Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Amicus Briefs Filed in Amazon.com and Overstock.com Supreme Court Case

On September 23, 2013, several organizations and companies filed briefs as amici curiae in support of the petitions for a writ of certiorari filed by Overstock.Com, Inc., Amazon.com., Inc., and Amazon Services, LLC, requesting review by the United States Supreme Court of the New York Court of Appeals decision in Overstock.com, Inc. v. New York Department of Taxation and Finance, 20 N.Y.3d 586, 987 N.E.2d 621 (2013). Among the briefs filed was the Brief of Newegg, Inc. and the Direct Marketing Association, Inc. (the "DMA") as Amici Curiae in Support of the Petitioners. In their brief, Newegg and the DMA argue that the New York “click through affiliate nexus” statute, N.Y. Tax Law sec. 1101(b)(8)(vi), through an improper legislative presumption, narrows the zone of protected interstate advertising activity for out-of-state retailers under the Commerce Clause by shifting onto the retailers the burden of disproving “substantial nexus” with the state, in violation of the due process rights of retailers. Newegg and the DMA argue that the Constitution’s Due Process Clause prohibits states from using presumptions to interfere with matters that are removed from their authority by the Constitution, such as the regulation of interstate commerce. Brann & Isaacson partners Martin I. Eisenstein, George S. Isaacson, and Matthew P. Schaefer prepared the brief of amici on behalf of Newegg and the DMA.

Among the other organizations filing briefs were the Tax Foundation and the National Taxpayers Union, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the American Association of Attorney-Certified Public Accountants, and Scrapbook.com, Assisted Living Store, Inc., et al.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Traps For the Unwary Under the Consumer Product Safety Act: Children's Products

Nestled in the morass known as the Consumer Product Safety Act (as amended by the dubiously titled Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 and further amended in 2011) are provisions that can wreak havoc for businesses that manage, understandably, to overlook them.  What was once a rather straightforward reporting and recall system involving a relatively small number of federal safety standards has evolved into a complex beast of certifications, third-party testing, and training programs. While it is beyond the scope of this post to identify and discuss all of the requirements of these laws, there are some provisions that our readers should know about. This article addresses one of the thorniest of all: children’s products.

A host of new requirements apply to children’s products, and the determination of what is – and what is not – a children’s product is now no easy matter.  Generally speaking, a children’s product is one designed or intended primarily for children 12 years of age or younger, but the CPSC’s own complex “interpretive guidance” on the question betrays the superficial simplicity of this inquiry.  There are almost no clear rules, and, on matters that could lend clarity to the situation, like a reliable product labeling/marking regime that would put the onus on parents and other responsible adults to keep certain products away from children, the CPSC manages to make things even murkier.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Amazon.com and Overstock.com Petition U.S. Supreme Court over New York Affiliate Nexus Law

We’ve written frequently about developments in Amazon.com and Overstock.com’s challenges to the New York State affiliate nexus law (a law which has inspired similar laws in many other states). Last spring, the New York Court of Appeals, the State’s highest court, upheld the law, stating that, in regards to the parties’ Commerce Clause claims, the “statute plainly satisfies the substantial nexus requirement. Active, in-state solicitation that produces a significant amount of revenue qualifies as ‘demonstrably more than a ‘slightest presence’’” under the Tax Appeals Tribunal’s 1995 ruling in the Orvis case. The Court continued by saying that “The bottom line is that if a vendor is paying New York residents to actively solicit business in this State, there is no reason why that vendor should not shoulder the appropriate tax burden.” The Court rejected the parties’ due process claims, as well.

Late last month, both Amazon.com and Overstock.com took their challenge to the United States Supreme Court, each filing a petition for a writ of certiorari, seeking review of the New York affiliate nexus law and of the New York Court of Appeals Decision (see status of the petitions here and here). New York has until October 23 to file a response in each case. However, as the Supreme Court’s review is discretionary, it is unclear whether the matter will be actually be heard by or decided by the Supreme Court. If not, the New York decision will stand, and other states’ versions of the affiliate nexus law will not be impacted. Meanwhile, the Marketplace Fairness Act, which could, in theory, make challenges such as these moot, remains in committee in the House of Representatives.

We will continue to track developments and keep our readers posted.