On July 1, 2018, California’s revised Automatic Renewal Law (ARL), Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17600 et seq., goes into effect.

The updated law requires e-commerce sellers, doing business in California, to allow online cancellation of auto-renewing memberships or recurring purchases that were initiated online. Continue Reading Stricter Automatic Renewal Law in California Commences July 1, 2018

Fresh off a victory in the CA primary, California Attorney General Xavier Bacerra filed suit on June 7, 2018 against Nutraceutical Corporation of Park City, Utah and Graceleigh, Inc. dba Sammy’s Milk of Newport Beach, CA, alleging violations of California’s Proposition 65 and California’s consumer protection laws. Continue Reading California AG Leads Attack on Lead in Infant Formula

On November 8, 2016, California voters approved Proposition 67, the statewide ban on carry-out plastic bags, by 52 percent. At the same time, California voters rejected Proposition 65 by 55 percent–a measure that would have sent the proceeds from sales of paper bags and reusable bags to environmental causes.

Plastic Bage Seagull

Main Provisions of Proposition 67

  • Prohibits most grocery stores, convenience stores, large pharmacies, and liquor stores from providing single-use plastic carry-out bags. The provision excludes plastic bags used for certain purposes, such as those used for unwrapped produce.
  • Creates new standards for the material content and durability of reusable plastic carryout bags. The California Department of Resources Recovery and Recycling (CalRecycle) would be responsible for ensuring that bag manufacturers meet these requirements. The measure also defines standards for other types of carryout bags.
  • Requires a store to charge at least 10 cents for any carryout bag that it provides to consumers at checkout. Certain low-income would not have to pay the charge.

Main Provisions of Proposition 65

  • Redirects carryout bag revenue to a new state environmental fund called the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Fund.
  • Allows funds to be used for grants to support programs and projects related to  (1) drought mitigation; (2) recycling; (3) clean drinking water supplies; (4) state, regional, and local parks; (5) beach cleanup; (6) litter removal; and (7) wildlife habitat restoration.
  • Takes effect only if both propositions pass and Proposition 65 gets more “yes” votes than Proposition 67.

Continue Reading With the passage of Proposition 67, the question is “Would you like paper or…paper?”

Earlier this month, California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (“OEHHA”) issued a Notice of Emergency Action to allow temporary use of a standard point-of-sale warning message for bisphenol A (“BPA”) exposures from canned and bottled foods and beverages. This emergency rulemaking came only three weeks before California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (“Proposition 65”) warning requirements for BPA becomes effective on May 11, 2016. Several days later, OEHHA also added styrene to the Proposition 65 list as a known carcinogen.

BPA

Continue Reading Mark Your Calendars: BPA Prop 65 Warnings Required as of May 11, 2016; Styrene Also Added to the Prop 65 List

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) contained a scene where bodies of plague victims were brought out to the curb for collection via a cart whether or not they properly belonged there.  One living fellow insists on not being dead by exclaiming: “I’m not dead yet.”  Unfortunately for him, his protestations go unheeded and he is placed in the cart of the dead.

It sometimes appears that arguments for the preemption defense against California statutes, including non-functional slack-fill provisions, are relegated to meeting the same fate as that Middle Ages plague victim.

There is, however, a glimmer of hope, albeit a non-published one. Continue Reading Preemption Defense in the Ninth Circuit Is “Not Dead Yet”

On December 2, 2015, the Grocery Manufacturers Association announced SmartLabel, a pioneering technology initiative that gives manufacturers and retailers an important new channel for disclosing information about their products directly to consumers. Through SmartLabel, simply by searching online or scanning the bar code on a product’s label, consumers can readily access a wealth of detail about that product’s ingredients, including whether any are derived from generally modified organisms (GMOs).

With more than 30 food, beverage, and consumer products companies already on board, SmartLabel is an ambitious effort to increase the amount of product information accessible to consumers. And by allowing companies to provide more context than can fit on a typical label or package, the initiative also gives companies a new tool for defending against false advertising suits attacking the use of marketing terms like “natural” and “non-GMO.” But at least in California—long a hotbed for this type of class action litigation—it is not clear that SmartLabel will in fact decrease the litigation exposure that participating companies face. One major reason: Ninth Circuit precedent instructing federal courts to focus first and foremost on the claims made on a product’s front label, to the exclusion of “fine print” and other less visible sources.

So what, exactly, is the Ninth Circuit’s position on ingredient disclosures?  And how will this stance affect how companies can use SmartLabel to defend against false advertising class actions?

Continue Reading What Does GMA’s SmartLabel Initiative Mean for False Advertising Litigation?

