceptive Pricing

The federal government has laws against unfair competition, false advertising, and false reference pricing. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) specifically regulates sales advertisements for retail companies involved in interstate commerce, which applies to most businesses that sell products online. The reason behind the law is that companies have been caught using misleading prices to deceive customers. For example, a retailer might frame their current price as a “sale price” even though it is the same as a regular price. This can be done by including a “compare at” or reference price in the advertisement.

The FTC gets its authority to investigate allegations of consumer fraud from the Federal Trade Commission Act, which includes the FTC Guides Against Deceptive Pricing. These promotional pricing guidelines set limits on when companies can use former price comparisons in advertisements. Generally speaking, any former price mentioned in an advertisement or promotion must have been offered honestly and in good faith. Other, more specific requirements of the FTC guidelines include the following:

  • The original higher price referenced in the ad needs to have been openly and actively offered for sale.
  • The item should have been available at the former price during the regular course of business.
  • The item needs to have been available at the former price recently, not in the distant past.
  • The former price must have been offered for a reasonably substantial period of time before being reduced.

Federal Law vs. California Law on False Reference Pricing

California’s law on false reference pricing is broader in scope than the federal law, which is why Los Angeles consumer protection lawyers often file these lawsuits in state court rather than U.S. district court. For instance, the federal guidelines are less clear than the California false advertising law when it comes to specifying timeframes for establishing the prevailing market price. The FTC guidelines state that companies must maintain a price for a reasonable length of time before reducing it; otherwise, the initial price may be considered a false reference price. Similarly, how long ago can the company go back to reference a former price? What is considered “reasonable” under these circumstances? Federal law is unclear on this, but the California comparison pricing law is explicit: any prices used during the previous 90 days may be allowed.

Although the federal law on comparison pricing isn’t as robust as the California law, it still imposes significant requirements on businesses that make former pricing representations in their advertising.

Winning Your Federal Comparison Pricing Lawsuit

When deciding whether you should take legal action against a company that engaged in sales price misrepresentation, you need to speak with an experienced consumer fraud attorney who understands the nuances of federal consumer protection laws. Depending on the facts of your case, it may be possible for the retailer to argue in court that you did not suffer any economic harm when you made the purchase because you ended up with a product that you wanted at the price that you expected to pay. The retailer’s argument would be that regardless of their false comparison pricing claims in the ad, you should not be entitled to financial compensation or damages.

A knowledgeable consumer protection attorney can help you prove the required elements of your claim, which includes showing that you relied on the false reference pricing and made the purchase because of the retailer’s misleading statements.

Contact the California False Advertising Attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP

The California false advertising attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP represent plaintiffs in consumer litigation throughout the United States. If you purchased a product online or in a retail store because of a comparison price mentioned in an advertisement, you may be able to file a lawsuit and get financial compensation.

Call or email us today to schedule a free consultation.

California Comparison Pricing

Comparison Pricing Litigation in California

California Comparison Pricing

It has become increasingly common for consumers to bring comparison pricing litigation in California. That’s because the state has some of the strongest consumer protection laws in the country, including laws that regulate unfair competition, false advertising, and deceptive pricing. California’s comparison price law requires retailers to provide accurate pricing information in advertisements, whether the ads appear in print media or online. The law recognizes that consumers should not be tricked into purchasing an item for the regular full price simply because the retailer included a fake sale price in an advertisement or promotion. If this has happened to you, one of the California false advertising lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP can help you.

To learn more about comparison pricing litigation in California, keep reading this blog.

Comparison Pricing Is a Retail Sales Strategy That May Violate California False Advertising Laws

Retailers that do business in California and elsewhere often use comparison pricing, reference pricing, strikethrough pricing, or compare-at pricing to persuade customers to make a purchase. All of these basically mean the same thing: the retail company prominently advertises that the item is “on sale,” and they back up this claim with a visual comparison between the current sale price and the original list price.

Comparison pricing is subject to strict regulations because lawmakers recognize that a lot of retailers go too far with deceptive ads that aren’t entirely honest about the former prices. For example, the reference price mentioned in the advertisement or promotion might be from a very long time ago, or it might be for an item that is not the same as the one currently being sold. Since the California comparison pricing law requires businesses to use actual sales prices that are relevant and timely, these types of former pricing representations with deceptive discounts could expose a retailer to consumer litigation.

California Has Strong Consumer Protection Laws

Under both federal and state consumer protection laws, retailers that do business in California cannot use fictitious price comparisons when advertising products. Consumers should also keep in mind that the comparison pricing laws apply to both in-person sales and online sales.

