The Federal Trade Commission’s (“FTC”) Bureau of Consumer Protection has entered into a consent agreement with Unrollme Inc. (“Unrollme”), preventing Unrollme from continuing to engage in practices which the FTC considers to be unfair or deceptive, in violation of Section 5(a) of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. § 45(a). This email lawsuit was initiated because Unrollme was providing its parent company, Slice Technologies, Inc. (“Slice”), with access to Unrollme users’ inboxes for purposes of collecting data from electronic purchase receipts for market research, failing to disclose those practices, all while representing that they would not, in fact, access the private emails of their users.

What are the allegations contained in the email lawsuit complaint?

Allegations Against Unrollme

Unrollme offers services to minimize the clutter of subscription emails by: 1) helping users unsubscribe from unwanted email messages; and 2) aggregating the remaining email messages into one daily email. In order to provide these personal email management services, Unrollme requires users to provide Unrollme with full access to their email accounts. Without notice or consent, however, Unrollme provided Slice with access to its users’ email messages, which they then scanned to extract data from consumer electronic receipts. The data was anonymized and packaged into market research reports that were sold to other businesses. According to the complaint, during the enrollment process, some users refused to grant Unrollme access to their email accounts. With respect to these consumers, Unrollme sent them follow-up emails, which included false and deceptive statements concerning email access in an attempt to procure their business. In order to relieve consumers of the fear of providing access to their email accounts, Unrollme made statements such as, “Don’t worry, we won’t touch your personal stuff” and “We are not able to see the content of your emails and the only emails we filter are subscription-based emails. . . .” The FTC alleges that these statements contradict Unrollme’s practices and, as such, did not allow consumers to make an informed decision as to whether to sign up for Unrollme services.

Proposed Email Lawsuit Resolutions

In order to settle the investigation and lawsuit, the FTC proposed that Unrollme: 1) cease making any misrepresentations to consumers concerning how they access, collect, use, store or share consumer information or emails; 2) directly notify all covered consumers by email of how Unrollme is collecting information and how it is using that information; 3) delete all of Unrollme’s and Slice’s stored electronic purchase receipts and information obtained from those receipts; and 4) provide the FTC with periodic compliance reports and notices.

Preventing an Email Lawsuit

In the coming months, new consumer privacy laws will take effect, in places such as Nevada and California, which will restrict how businesses, collect, use, store and share consumer information. Among other measures, a clear and conspicuous privacy policy that is tailored to the needs of your business will be needed in order to avoid regulatory action. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the best means by which to prevent an email lawsuit is to obtain consent to email consumers at the time of purchase or otherwise during the website registration process.