Made in the USA Labeling RequirementsA courtroom battle concerning a manufacturer’s alleged false marketing of allegedly foreign-produced products as “Made in USA” is potentially nearing a resolution.  On November 30, 2015, the lead plaintiff in Paz v. AG Adriano Goldschmied, Inc. et al. asked the court for preliminary approval of a $4 million settlement between class members and defendants Nordstrom, Inc. and AG Adriano Goldschmied Inc. (“AGAG”).  The lawsuit accuses defendants of falsely marketing jeans—manufactured by AG and sold by Nordstrom—as entirely made in America when they allegedly contained foreign components (such as the jeans’ fabric, thread, buttons, and rivets).  Bringing claims under California’s consumer protection laws, plaintiff’s class action complaint alleges that consumers’ belief that domestically-made products are of higher quality than foreign-made products allows defendants to charge a premium for clothes labeled “Made in USA.” Continue Reading Settlement Looms for “Made in USA” Jeans Suit

Passed in 2010, the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act has a worthy aim: requiring retailers and manufacturers doing big business in California to disclose what measures, if any, they are taking to ensure their suppliers comply with human rights standards. What started as a legislative effort to educate consumers and incentivize good corporate citizenship, however, is quickly becoming a vehicle for private class actions against companies making this information available–even though the Act itself nowhere authorizes private lawsuits seeking damages. For consumer product companies, this is an important trend that could mark the next wave of class action litigation in California.

So what exactly does the Act require? And what litigation risks does this law now pose for companies doing business in California?

Continue Reading When Transparency Is Not Enough: Class Action Litigation Under California’s Transparency in Supply Chains Act

The International Campaign Against Microbeads in Cosmetics is most likely celebrating this week, following the California State Legislature’s passage of a bill that would prohibit the use of plastic microbeads in personal care products after January 1, 2020.  The bill, AB 888, now heads to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for his signature.  Although several states already have similar legislation on the books (Maryland, for example), California of course is the largest and most economically significant of those jurisdictions to legislate a ban on microplastics in personal consumer products.

Microbeads, usually made from non-biodegradable polyethylene, are used in personal care products such as body wash and facial scrubs to add exfoliating properties.  In recent years, as the potential for adverse environmental, wildlife, and health consequences of microplastics has become more clear (the beads are too small to be filtered out by wastewater treatment plants, so they end up being discharged into lakes, rivers, and oceans), some manufacturers have begun voluntarily removing the ingredient from their personal care products.  The impetus for industry action came after Unilever announced in December 2012 that it would phase out plastic in all of its products worldwide by 2015; since that time Colgate-Palmolive and Johnson & Johnson have joined the pledge, along with many smaller companies.  The pledge to remove these microplastics also has been taken up by private-label manufacturers and distributors of certain personal care products, including Target and others.

In addition to state policymakers and legislators, the U.S. Congress is taking note of the emerging science and environmental advocacy in this area.  The bipartisan Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 (H.R. 1321) was introduced this year by Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.)  and Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), respectively, and it is currently listed as having 34 cosponsors.  Companion legislation has also been introduced in the Senate by Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.); that identical bill (S. 1424) is currently listed as having 7 cosponsors.  The Microbead-Free Waters Act would effectively ban microplastics from personal care products after January 1, 2018, by deeming any cosmetic that contains them to be adulterated under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.  The Personal Care Products Council, the industry’s primary trade association, noted in May testimony to the House E&C Committee that a uniform federal standard would be preferable to state-by-state action and that non-prescription drugs that contain microbeads should be included along with cosmetics in any such legislation.

We will update our readers of any developments related to federal action to remove plastic microbeads from the marketplace.

Auburn Courthouse Prop 65Recent attempts to modify California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, Proposition 65, have been the work of the California Legislature.  (See A Sane Tweak To Proposition 65 and California Reenters the GMO Food Labeling Arena – This Time Through The Legislature).  This past week, however, the California Appellate Court for the First District in Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) v. Beech-Nut Nutrition Corp., 2015 B.L. 72035, (Cal. Ct. Ap., No. A139821, 3/17/15) upheld a trial judge who determined, after entertaining extensive expert testimony, that low levels of lead in products including baby food, fruit juice and packaged food do not produce exposures that trigger a requirement for warnings under Proposition 65.

The Beech-Nut case is one of the few situations where a Proposition 65 plaintiffs’ group has had to litigate what triggers a requirement for warnings under the law.  In this case, the court held that the manufacturers met their burden of proof.

Underlying Action:

Continue Reading California Appellate Court Takes on Proposition 65 Warning Triggers