The jurisdiction where a comparison pricing lawsuit is filed can make all the difference when it comes to the outcome of a case. That’s because certain states have very strong consumer protection laws that hold businesses to extremely high standards for advertising, marketing, and sales practices. California has some of the strongest consumer fraud statutes, including §17501 of California’s Business & Professions Code that directly addresses fraudulent marketing and advertising practices.

Comparison Pricing Lawsuits Filed Against Retail Companies in Los Angeles

Failure to comply with California’s law on comparison pricing could expose retailers to significant liability, including a class action lawsuit filed by consumers who purchased products after viewing the misleading advertisement with deceptive sale pricing. Just some of the major retailers that have been sued under California’s false advertising law in recent years include Amazon, The Gap, Guess, J.Crew, Kate Spade & Company, Neiman Marcus Group, Overstock.com, and Walmart.

In California, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office has made a point of going after large retailers that use deceptive pricing in ads to generate sales. The crackdown on false reference pricing prompted the LA City Attorney to bring civil suits against several major department stores that did business in the city, including JCPenney, Kohl’s, Macy’s, and Sears. The retailers were accused of deceptively marketing thousands of items at “sale” prices that did not exist.

California’s False Advertising Law Prohibits Deceptive Prices in Retail Ads

Section 17501 of California’s false advertising law explicitly prohibits advertisements that use a misleading or inaccurate former price.

Actual Prices

The California law stipulates that there must be a legitimate basis for the comparison price cited by the retailer, whether it’s a list price or Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). Businesses are not allowed to create false impressions about discounts by referencing prices that never actually existed just to make the ticket price look like a good deal. The retailer must be prepared to provide proof that the item was previously sold for a higher price. But even that might not be enough for the retailer to avoid retail discount pricing litigation. For example, if the former price was only in effect for a short period of time, the retailer might not be legally allowed to mention this price in an advertisement because there will be serious questions about whether the original compare-at price was legitimate.

Three-Month Time Period

The California law places limits on the comparison prices that retail businesses may mention in an advertisement by explicitly barring them from mentioning an item’s former price unless it was the “prevailing market price” within the three months immediately preceding the ad’s publication.

But what happens when the company’s sale lasts longer than 90 days? In situations like this, California’s promotional pricing guidelines call for the company to revise its advertisement or run the risk of violating the strikethrough pricing statute. That’s because the former price listed in the ad will no longer fall within the 90-day window, which means that it’s no longer valid under the law. In other words, a sales ad that was initially legal will become illegal and could serve as the basis for a consumer to file a lawsuit.

Importantly, California does give retailers an opportunity to revise their ads so that they avoid violating the law. The company can either change the former price in the ad once it becomes outdated or they can “clearly, exactly, and conspicuously” note the date when the former price applied so that the advertisement is not misleading.

Define Relevant Terms

In addition to establishing a three-month timeframe for evaluating the appropriateness of the former price being advertised, the California false advertising statute also attempts to define relevant terms for retailers and consumers. For instance, what does the law mean by “prevailing market price”? This matters because the actual price of the item in question will go a long way toward determining whether the former price was legitimate or false.

Here, there are several factors that must be considered. For instance, what was the actual price of the item at other stores in the same geographical area or region? Also, were any sales made at that price? And, if so, how many units sold? Moreover, were there different prices for the item during the three-month period being evaluated? Since a court can consider any or all of these factors in a strikethrough pricing case, it is important for consumers to speak with a qualified California consumer protection attorney before making any final decisions about how to proceed with their case.

Standing to Sue in California Strikethrough Pricing Claims

It is often easier for plaintiffs to establish that they have standing to sue in a comparison pricing claim brought under California’s false advertising law. Of course, the plaintiffs in a California comparison pricing case must establish that they have standing to sue. In the past, this meant that the plaintiff needed to show that they purchased the item and that they did so at a price higher than they otherwise would have paid. Absent this showing, the door was open for defendants to argue that the plaintiff did not suffer any injury or economic harm because they received exactly what they paid for and therefore got “the benefit of the bargain.”

Things became much easier for plaintiffs when the California Supreme Court ruled in Kwikset Corp. v. Superior Court that plaintiffs in false advertising cases no longer need to prove that the product they purchased was worth less than the amount paid for it. Now, plaintiffs who bring a comparison pricing claim in California courts merely need to show that they purchased the item because of the deceptive pricing information in the ad; the prevailing market price or MSRP of the item no longer matter.

