Law360

A proposed stipulated settlement in April received little attention in part because on its face, it appeared to be a simple case where the marketing language of the offer misstated the nature of the service offered.

But the Federal Trade Commission's settlement of charges against Progressive Leasing LLC reveals several important signals for national advertisers concerning FTC priorities and enforcement trends including: the intersection of online and offline representations; the materiality and the commission's inferences about raw complaint volume; the strong commission consensus for muscular enforcement, including financial penalties and consequences; and even more aggressive partisan considerations, including a desire for personal liability for individual company officers.

Authors: John P. Feldman Gerard M. Stegmaier

Background

The Federal Trade Commission recently settled charges against Progressive Leasing, a company that markets virtual rent-to-own payment plans to retail stores nationwide. Unlike traditional rent-to-own companies, Progressive does not operate its own brick-and-mortar stores. Instead, Progressive markets its rent-to-own payment plans to consumers who shop at certain retail stores or websites, primarily those in the furniture, appliance, jewelry, mattress, automobile, electronics and mobile phone industries.

The FTC alleged that the retailers offering Progressive's rent-to-own services typically offer an array of financing products. Consumers typically become aware of Progressive's services through signage in the retail stores or by way of a retail salesperson's sales pitch.

Progressive's advertising consisted of banners, posters, table tents and brochures touting a 90-day payment option. According to the FTC's complaint, the advertisements did not disclose adequately, or at all, the total cost of Progressive's rent-to-own products, or any fees, charges or other costs.