Digest 06.18.2020: Privacy v. Contact Tracing Apps | Fracking Pollution Criminal Charges | Loans at 251% Interest


Attorneys General Express Concern Over Contact Tracing Apps

  • The National Association of Attorneys General (“NAAG”) sent a letter signed by a bipartisan group of 39 AGs to Apple, Inc. and Google, LLC, seeking assurances that all COVID-19-related contact tracing and exposure notification applications (“apps”) on the companies’ respective platforms will adequately protect consumers’ private data.
  • The letter acknowledges the public health value of digital contact tracing and exposure notification apps, but requests that the companies verify that each such app is affiliated with a public health authority, remove any app for which such an affiliation cannot be verified, and pledge to remove all such apps once the COVID-19 national emergency ends.
  • New York AG Letitia James also sent letters to Apple and Google relating to contact tracing and exposure notification apps, raising concerns about the accuracy of the notifications and requesting that the companies protect consumer privacy by barring app developers from using collected data for targeted advertising or including in-app sales, requiring the deletion of data on a rolling 14-day basis, and requiring that apps include clear and prominent disclosures about the exposure protocol used, the data collected, and the risks of false positives and false negative results.

Attorneys General Help Constituents Through the COVID-19-Related Economic Crisis

  • Illinois AG Kwame Raoul, along with consumer advocacy groups and the Illinois Commerce Commission, reached an agreement with major utility companies to help consumers facing utility disconnections due to bill nonpayment once the moratorium on disconnections due to COVID-19 has lifted.
  • Under the terms of the agreement, utility companies will send notices to consumers 30 days prior to disconnection; allow consumers 18 to 24 months to repay any accrued balances; and report disconnection, credit, and collections data for several months, among other things.
  • California AG Xavier Becerra provided information and resources to consumers about the wave of COVID-19-related bankruptcies of national and California-based companies, including consumers’ right to submit a proof of claim for deposits or other money owed to them by bankrupt businesses, and consumers’ rights under California law to demand that a business honor gift certificates even if it files bankruptcy, among other things.

Consumer Protection

FTC Halts Anticompetitive Agreement Between Body-Worn Camera Manufacturers

  • The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) approved a final settlement with military and law enforcement equipment manufacturer Safariland, LLC to resolve allegations that it entered into anticompetitive agreements in violation of the FTC Act.
  • The FTC’s complaint alleged that Safariland and Axon Enterprise Inc. (“Axon”) reduced competition in the market for body-worn camera systems (“BWCS”) when Safariland sold its BWCS division, VieVu, to Axon, thereby eliminating Axon’s most significant competition; agreed not to compete with Axon on all of Axon’s products; and agreed to limit customer and employee solicitations.
  • Under the terms of the final order, Safariland will rescind its anticompetitive agreements with Axon, not enter into similar agreements with Axon in the future, have an antitrust compliance program to ensure compliance with the order, and cooperate with the FTC with its ongoing litigation against Axon.


Pennsylvania Attorney General Charges Fracking Companies with Environmental Crimes

  • Pennsylvania AG Josh Shapiro announced that fracking company Range Resources Corporation (“Range Resources”) pleaded no contest to charges of negligent oversight of well sites as part of a two-year grand jury investigation into alleged environmental crimes by fracking companies.
  • According to the AG’s office, the grand jury’s investigation found that Range Resources knowingly covered up wastewater storage and disposal problems in violation of the Solid Waste Management Act and the Prohibition Against Discharge of Industrial Wastes.
  • As part of its plea deal, Range Resources agreed to pay a $47,000 fine to the Solid Waste Abatement Fund, $3,000 to the Clean Water Fund, and a $102,000 charitable contribution to the Washington County Watershed Alliance.
  • AG Shapiro also announced that, as a result of the same grand jury investigation, his office formally charged fracking company Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation (“Cabot”) with seven counts of Prohibition Against Discharge of Industrial Wastes, seven counts of Prohibition Against Other Pollutions, and one count of Unlawful Conduct under the Clean Streams Law relating to Cabot’s alleged contamination of well water and local water supply with methane.


States to FERC: Hands Off Our Net Metering Authority

  • 17 Democratic AGs, led by Massachusetts AG Maura Healey, filed a protest with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) opposing the New England Ratepayers Association’s (“NERA”) petition to end state net metering programs, which allow consumers to lower their retail electricity bills by offsetting their electricity usage with renewable electricity production such as rooftop solar panels.
  • The AGs’ protest argues that approval of NERA’s petition would overturn decades-old precedent recognizing state authority to implement net metering programs, undermine states’ clean energy programs and emission reduction goals, result in higher energy costs for consumers, and put thousands of jobs at risk.
  • In addition, a bipartisan group of 31 AGs, also led by AG Healey, sent a letter to FERC urging the commission to deny NERA’s petition and to reaffirm states’ authority to regulate net metering, arguing, among other things, that NERA’s petition is procedurally flawed because it seeks a decision on an issue for which there is no live controversy or uncertainty, and that NERA presents no credible support for its position that FERC should overturn state jurisdiction of net metering programs.

Financial Industry

A Tad Usurious: Online Lender Allegedly Charges Up to 251% in Interest

  • District of Columbia AG Karl Racine sued online lender Elevate Credit, Inc. (“Elevate”) for allegedly providing illegal loans to DC residents, using deceptive marketing practices, and charging excessive interest rates on its loans in violation of the Consumer Protection Procedures Act.
  • The complaint alleges that Elevate provided loans without the required money lending license, charged annual percentage rates (“APRs”) ranging from 99% to 251%—far exceeding the statutory 24% and 6% caps on interest—and misleadingly marketed its high interest rate loan products as solutions to the cycle of debt and without disclosing exact APRs, among other things.
  • The complaint seeks injunctive and declaratory relief, restitution, damages, civil penalties, and attorneys’ fees and costs.