False Reference Pricing Class Action Lawsuits in California

California false advertising laws regulate companies that do business in the state, including broad protections against sales price misrepresentations. This has led to numerous class action lawsuits being filed on behalf of consumers who have fallen victim to false reference pricing.

It is important for consumers to recognize that they can file a civil suit, or join a consumer class action, even when the retail company does not have a physical brick-and-mortar location in California. As long as the consumer is in California and accessed the business’ website to view the ad or to make a purchase, they may be eligible to bring a Section 17501 claim for false reference pricing.

How Much Money Can Consumers Recover in a California Comparison Pricing Claim?

When a retailer is sued for violating California’s false advertising law, the monetary damages may be substantial. That’s because the statute allows for recovery of actual damages by the plaintiff, as well as the imposition of civil penalties against the defendant. These civil penalties can quickly add up because the defendant can be ordered to pay $2,500 for each violation of the law. Moreover, the court may have the option to impose an additional fine of $2,500 for each violation that injured a senior citizen or a disabled person.

Other California False Advertising Statutes: CCPA and CLRA

One strategy that retail companies might use to get around the California false advertising law is to hide their sales in customer loyalty programs. But this tactic may be a violation of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which gives consumers another avenue for filing suit against retailers.

Additional legal claims that may be available in comparison pricing cases include violations of the Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA), especially if the defendant’s conduct involved deceptive language in the advertisement.

Contact the California False Advertising Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP

A lot of retailers use comparison prices in advertisements to encourage consumers to make a purchase while the item is “on sale.” If you bought a retail product because the retailer used deceptive pricing in a store ad or an online ad, you should speak with an experienced Los Angeles consumer protection attorney at Tauler Smith LLP.

Call 310-590-3927 or email us to schedule a free initial consultation.

NY Automatic Renewal Law

New York’s Automatic Renewal Law

NY Automatic Renewal Law

New York’s Automatic Renewal Law (ARL) protects consumers by prohibiting businesses from engaging in certain practices when making an automatic renewal offer in the state. The New York ARL tracks California’s strict statutory requirements, which means that businesses must follow guidelines about disclosing renewal offer terms to consumers, giving customers the opportunity to affirmatively consent before they sign up for an auto-renewal program, and allowing customers to easily cancel their subscription afterwards. NY consumers who have enrolled in a subscription program without their consent should immediately reach out to a qualified New York false advertising attorney who understands both state and federal laws on auto-renewal offers.

To learn more about the New York automatic renewal law, keep reading this blog.

NY Automatic Renewal Bill: SB 1475

New York’s Automatic Renewal Law (ARL) is set forth in New York State Senate Bill S1475A. The law went into effect in February 2021 after being passed by the New York State Legislature and signed by NY Governor Andrew Cuomo. SB 1475 greatly expanded the scope of the state’s previous automatic renewal law, New York General Obligations Law § 5-903. The new ARL added substantial requirements for businesses that offer either automatic renewal plans or continuous service plans to consumers, including a stricter requirement that businesses notify consumers of the subscription terms after enrollment. Additionally, SB 1475 expanded the old law’s scope beyond service, maintenance, and repair contracts to also include consumer contracts involving “any goods, services, money, or credit for personal, family, or household purposes.”

New York businesses that offer auto-renewal subscription services to consumers must comply with SB 1475, relevant federal laws, and any other state ARLs which may be applicable if the purchase was made online by an out-of-state customer. Additionally, these businesses must also comply with New York’s older ARL, which remains in effect even after the passage of the new law.

New York ARL Requirements for Businesses

The New York ARL imposes the following requirements on businesses that offer consumer contracts for automatically renewing subscription services:

  • Auto-renewal terms must be conspicuous. The auto-renewal terms should be in visual proximity to the section where the consumer provides affirmative consent, and the terms should also stand out visually from the rest of the offer. (E.g., different text sizes, different fonts, and different colors.)
  • Auto-renewal terms must be clear. The terms and conditions of the subscription service must be easy for the consumer to understand. The exact language used by the NY ARL is that the offer terms should be presented “in a manner capable of being retained by the consumer.” (E.g., the offer should clearly state that the subscription will continue until the purchaser cancels.)
  • Must obtain affirmative consent from purchaser. The customer needs to affirmatively consent to the automatic renewal terms before it becomes a legally binding contract. Otherwise, NY law stipulates that any goods received by the consumer are an “unconditional gift” and do not need to be paid for.
  • Must send enrollment acknowledgement to consumer. After the customer has enrolled in the subscription program, the business needs to send a letter, email, or other type of written acknowledgement that states the program’s terms and cancelation policy.
  • Cancelation policy must match method used to subscribe. When a customer uses a company’s website to enroll in a subscription program, the company must allow the customer to cancel online.
  • Free trial offers must have cancelation options. If the company offers a “free” trial period before the subscription automatically renews for a monthly fee, the company needs to provide the consumer with the ability to opt out of the paid subscription service. Additionally, the cancelation policy must be presented clearly and conspicuously in the original agreement.
  • Must disclose any material changes to the agreement. It is common for businesses to modify their agreements later. But if a business wants to change the terms of an auto-renewal plan, they must have already alerted the consumer to this possibility in the original offer. Moreover, when making material changes to its subscription plan, the business must disclose those changes to the consumer and give the consumer an easy way to cancel their subscription.

