On February 1, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) announced its first-ever enforcement action under its Health Breach Notification Rule (“HBNR”) against digital health platform GoodRx Holdings Inc. (“GoodRx”) for failing to notify consumers and others of its unauthorized disclosures of consumers’ personal health information to third-party advertisers.  According to the proposed order, GoodRx will pay a $1.5 million civil penalty and be prohibited from sharing users’ sensitive health data with third-party advertisers in order to resolve the FTC’s complaint. 

This announcement marks the first instance in which the FTC has sought enforcement under the HBNR, which was promulgated in 2009 under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (“HITECH”) Act, and comes just sixteen months after the FTC published a policy statement expanding its interpretation of who is subject to the HBNR and what triggers the HBNR’s notification requirement.  Below is a discussion of the complaint and proposed order, as well as key takeaways from the case.

Continue Reading FTC Announces First Enforcement Action Under Health Breach Notification Rule

On January 13, the FTC announced a settlement with WealthPress, an online service provider that recommends trades in financial markets.  The settlement resolved allegations that WealthPress violated both the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act (ROSCA) and Section 5 by making false and misleading claims about how much consumers could earn with the company’s trading recommendation services.  The action is noteworthy for two reasons.  First, building upon the FTC’s prior MoviePass settlement, the FTC’s ROSCA allegations focus not on the terms of the subscription service offered, but rather on the failure to clearly disclose material information about the company’s services.  Second, this is the FTC’s first settlement imposing civil penalties for alleged earnings claims violations predicated upon a Notice of Penalty Offenses issued in October 2021.  The settlement provides for $1.3 million in consumer redress, $500,000 in civil penalties, and injunctive relief.

Continue Reading FTC Relies on ROSCA and Notices of Penalty Offenses to Police Deceptive Conduct in Settlement with WealthPress

On December 20, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) announced its issuance of Health Products Compliance Guidance, which updates and replaces its previous 1998 guidance, Dietary Supplements: An Advertising Guide for Industry.  While the FTC notes that the basic content of the guide is largely left unchanged, this guidance expands the scope of the previous guidance beyond dietary supplements to broadly include claims made about all health-related products, such as foods, over-the-counter drugs, devices, health apps, and diagnostic tests.  This updated guidance emphasizes “key compliance points” drawn from the numerous enforcement actions brought by the FTC since 1998, and discusses associated examples related to topics such as claim interpretation, substantiation, and other advertising issues.

Continue Reading FTC Issues New Guidance Regarding Health Products

On November 28, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and seven state attorneys general announced that they reached settlements with Google LLC and iHeartMedia, Inc., to resolve claims that the companies aired deceptive advertisements promoting Google’s Pixel 4 phone by arranging for iHeartMedia radio personalities who never actually used the phone to personally endorse it.  The companies agreed to pay a combined $9.4 million to the states to settle these allegations.

Continue Reading Google and iHeartMedia Reach Settlements with FTC and States for Deceptive Endorsements

On November 3, the FTC announced that it entered into a significant $100 million settlement with Vonage to resolve allegations relating to the internet phone service provider’s sales and autorenewal practices. The FTC alleged that Vonage violated both the FTC Act and the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act (ROSCA) by failing to provide a simple cancellation mechanism, failing to disclose material transaction terms prior to obtaining consumers’ billing information, and charging consumers without consent.

Continue Reading FTC Flexes ROSCA Muscle With $100 Million “Dark Patterns” Settlement with Vonage

Last week, the FTC announced its release of a staff report discussing key topics from the April 29, 2021 workshop addressing dark patterns. The report states that the FTC will take action when companies employ dark patterns that violate existing laws, including the FTC Act, ROSCA, the TSR, TILA, CAN-SPAM, COPPA, ECOA, or other statutes and regulations enforced by the FTC. The report highlights examples of cases in which the FTC used its authority under these laws and regulations to bring enforcement actions against companies that allegedly used dark patterns. Accordingly, the report builds upon the FTC’s historical approach of using its existing authority to bring enforcement actions in this context.

Continue Reading New FTC Report on Dark Patterns

2021 was another busy year for data privacy regulatory enforcement and litigation. With some distance to reflect on last year, we have prepared this post identifying and describing important trends from 2021 that can help provide insight into what to expect in the data privacy landscape in 2022.

Data Privacy Regulatory Enforcement Trends

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state enforcement action in 2021 centered on several key areas, including protecting children.

An FTC enforcement action last year alleged that the maker of an online coloring book application violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by collecting personal information about children who used the app without notifying their parents and obtaining their consent.  The allegations note that the app included a “Kids” category that was targeted to children.  The FTC further claimed that the app’s social media features collected personal information from users and that some parents, lacking knowledge of these features, may have inadvertently permitted their young children to use the app.
Continue Reading 2021 Trends in Privacy Regulatory Enforcement and Litigation

In a new post on the Covington Digital Health blog, our colleagues discuss recently announced Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) guidance meant to help companies determine their obligations under the Health Breach Notification Rule (the “Rule”).  The guidance follows the FTC’s September 2021 Policy Statement, which expanded the Rule’s application to the developers of health

On September 15, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) adopted, on a 3-2 party-line vote, a policy statement that takes a broad view of which health apps and connected devices are subject to the FTC’s Health Breach Notification Rule (the “Rule”) and what triggers the Rule’s notification requirement.

The Rule was promulgated in 2009 under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (“HITECH”) Act.  Under the Rule, vendors of personal health records that are not otherwise regulated under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) are required to notify individuals, the FTC, and, in some cases, the media following a breach involving unsecured identifiable health information.  Third-party service providers also are required to notify covered vendors of any breach.
Continue Reading FTC Adopts Policy Statement on Privacy Breaches by Health Apps and Connected Devices

To add to the growing list of federal privacy frameworks introduced this year, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) has re-introduced the bipartisan Social Media Privacy Protection and Consumer Rights Act of 2021 (S. 1667).  Senator Klobuchar introduced the bill originally in 2018 and 2019, although it did not advance to committee in either instance.  Senators Kennedy (R-LA), Burr (R-NC), and Manchin (D-WV) have co-sponsored the bill.

Key provisions in this bill include:
Continue Reading New Privacy Bill Provides Opt-Out Rights and New Data Security Requirements