Enforcement & Litigation

  • Federal Trade Commission. Deceptive real estate listings. On April 3, 2024, FTC announced close to $62 million in refunds for consumers misled by deceptive marketing and advertising practices used by Opendoor Labs, Inc., an online real estate listing and buying service, also known as an "iBuyer." Opendoor said it used "sophisticated" technology to buy and resell homes quickly, which led almost 55,000 home sellers to believe that they could make more money selling to Opendoor than on the open market, according to FTC's 2022 complaint. FTC is sending checks to the affected consumers. 
  • Federal Trade Commission. Deceptive investment claims. On April 9, 2024, FTC announced the return of $1.2 million to almost 20,000 consumers who paid for investment advice that promised substantial profits based on an expert-developed algorithm or strategy that recommended trades but led to significant losses. WealthPress sold investment advising services by deceiving consumers with "outlandish and false claims" about the company's services, FTC said. The agency pointed to violations of the Restore Online Shoppers' Confidence Act (ROSCA) and of the agency's Notice of Penalty Offenses, which outline actions in violation of the FTC Act. 
  • Federal Trade Commission. Junk fees. On April 25, 2024, FTC filed a complaint against bill-payment company Doxo Inc. for allegedly tricking consumers into paying millions of dollars in junk fees. Doxo purchased search engine advertisements for several prominent companies, disguised itself as official payment channels, and intercepted consumers trying to reach their billers directly to pay legitimate bills. Doxo then added on "junk fees" to be collected by Doxo that could have been avoided when paying billers directly, according to an FTC complaint filed in the Western District of Washington. FTC is seeking a permanent injunction and monetary relief.

Rulemaking Updates

  • Department of Transportation. Automatic airline refunds. On April 24, 2024, DOT released a final rule requiring airlines to provide consumers with automatic cash refunds when flights are canceled or significantly changed, baggage is delayed or services like Wi-Fi aren't provided. The rule represents the agency's first major attempt to standardize refund requirements across airline carriers. 
  • Federal Trade Commission. Personal data breaches. On April 26, 2024, FTC finalized updates to its Health Breach Notification Rule. The rule requires vendors with access to personal health records to notify individuals and FTC of any breaches of unsecured, personally identifiable health information. The final rule clarifies its application to health and wellness apps and similar technologies not covered by HIPAA and expands the allowed use of electronic channels for consumer notification, among other updates.

Research & Analysis

  • Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Credit reports. On April 29, 2024, CFPB released a report showing that the share of Americans with medical bills on their credit reports fell from 14% in March 2022 to 5% in June 2023. Consumers with medical debt are more likely to live in the South and be from low-income communities, CFPB found. In 2022, the three major credit-reporting bureaus agreed to no longer report certain medical bills in collections and remove certain medical bills from credit reports altogether. 
  • Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Junk fees. On April 30, 2024, CFPB released research finding that consumers are likely to spend more on products that carry complex pricing structures. Researchers found that consumers struggled more to compare prices accurately when faced with credit card, auto, and mortgage products with layered pricing structures "where consumers have to evaluate extended warranties, add-ons, closing costs, and a wide variety of other fees instead of an all-inclusive price." 

Orla McCaffrey is a regulatory analyst with Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.