Defenses Available to Businesses Accused of Violating the NY ARL

Although New York’s ARL provides strong protections to consumers who enroll in auto-renewal plans, there are some exceptions to the law that allow businesses to raise possible defenses against an alleged violation. For instance, the new ARL only applies to contracts for subscriptions involving consumers; business-to-business contract are addressed by the state’s old ARL.

SB 1475 also has a “safe harbor” provision that gives companies a possible defense when the violation was unintentional. If the company can show that they made a bona fide error despite taking reasonable measures to comply with the law, the New York Attorney General may choose not to bring charges.

What Remedies Are Available to Consumers in NY ARL Cases?

Compliance with the New York ARL is enforced by the NY Attorney General. The statute gives the state Attorney General authority to fine businesses as much as $100 for each violation of the auto-renewal law. When the violation was knowing and intentional, the fine can be increased to $500 for each violation. For companies with popular services and large subscription bases, these fines can add up quickly and serve as an effective deterrent against further abuse.

The individual consumers who enrolled in the unlawful subscription services also stand to benefit financially under New York’s auto-renewal law. That’s because the statute specifies that consumers who receive a service or product without providing affirmative consent for enrollment in the subscription program will not have to pay for the goods or services received. Additionally, they may be eligible to join a consumer class action lawsuit brought under one of the state’s consumer protection laws.

Contact the New York False Advertising Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP

Tauler Smith LLP is a law firm that represents clients in consumer fraud litigation throughout the United States, including New York. Our experienced NY false advertising lawyers have filed complaints on behalf of clients in both federal and state court, and we know how to win these cases. Call or email us to speak with a member of our litigation team.

Macy’s Beauty Box Lawsuit

Macy’s Faces Lawsuit for Beauty Box Automatic Subscription

Macy’s Beauty Box Lawsuit

High-end department store Macy’s faces a lawsuit for its Beauty Box automatic subscription service. The company has been accused of violating consumer protection laws by using deceptive practices to enroll customers in an auto-renewal program for one of its popular beauty product services. Law firm Tauler Smith LLP believes that many people have probably fallen victim to Macy’s allegedly unlawful subscription practices. Since a lot of states like New York, California, and others have strict laws regulating automatic renewals, anyone who purchased the Macy’s Beauty Box from the Macys.com website may be able to file a lawsuit for financial compensation.

Tauler Smith LLP is looking to certify a class of plaintiffs nationwide for a class action lawsuit against Macy’s. If you purchased the Macy’s Beauty Box and were later charged for an ongoing subscription to which you did not consent, you should contact one of our lawyers immediately.

Macy’s Accused of Consumer Fraud

Macy’s Beauty Box is a monthly subscription package of deluxe beauty samples and beauty-related products that has attracted many customers. Unfortunately, the Beauty Box program’s terms and conditions are not always made clear to customers, which has exposed Macy’s to being named as a defendant in lawsuits in California, New York, and other states with strong consumer protection laws. For instance, the automatic renewal terms of Macy’s Beauty Box subscription program may be a violation of both the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA) and the California Automatic Renewal Law (ARL). Specifically, Macy’s is enrolling customers into an automatic renewal subscription without providing the clear and conspicuous disclosures required by California law.

Some consumers may be unaware that they are being enrolled in an auto-renewal program when purchasing the Macy’s Beauty Box from the store’s website. For example, at least one customer has complained that she did not notice a second charge appearing on her credit card more than one month after her initial purchase. In fact, the entire checkout process on Macys.com appears to be designed to conceal the nature of the automatically renewing subscription and recurring charges. This could make it a clear violation of state consumer fraud laws, including automatic renewal laws.

Does Macy’s Beauty Box Subscription Service Violate Auto-Renewal Laws?

