1st Amendment Win For Credit Card Surcharges| Texas Sues Over Electricity Bills | Dodgy COVID Fees

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2022 AG Elections

Former South Dakota Attorney General Steps Back into Contention for AG’s Office

  • Marty Jackley, who formerly served as U.S. Attorney for South Dakota, South Dakota AG, and President of the National Association of Attorneys General, announced he will seek the Republican nomination for South Dakota AG. The nominee will be selected by party delegates at the 2022 Republican State Convention.
  • Jackley’s announcement comes while current South Dakota AG Jason Ravnsborg is the subject of an investigation for his role in a crash that killed a pedestrian last year.
  • For more AG election news, insights, and polls visit Cozen O’Connor’s State AG Election Tracker.

Campaign Finance

Google Sued over Alleged Failure to Keep Track of Campaign Ad Spending on Its Advertising Networks

  • Washington AG Bob Ferguson sued Google, Inc. over allegations that it failed to maintain appropriate records of political advertising revenues in violation of Washington’s campaign disclosure laws.
  • The complaint alleges that Google failed to retain and make available to the public legally mandated information, including the cost of advertisements, and the names of the persons or organizations sponsoring and purchasing them. The complaint further alleges that in response to a similar suit by the AG’s office in 2018, Google announced that its advertising networks would no longer accept political advertisements for state or local elections, but political advertisements continued to be run on Google’s platform.
  • The complaint seeks injunctive relief, civil penalties, and attorneys’ fees and costs.
  • As previously reported, in 2020, AG Ferguson reached a settlement over similar allegations with Twitter, Inc., in which Twitter paid $100,000 to the state.

COVID-19

California Attorney General Warns Consumers About Proliferating COVID Fees

  • California AG Xavier Becerra warned consumers about so-called “COVID fees” that some healthcare providers are reportedly charging patients to purportedly cover additional expenses such as more frequent cleanings and disinfections and greater use of personal protective equipment.
  • According to the AG’s office, healthcare providers may not charge a COVID fee to patients enrolled in certain state and federal healthcare programs, such as Medi-Cal and Medicare, and the AG’s office further recommends that patients enrolled in these programs file a complaint with the AG’s office if they have been charged COVID fees.
  • The AG’s office also notes that patients with private health insurance have the right to ask their insurers whether their healthcare providers are allowed to charge a COVID fee under their insurance plan rules.

False Claims Act

Companies Settle Allegations They Marketed Medical Devices for Unapproved Pediatric Use

  • California AG Xavier Becerra reached settlements with medical device company Medical Device Business Services, Inc., a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson (“MDBS”), and private equity firm The Gores Group (“Gores”) to resolve allegations that the two companies used improper marketing practices and submitted false claims to state Medicaid programs.
  • According to the AG’s office, the complaint, which stems from a whistleblower suit, alleged that MDBS and Gores improperly marketed prescription medical device systems for the treatment of skin problems associated with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma to pediatric patients, even though the systems were not approved by U.S. Food and Drug Administration for pediatric use. The systems were developed by Therakos Inc., a company which MDBS and Gores each owned at separate times.
  • Under the terms of the settlements with MBS and Gores, MDBS will pay over $73,000 and Gores will pay nearly $61,000 to the state. These settlements are part of global settlements into which the companies entered with all 50 states and the U.S. Department of Justice, under which MDBS agreed to pay $10 million and Gores agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle allegations under federal and state false claims acts.

Utilities

“Wholesale” Electricity Company Sued by Texas Attorney General over Astronomical Consumer Bills

  • Texas AG Ken Paxton sued electricity company Griddy, LLC over allegations that it used false, misleading, and deceptive advertising practices to market its services to consumers in violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
  • The complaint alleges that Griddy promised consumers cheaper, wholesale prices that would consistently be less than the prices charged by traditional energy companies, but in reality, in the aftermath of the February 2021 storm that caused extensive power outages in the state, many Griddy customers’ bank accounts were auto-debited for hundreds of dollars per day, resulting in overdrawn accounts, overdraft fees, and inability to pay other bills.
  • The complaint seeks injunctive relief to bar Griddy from advertising false or misleading electricity rates and requiring it to provide accurate information about the likelihood and extent of price fluctuations, among other things. The complaint also seeks civil penalties, restitution, disgorgement, and attorneys’ fees and costs.
  • As previously reported, the AG’s office recently issued Civil Investigative Demands under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act to twelve power companies, seeking information, documents, and communications relating to the statewide power outages in the wake of the February 2021 storm.

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