Shahin Rothermel counsels and defends clients on issues involving advertising, marketing, e-commerce, privacy, social media, promotions, sweepstakes, and subscription programs. Shahin regularly represents clients before the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), state attorneys general, district attorneys, the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureaus (NAD), the National Advertising Review Board (NARB), and the Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation program (ERSP), in addition to handling complex consumer class actions and competitor disputes in federal and state courts.

Most of us know what it’s like to receive a notice that one of our subscriptions has been automatically renewed for another year. As the regulatory landscape of subscription-based offers continues to evolve, federal and state regulators and private plaintiffs have ramped up actions and challenges against companies that sell products and services on an automatically renewing basis. Last month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed new legislation to protect California consumers. Among them are long-anticipated updates to California’s Automatic Renewal Law (ARL) that impose new notice requirements on automatic renewal and continuous service offers with free or introductory trial periods and offers with an initial term of one year or longer, as well as stronger provisions allowing consumers to cancel services more easily and quickly. As companies quickly embrace the rise of digital technologies when offering entertainment and personal services, they should familiarize themselves with California’s ARL, as it applies to all businesses that make automatic renewal offers and continuous services offers to California consumers.

Continue Reading Looking Ahead: Significant Changes in California Law for Subscription Merchants Coming in July 2022

This article was previously published on Venable’s All About Advertising Law blog.

Background

Advertisers, e-commerce websites, affiliate networks, and publishers each play a large role in the development of the Internet. One reason they have been able to do so is Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA), which immunizes online interactive services from liability arising from third-party content on their platforms. The CDA does so in twenty-six words:

“No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

Through this immunity, the CDA allows online services to host the speech of others, without assuming responsibility for what those users may say or do. No one disputes the premise that Section 230 fosters free expression and the creation of vibrant marketplaces for advertisers and merchants to efficiently and effectively reach consumers. Recently, however, confusion and controversy have arisen as to exactly who and what Section 230 does and does not protect, leading to divisions among court decisions and to calls for legislative “overhaul.” A quick review for merchants, advertisers, agencies, and affiliate networks seems desirable.

Continue Reading An Advertiser’s Guide to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act