Macy’s, Inc. has been accused of committing numerous violations of automatic renewal laws, including the following:

  • Failure to clearly and conspicuously disclose auto-renewal terms.
  • Failure to disclose when and how often customers will be automatically billed.
  • Failure to inform customers of cancelation policy.
  • Making it difficult for customers to cancel subscription.
  • Failure to send email or other notification to customers after enrollment.

Clear & Conspicuous Disclosure

Macy’s has been accused of failing to clearly and conspicuously disclose its automatic renewal terms to customers who purchase the Macy’s Beauty Box on the store’s website. Although online customers check a box to indicate consent to be enrolled into a monthly subscription service, this box is not clear and conspicuous in the manner required by California’s ARL. For example, Macy’s does not present the auto-renewal offer terms in a larger type font than the surrounding text, nor is the text in the box distinguishable from the surrounding text via contrasting type, font, or color.

One way that Macy’s could have more clearly called attention to the automatic subscription language is by using bold, highlighted, all-capitalized, or different-colored text for the automatic renewal terms. Macy’s also could have employed a “call out” box near the terms so that the subscription enrollment contract was distinct from the product purchase agreement.

Timing of Automatic Charges

Macy’s does not adequately disclose the timing of the automatic charges. For example, the store represents that its customers will be automatically charged “monthly,” but the actual charges to consumers appear to occur in arbitrary intervals. For example, at least one customer was charged on her credit card 49 days after the initial charge.

Cancelation Policy

Macy’s does not adequately disclose how a customer can cancel their subscription. This information could be disclosed either directly on the Macy’s website or in an email sent to the customer after enrollment in the subscription service.

Frustrating Attempts to Cancel Subscription

Macy’s has failed to make it easy for a customer to cancel the subscription. In fact, it appears that Macy’s has intentionally made the cancelation process difficult and frustrating in the hopes that customers will abandon trying to cancel their subscriptions.

Email Acknowledgement After Enrollment

Macy’s fails to send an ARL-compliant retainable acknowledgement consistent with state consumer protection laws. When a customer enrolls in the Beauty Box subscription program, they do not receive an email from Macy’s that accurately explains the terms and conditions of the service. The absence of an email also means that customers are not informed of the policy for canceling the subscription. By failing to provide a permanently retainable post-transaction acknowledgement that allows for cancelation before payment, Macy’s is effectively concealing the nature of the agreement and violating state automatic renewal laws meant to protect consumers.

Macy’s Accused of Violating California’s Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA)

In addition to possibly violating state automatic renewal laws, Macy’s has also been accused of violating broader consumer protection laws, such as the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA). In California, a violation of the ARL can form the basis for a CLRA claim, as well as a claim under California’s Unfair Competition Law. One of the unlawful business practices that Macy’s has been accused of is failing to include a clear and conspicuous explanation of the price that will be charged for its Beauty Box subscription service. Another more general accusation against Macy’s is that the company fails to first obtain affirmative consent from customers before charging their credit and debit cards. All of these practices constitute violations of the ARL, which means that affected consumers may also be able to file lawsuits under the CLRA and other statutes.

Tauler Smith LLP Pursuing Class Action Lawsuit Against Macy’s for ARL Violations

Tauler Smith LLP is a law firm that represents consumers in false advertising claims in California, New York, and nationwide. We suspect that thousands of consumers may have been illegally enrolled in Macy’s Beauty Box subscription program. Our consumer protection lawyers are actively seeking plaintiffs for a possible class action lawsuit against Macy’s. The lawsuit seeks the following remedies on behalf of affected consumers:

  • Full financial restitution to all purchasers throughout the United States of all purchase money obtained from the sales of Macy’s services and products that violate automatic renewal laws.
  • Monetary compensation for any damages suffered by consumers because of Macy’s unlawful business practices.
  • Punitive damages for knowing and egregious violations.
  • An injunction ordering Macy’s to cease and desist from the continued misleading sale and advertisement of its Beauty Box services.
  • A corrective advertising campaign by Macy’s to inform consumers about the true price of any services they purchase, including any automatically renewing charges in connection with those services.
  • Payment by Macy’s of all reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs related to the lawsuit.
  • Additions to the Macy’s website that include a clear and conspicuous explanation of the amount customers will be charged for the Macy’s Beauty Box subscription service.
  • The inclusion of a mechanism for obtaining customers’ affirmative consent before Macy’s charges their credit and debit cards.
  • An email or other post-transaction acknowledgement sent by Macy’s to customers that will allow for cancelation of the subscription service before the first payment.

