The Federal Trade Commission has announced revisions to HSR Act and Clayton Act Section 8 thresholds, which are indexed annually in alignment with prior year economic activity. The article identifies the adjustments that are likely to be the most relevant to our clients and reiterates several important practice tips.
In an unsigned per curiam opinion yesterday in Gonzalez v. Google, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the Ninth Circuit’s judgment— which had held that plaintiffs’ complaint was barred by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act – and remanded it. But the Court’s opinion entirely skirted a highly-anticipated issue: whether Section 230 does, in fact, shelter as much activity as courts have held to date.
New York Attorney General Letitia James announced new price gouging rules intended to clarify New York’s price gouging law, N.Y. Gen. Bus. Law §396-r, earlier this month. The proposed rules seek to address many of the perceived limitations of the statute exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic turbulence triggered by supply chain bottlenecks and record inflation. Public comments on the proposed rules are due May 1, 2023.
The Supreme Court heard oral argument last week in cases that will have extensive implications for online platforms, and, more broadly, for internet speech across the board. Gonzalez v. Google, in particular, may result in a first-of-its-kind clarification of the scope of 47 U.S.C. § 230.
Antitrust claims in a class action case filed against Amazon in U.S. Federal District Court will largely proceed, after the Court allowed most of the consumers’ pricing claims to survive a motion for summary judgment. The Court dismissed a Sherman Act claim, but allowed most other claims to proceed. Of particular note, Amazon’s “most favored nation” (MFN) policy will continue to be under scrutiny, despite the fact that courts typically do not find MFNs to be anticompetitive. It is widely recognized that MFNs, in fact, often serve procompetitive purposes.
On April 2, 2021, the acting U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey released an update of her office’s efforts to prevent fraud related to the COVID-19 pandemic, noting prosecutions involving the Paycheck Protection Program, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, and the Unemployment Insurance programs, as well as prosecutions involving price-gouging and hoarding of critical personal protective equipment. The announcement comes on the heels of a similar one by Attorney General Merrick Garland last month, who marked the one year anniversary of the passage of the CARES Act by announcing that, in the past year, the Department of Justice has charged nearly 500 individuals with COVID-related fraud. These announcements serve as important reminders that, even as the vaccine roll out continues and life regains a sense of normalcy, federal prosecutors continue to actively monitor price gouging compliance.
While the majority of states have had price gouging laws on the books since before the pandemic, widespread pandemic price gouging has led states without laws to reconsider. Some states, like Colorado, passed price gouging legislation mid-pandemic, but other states, including New Hampshire and Washington, are now playing catch up.
On March 18, 2021, retailer Union Square Supply, Inc. filed a civil rights class action lawsuit in the Southern District of New York challenging New York City’s price gouging enforcement practices. The complaint alleges that defendants are responsible for “the creation and maintenance of an illegal and unconstitutional penalty enforcement scheme, abuse of emergency powers, and other misconduct that improperly assesses penalties and fines on businesses without any notice or due process.”