On April 20, 2020, the Supreme Court held in a 6-3 decision that the Sixth Amendment requires a unanimous jury verdict to convict a defendant of a serious offense in state courts. In so holding, the Court not only paved the way for potentially hundreds of defendants convicted by divided juries, like petitioner Evangelisto Ramos, to obtain new trials, but also effectively overturned its prior holding in Apodaca v. Oregon. Thus, the potential impact of Ramos v. Louisiana extends far beyond issues of criminal procedure, as the justices’ spirited debate over when and whether to overturn precedent took center stage and illustrated deep divisions within the Court. Continue Reading
Over the past month, state enforcers have declared a war on price gouging, but some of the most effective enforcers have not been the states. Online platforms and other large retailers have taken extraordinary steps to restrict price gouging, and their monitoring has already led to hundreds of thousands of items pulled from e-commerce websites. With entire countries engaging in social distancing, e-commerce has become de-facto commerce for many, and this dramatic and sudden shift gives online sellers enormous influence on price gouging enforcement.
Due to the unprecedented length of the current COVID-19 emergency, price gouging laws that once focused solely on retail prices, now are being applied to participants throughout the entire supply chain. At the beginning of the COVID-19 emergency, state enforcers focused on increases in retail prices to consumers. However, enforcers now are opening investigations and taking enforcement actions throughout the upstream supply chain for covered products and services. Several state Governors also recently have issued Executive Orders that have expanded the scope of their state’s price gouging laws to national producers and distributors. All entities in the supply chain need to consider a nationwide compliance strategy – to comply with the price gouging laws of approximately 34 states and territories that have widely varying requirements. Best practices can include conducting an internal assessment with the help of in-house or outside counsel (i) to determine their scope of possible covered products, (ii) to assess which state’s laws that may be implicated, (iii) to document baseline pricing, pricing movements and the bases for those movements, and (iv) to put measures in place to provide business managers with the knowledge they need to stay compliant. The article discusses these and related issues that arise for sellers at all levels of the supply chain during the COVID-19 state of emergency.
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When it comes to price gouging in the Lone Star State, Attorney General Ken Paxton is sending a message: don’t mess with Texas. On March 26, 2020, AG Paxton accused Auctions Unlimited, a Texas auctioneer, of price gouging disinfectant wipes, hand soaps, and 750,000 N95 respirator masks. Bidding for just 16 N95 respirator masks went as high as $180 – despite the owner receiving warnings from both AG Paxton and local police – before Texas authorities intervened and stopped the auction. The lawsuit seeks civil penalties of no more than $10,000 per violation, and $250,000 in the event the deception impacted anyone over 65 years of age. Continue Reading
In the latest piece to come out of the FTC’s new focus on emerging technologies, the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection issued new guidance on the use of artificial intelligence (“AI”) and algorithms. The guidance follows up on a 2018 hearing where the FTC explored AI, algorithms, and predicative analysis. As the FTC recognizes, these technologies already pervade the modern economy. They influence consumer decision making – from what video to watch next, to what ad to click on, or what product to purchase. They make investment decisions, credit decisions, and, increasingly, health decisions, which has also sparked the interest of State Attorneys General and the Department of Health & Human Services. But the promise of new technologies also comes with risk. Specifically, the FTC cites an instance in which an algorithm designed to allocate medical interventions ended up funneling resources to healthier, white populations. Continue Reading
In the past month, Florida’s Attorney General has received thousands of complaints about price gouging across the state. As a result, Florida is taking action. Attorney General Ashley Moody has issued dozens of subpoenas to third-party sellers on Amazon and secured thousands in refunds for consumers. The AG’s office has also been working with online platforms to deactivate price gouging accounts and has created a “Rapid Response Team” focused on price gouging. Florida is, and promises to remain, active on price gouging enforcement. Continue Reading
Even though states are leading the way on price gouging enforcement, recent action in Congress may lead to overlapping federal government enforcement. Recent Congressional letters, statements, and proposed bills show a strong appetite for action on price gouging. House Democrats tried but failed to add price gouging language to the coronavirus relief package in March. Senators Klobuchar and Tillis have both introduced price gouging bills in the past month. This week, Representatives Schakowsky, Pallone, Cicilline, and Nadler introduced a standalone bill to create a federal price gouging regime for the current state of emergency. Continue Reading