Did You Purchase the Macy’s Beauty Box? Contact the False Advertising Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP

Were you enrolled in a monthly subscription service after purchasing the Macy’s Beauty Box, or any other product, from the Macys.com website? The false advertising attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP represent plaintiffs in pre-trial settlement negotiations and at trial, and we have helped countless clients achieve successful outcomes that include restitution and financial compensation. We are looking for plaintiffs nationwide in a possible class action lawsuit against Macy’s.

Call or email us to discuss your eligibility to join the lawsuit.

Anxiety Supplement Lawsuit

Natrol Class Action for Anxiety Supplements

Anxiety Supplement Lawsuit

Tauler Smith LLP, a California law firm focusing on consumer fraud litigation, recently filed a class action complaint against supplement manufacturer Natrol LLC. The Natrol class action for anxiety supplements complaint asserts that Natrol is violating the Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA) by marketing its Relax+ Ultimate Calm supplement as a remedy for anxiety when it contains “ineffectual herbs, extracts, and other vitamins that plainly do not have the ability to treat anxiety.” The nutritional supplement lawsuit also alleges that when an individual uses unapproved anxiety medications like Relax+ Ultimate Calm instead of seeking treatment from a licensed doctor, they could worsen their mental health.

The Los Angeles false advertising lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP are bringing civil actions against companies that market and sell dietary supplements claiming to remedy anxiety. If you purchased one of these supplements, you may be eligible to join a class action lawsuit. Contact us today to discuss your options.

Nutritional Supplement Manufacturers Endanger Consumers with Unapproved Anxiety Drugs

Anxiety is a recognized mental disorder. When a person suffers from anxiety, they may be stricken with feelings of worry or fear while attempting to perform everyday activities. This is a major mental health concern for millions of Americans, with statistics showing that more than 40 million U.S. adults are affected by anxiety disorders. This includes millions of young children and teenagers who struggle with mental health problems.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the best way to treat an anxiety disorder is with medications prescribed by a licensed physician and psychotherapy provided by a mental health counselor. Additionally, the National Institute of Public Health (NIH) has stated that individuals should not self-diagnose or use over-the-counter supplements to treat anxiety. The nutritional supplement industry has attempted to capitalize on the country’s worsening mental health crisis in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic by making unsupported claims regarding the ability of their products to relieve conditions like anxiety. When anxiety is left untreated, it can be ruinous to individuals and lead to more serious conditions and diseases.

Natrol Accused of False Advertising of the Relax+ Ultimate Calm Supplement as a Remedy for Anxiety

Natrol is a U.S. manufacturer of vitamins, minerals, and nutritional supplements. The company’s headquarters are in Chatsworth, California. According to Dun & Bradstreet, Natrol’s annual revenues surpass $121 million, which is part of the $140 billion market for dietary supplements.

The complaint alleges that Natrol puts consumers at risk by advertising its Relax+ Ultimate Calm supplement as a treatment for anxiety. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning about the use of unapproved drugs to treat anxiety. Consumers who place their trust in nutritional supplement manufacturers may be more likely to forego seeking medical treatment for their health conditions, which can compound the effects of the disorders. Additionally, these individuals may be more likely to develop other mental and physical conditions because anxiety can cause depression, substance misuse, social isolation, and suicide.

Supplements Claiming to Treat Anxiety Violate the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act

The California Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA) is a consumer protection statute that is meant to safeguard individuals against business fraud, including “unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in a transaction.” The CLRA, which is codified in Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1750, makes it illegal for companies to mislead consumers in advertising or sales transactions. The statute explicitly prohibits companies from “representing that goods…have…characteristics, ingredients, uses, benefits, or quantities that they do not have.” Plaintiffs can bring private civil actions under the CLRA when they have been deceived by the acts or practices of a company in the sale of consumer goods such as nutritional or dietary supplements.

Natrol has been accused of making unsupported claims about the ability of its Relax+ Ultimate Calm product to relieve anxiety. On the product packaging, Natrol prominently represents that use of the Relax+ Ultimate Calm supplement will reduce “stress, anxiety & tension” and offer other health benefits. According to the complaint, these representations are untrue and unlawful.

Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Natrol for Violating the CLRA

The Los Angeles business fraud attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP have brought a class action lawsuit against Natrol for violating the CLRA. The legal complaint was filed in the Los Angeles County Superior Court. The complaint explains that an individual who consumes the Relax+ Ultimate Calm product “in lieu of a professional medical evaluation and treatment” is at risk of exacerbating their anxiety, as well as developing additional mental health disorders. Anyone who purchased the Relax+ Ultimate Calm supplement may be eligible to join the class action.

