Each week, Crowell & Moring’s State Attorneys General team highlights significant actions that State AGs have taken. Here are this week’s updates.
- A bi-partisan coalition of 34 attorneys general submitted a letter to the Federal Trade Commission calling on the agency to consider the harms caused by the prevalence of commercial surveillance and data security practices when creating new rules to prevent misconduct and promote transparency and accountability around online data collection. The letter was filed in response to the FTC’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Commercial Surveillance and Data Security, the attorneys general urge the FTC to acknowledge the heightened sensitivity around consumers’ medical data, biometric data, and location data, along with the dangers that arise from data brokers and surveillance of consumers. The coalition also asked the FTC to consider data minimization, which would limit the amount of data collected by businesses to only what is required for a specific purpose, to help mitigate concerns surrounding data aggregation.
- A coalition of 9 attorneys general, led by Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, submitted a letter to Dividend Solar Finance, GoodLeap, Riverbank, Sunlight Financial, and Solar Mosaic, urging the solar lending companies to suspend loan payments and the accrual of interest for customers who financed the purchase of a solar power system from Pink Energy (also known as, Power Home Solar) and have not received a working solar power system. The attorneys general also ask the lenders to assist Pink Energy customers who are experience other functionality and installation issues.
- Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced consent judgments with Mercedes-Benz and Robert Bosch LLC, resolving allegations that the companies falsely advertised so-called “Clean Diesel” vehicles. According to the complaint, Mercedes-Benz deceptively marketed its BlueTEC vehicles as the most environmentally conscious diesel option in the world and employed a defeat device to make its vehicles emit lower levels of pollution under certain testing conditions but emit much higher levels in actual driving conditions. Bosch allegedly developed, manufactured, marketed, tested, and sold the electronic diesel control that allowed Mercedes to manipulate emissions controls and that Bosch also marketed as “Clean Diesel” to the public. Under the proposed consent judgments, Mercedes-Benz will pay $2,835,000 in consumer restitution and $2,715,000 in penalties, and Bosch will pay $525,000 in penalties.
- Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced a settlement with Express Enrollment, LLC, a student-loan debt-relief company, resolving allegations that the company illegally collected fees from customers and misrepresented its services to consumers. According to the complaint, Express Enrollment charged exorbitant fee to enroll consumers in federal repayment programs that consumers can enroll themselves in for free, and then pocketed the fees. The settlement requires that the company to cease operations in Minnesota, pay $50,000 to the state, and provide refunds to its Minnesota consumers.
- New York Attorney General Letitia James sent a letter to congressional leaders to adopt legislation that would prohibit the investment of retirement funds in digital assets, such as cryptocurrencies, digital coins, and digital tokens. The letter comes after a major financial institution offered Bitcoin as an investment option in its 401(k) plans. The letter stressed the need to protect workers’ retirement funds and avoid the dangers of risky cryptocurrencies and their unstable markets.
- Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced a settlement with Grubhub, the online food delivery application, resolving allegations that consumers were sometimes charged higher prices for the items than they would have paid had they ordered from the restaurant directly. As part of the settlement, Grubhub will give $125,000 in donations to food banks throughout Pennsylvania.
- Washington D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine announced a settlement with Drizly, an alcohol delivery company, resolving allegations that it failed to ensure that delivery drivers received tips left by consumers and failed to pay taxes owed to the District. During its investigation, OAG learned that—contrary to consumer expectations—the tips consumers paid through Drizly’s platform often did not pass through to the driver. Instead, Drizly allegedly passed these “tips” to its retail partners with no meaningful restrictions or requirements that the money be paid to the drivers. The OAG investigation also revealed that Drizly failed to pay millions of dollars in sales and use taxes to the District, including taxes for orders processed on its platform under the District’s Marketplace Facilitator Law and taxes on the delivery and service fees Drizly charged District consumers. Drizly will be required to pay an estimated total of $6.46 million.