On November 24, 2020, a class action price gouging claim was filed against a California based operator of casual fine dining restaurants. The class action lawsuit against Hillstone Restaurant Group alleges price gouging in violation of California Penal Code §396. According to the lawsuit, “Hillstone engaged in unfair and unlawful business practices by increasing its price on food items and also unjustifiably charging a 10% or 15% so-called ‘service or packaging fee’ for takeout orders.” The lawsuit further states that “despite increasing the cost of its food items and adding this Fee, there has been no change in the quality or quantity of the food sold or the packaging being offered for pickup by consumers as compared to Hillstone’s pre-pandemic offerings.” Plaintiffs seek restitution, injunctive relief, attorneys’ fees, and punitive damages. The complaint is striking not only because it shows the extent to which plaintiffs will bring claims at the margins of price gouging restrictions, but also for the glimpse it gives into what may be the coming wave of price gouging claims in 2021. Continue Reading
Companies that sell consumer products worldwide should note the growing convergence between Brazil and the United States for the use of anticompetitive practices laws to prosecute price gouging. The Brazilian Competition Law (Law No. 12,529/2011) prohibits a non-exhaustive list of anticompetitive practices, including engaging in acts that “arbitrarily increase profits.” Brazil’s antitrust authority, Conselho Administrativo de Defesa Econômica (“CADE”), however, has not traditionally investigated claims of price gouging as a standalone theory of harm, recognizing the difficulty of demonstrating that a price increase was “arbitrary” as opposed to a legitimate reaction to market developments. Instead, CADE typically has enforced the prohibition against price gouging as part of broader proceedings involving other anticompetitive practices. Continue Reading
This past year has brought lots of change, including an amendment to Rule 30(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 30(b)(6) governs the deposition of an organization (e.g., a corporation or a partnership) and requires, generally, that the notice of such a deposition set out with reasonable particularity the matters of examination. The amended Rule 30(b)(6)—which became effective on December 1, 2020—now requires that, “[b]efore or promptly after the notice or subpoena is served, the serving party and the organization must confer in good faith about the matters for examination.” The amendment also requires that a subpoena notify a nonparty organization of its duty to confer with the serving party and to designate each person who will testify. Continue Reading
On November 25, 2020, a shareholder of First American Financial Corporation (“First American”) filed suit against the company and its officers and directors over a massive data security breach that exposed hundreds of millions of sensitive customer records. The shareholder derivative action, filed by Norman Hollett in Delaware federal court, alleges breaches of fiduciary duties, unjust enrichment, abuse of control, gross mismanagement, waste of corporate assets, and multiple violations of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, all relating to the failure to contain and timely disclose the breach. Continue Reading
On August 11, 2020, in FTC v. Qualcomm, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a May 21, 2019 judgment by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and vacated the district court’s worldwide, permanent injunction prohibiting several of Qualcomm’s core business practices. Continue Reading
Many are asking how long states of emergency can continue to be renewed, and whether such extended renewals are permissible or valid. Given the lack of comparable precedent, there is some uncertainty around the issue. Expectations are that while some courts are likely to defer to the use of extraordinary executive power, not all will and there may be strong arguments for a curtailing of things like pricing restrictions. Continue Reading
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued guidance on how it will treat applications to register “generic.com” terms in the wake of the Supreme Court’s June 30, 2020 decision in United States Patent and Trademark Office v. Booking.com.
We previously wrote about the Supreme Court’s Booking.com decision, which affirmed the Fourth Circuit’s decision that the mark BOOKING.COM was registrable and not generic. The Supreme Court’s decision tracked the arguments in an amicus brief we submitted on behalf of consumer perception specialists and academics from leading U.S. universities. Continue Reading