The class action lawsuit against Natrol seeks relief and judgment that includes the following:

  • An injunction that orders Natrol to correct its alleged deceptive marketing scheme and stop claiming that Relax+ Ultimate Calm is a remedy for anxiety.
  • An award of actual, punitive, and statutory damages to compensate the plaintiffs who purchased Relax+ Ultimate Calm.
  • Reimbursement of attorney’s fees for the plaintiffs.
  • Any other relief that the court may deem just and proper.

Did You Buy a Supplement That Claims to Treat Anxiety? Contact a California Consumer Fraud Lawyer Today

The California consumer fraud attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP are committed to protecting consumers against deceptive business practices. If you purchased a dietary supplement that claims to remedy anxiety, you should contact our legal team today to discuss your eligibility to join a class action lawsuit. Call 310-590-3927 or email us to schedule a free consultation.

CLRA Consumer Protection

What Is the Consumers Legal Remedies Act?

CLRA Consumer Protection

California consumer fraud lawyers know that the state has been at the forefront of the consumer rights movement for a long time. In 1970, the California State Legislature passed the Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA) to safeguard customers against deception by businesses. The CLRA makes it unlawful to engage in unfair or misleading acts when selling goods or services to consumers. The CLRA is often applicable in cases involving false advertising claims and/or consumer fraud. For example, when a company uses a misleading advertisement to persuade someone to purchase a product or service, the misrepresentation may constitute a violation of the statute. The same is true when a deceptive or intentionally confusing ad causes a customer to trigger an automatic renewal policy.

To learn more about the Consumers Legal Remedies Act, keep reading this blog.

What Deceptive Business Practices Does the CLRA Prohibit?

The California Consumers Legal Remedies Act, or CLRA, is a consumer statute that’s codified in Cal. Civil Code §§ 1750. The law allows plaintiffs to bring private civil actions against companies that use “unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in a transaction.”

The CLRA explicitly prohibits certain deceptive business practices, including the following acts:

  • Selling counterfeit goods.
  • Misrepresenting the source of a good or service.
  • Lying about a professional affiliation, certification, or endorsement.
  • Lying about the geographic origin of a product.
  • Selling a used or reconditioned item as new.
  • Misrepresenting the quality of a good or service.
  • Making false statements that disparage another business’ products.
  • Advertising items as being available for sale when they won’t be.
  • Advertising furniture as available for sale without disclosing that it is unassembled.
  • Telling a customer that a repair or replacement is necessary when it isn’t.
  • Offering a rebate or discount with hidden conditions.
  • Falsely presenting a salesperson’s authority to negotiate and finalize a transaction.
  • “Robo-calling” individuals who are not already customers.

One of the advantages of the CLRA is that victims of business fraud in California are not limited to filing lawsuits under the statute. This means that a consumer could bring multiple claims citing both the CLRA and other state or federal laws.

What Remedies Are Available to California Consumers in CLRA Cases?

The CLRA gives California consumers a powerful tool to hold businesses accountable for deceptive practices because the statute allows plaintiffs to recover different kinds of damages. The law is often interpreted broadly by courts to provide strong protections against consumer fraud, false advertising, and unfair business practices. When a consumer has been defrauded, they can file a lawsuit in a California Superior Court.

Consumers who bring a claim under the CLRA may pursue several remedies for any harm they suffered, including:

  • Actual monetary damages.
  • Punitive damages.
  • Restitution of property to the plaintiff.
  • An injunction against the defendant.
  • Attorney’s fees and court costs.
  • Any other relief the court deems proper.

Actual Damages & Attorney’s Fees

The first remedy available under the CLRA – actual damages – has a statutory minimum of $1,000 for each deceptive act or practice. The last remedy – “any other relief the court deems proper” – is a catch-all provision that gives courts wide latitude when determining what kind of monetary relief should be available to plaintiffs in CLRA actions.

In addition to getting damages for fraud, a plaintiff filing a claim under the CLRA may also be able to get attorney’s fees from a defendant who is found to have violated the Act. This can make it financially feasible for a plaintiff to bring a CLRA claim – since the defendant would have to pay the legal costs for both sides if they lose the case.

Additional Damages for Senior Citizens & Disabled Persons

A couple of special categories of consumers may be eligible for additional damages: senior citizens and disabled persons. As set forth by the CLRA, a “senior citizen” is defined as anyone over the age of 65. (In California, a senior citizen is usually defined as anyone over the age of 62, with the age threshold being lowered to 55 years old when the person lives in a senior citizen housing development.) California law defines “disabled person” quite broadly to include just about anyone who has a physical or mental condition that substantially limits at least one major life activity. For both seniors and disabled persons, the CLRA allows an award of up to $5,000 in damages to be tacked on by the court.

Proving a CLRA Violation

Although the Consumers Legal Remedies Act gives plaintiffs many options when seeking damages for consumer fraud, there are still ways for defendants to avoid paying maximum compensation. For example, if the defendant did not intentionally violate the CLRA, and they subsequently made a good faith attempt to correct the mistake, then the court might not award damages to the plaintiff. The complexities of the statute are one reason why it’s so important for you to have a knowledgeable California business fraud attorney handling your case.

Who Is Allowed to Bring a Lawsuit Under the Consumers Legal Remedies Act?

Private Civil Actions & Class Actions

The CLRA may serve as the basis for a civil suit in any consumer transaction where goods changed hands or services were provided. Anyone who can show damages having been caused by one of the acts prohibited by the CLRA can file a lawsuit, either individually by the consumer or in a class action involving other consumers who were deceived or defrauded. For class action litigation, the cases must be substantially similar. An experienced California consumer protection lawyer can assist you with a CLRA class action lawsuit and help get your class certified.

Exclusions from the CLRA

Certain types of transactions and business owners are excluded from the Consumers Legal Remedies Act: (1) real estate transactions, and (2) newspapers and other advertisers. Although the CLRA applies to most commercial transactions, the statute cannot be used as the basis for a legal claim when the transaction involved the sale of either a residential property or a commercial property. Additionally, the CLRA cannot be used to bring a lawsuit against the owner of a newspaper, magazine, radio station, or any other advertising medium unless the plaintiff can prove that the business owner knew that the ads were deceptive before disseminating them.

How Long Do You Have to Bring a CLRA Claim?

Three-Year Statute of Limitations

It is important for you to speak with a qualified CLRA attorney as soon as possible because you do not want the statute of limitations to expire before you attempt to bring a claim. The general rule is that a consumer has three (3) years from the date on which the unfair business practice occurred to file a lawsuit under the Consumers Legal Remedies Act. If you miss this deadline, you may be barred from bringing a legal action.

Business Owner’s Opportunity to Cure

In addition to making sure you file within the statute of limitations, an experienced attorney can also ensure that you meet any other important deadlines and filing requirements. For example, before the CLRA suit can proceed in court, the consumer must notify the defendant in writing about the alleged violation. This must happen at least 30 days before the lawsuit is filed, and the business owner will then have an opportunity to take appropriate action to fix or otherwise “cure” the harm. (E.g., repairing or replacing a damaged item that was sold to the consumer.)

Contact the California CLRA Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP

Tauler Smith LLP is a Los Angeles law firm that focuses on consumer fraud litigation. Our attorneys are extremely familiar with the Consumers Legal Remedies Act, and we have filed both private civil actions and class action lawsuits on behalf of consumers. If you were a victim of business fraud or false advertising in California, we can help you take legal action and get you the financial compensation to which you are entitled. Call or email us to discuss your eligibility to file a CLRA claim.

PPP Loan Lawsuit

Payment Protection Program (PPP) Lawsuit

PPP Loan Lawsuit

California law firm Tauler Smith LLP is representing small businesses that did not obtain funding through the Payment Protection Program (PPP). These PPP loans were intended to benefit small businesses impacted by COVID-19, but many small business owners did not receive the funds they were promised. If you were denied a PPP loan, our experienced business fraud attorneys can help you file a lawsuit.

Small Businesses Denied PPP Loans May Be Able to Sue

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) was supposed to distribute PPP loans to small businesses who needed the funds to cover payroll and avoid layoffs during the coronavirus pandemic. These loans had favorable terms, and they were administered by the government and banking institutions under the CARES Act. On April 16, 2020, the government announced that the program ran out of funding. In some cases, this was due to fraud by the financial institutions that were processing the loans.

Contact the California Business Fraud Attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP

If you are a small business owner who applied for PPP funding through a lender and have been denied funding, you may have standing to file a lawsuit to obtain the funding that was promised. To learn more about potentially being a plaintiff in class action litigation, fill out the questionnaire below. A member of our team will then contact you. (The information you provide below is confidential and will not be shared with anyone outside Tauler Smith LLP without your prior consent.)