On December 29, 2022, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued Seattle-area plastic surgery provider Allure Esthetic and its owner for falsely inflating Allure’s online ratings in violation of HIPAA, the Washington State Consumer Protection Act, and the Consumer Review Fairness Act. Specifically, AG Ferguson alleged that Allure and its owner:
- Required 10,000+ patients to sign unlawful non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) — before receiving treatment — restricting them from posting negative reviews (anything below four stars).
- Threatened legal action/monetary damages against patients refusing to remove negative reviews.
- Offered incentives to remove negative reviews, such as cash and free services or products, while also “bribing” patients to sign a second NDA that threatened a $250,000 lawsuit if they continued posting negative reviews.
- Altered “before and after” photos to improve procedure results.
- Applied for and kept patient rebates without patient consent.
AG Ferguson’s lawsuit asked the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington to:
- Void all signed NDAs and order Allure to inform its patients of their invalidity;
- Bar Allure from enforcing or threatening to enforce its NDAs;
- Mandate penalties of up to $7,500 per violation; and
- Require Allure to pay patient restitution, covering the $100 pre-service consultation fee and any patient-owed cash rebates Allure kept without the patients’ knowledge.
Why This Matters
As stated in AG Ferguson’s press release: “Individuals rely on online reviews to help them find a doctor. According to a 2020 survey, over 70 percent of patients use online reviews as the first step to finding a new doctor. [As such,] patients need accurate information about their doctors to make an informed choice about their medical care.”
Troutman Pepper State Attorneys General Team
|Ashley Taylor – Co-leader and Firm Vice Chair |
Ashley is a partner in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group and co-leader of the State Attorneys General practice. He focuses primarily on federal and state government regulatory and enforcement matters involving state attorneys general, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Drawing upon his experience as a deputy attorney general, Ashley has developed an extensive consumer practice with regard to the consumer financial services industry.
|Clay Friedman – Co-leader |
Clay is a partner in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group and co-leader of the State Attorneys General practice. Informed by nearly a decade in a state attorneys general office, and more than 25 years in private practice, Clay spends much of his time representing clients in singular or multistate regulatory actions. Clay has repeatedly led teams before all 50 state attorneys general and also handles matters with the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and other local, state and federal agencies.
|Stephen Piepgrass |
Stephen represents clients interacting with, and being investigated by, state attorneys general and other enforcement bodies, including the CFPB and FTC, as well as clients involved with litigation, particularly in heavily regulated industries.
|Michael Yaghi |
Michael handles high-profile state attorneys general, FTC, and CFPB investigations by advising clients through these complex government inquiries. He assists clients through the entire life cycle of investigations, from regulatory enforcement through formal litigation.
|Ketan Bhirud |
As a former government official at the state and federal level, Ketan leverages extensive experience in the public and private sectors to skillfully represent client interests.
|Avi Schick |
A former deputy attorney general of New York, Avi applies his experience in bet-the-company matters, representing clients in criminal and civil investigations and enforcement actions before state and federal regulators, prosecutors and enforcement agencies.
|Chris Carlson |
Chris represents clients in regulatory, civil and criminal investigations and litigation. In his practice, Chris regularly employs his prior regulatory experience to benefit clients who are interacting with and being investigated by state attorneys general.
|Natalia Jacobo |
Natalia is an associate in the firm’s business litigation practice. She recently received her J.D from the University of California, Davis School of Law.
|Namrata Kang |
Namrata is an associate in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group, based in the Washington, D.C. office. Her work includes advising clients in regulatory investigations and compliance matters, in addition to representing clients in civil litigation matters.
|Whitney Shephard |
Whitney is an attorney in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group. She represents clients facing state and federal regulatory investigations and enforcement actions, as well as related civil litigation.
|Stephanie Kozol |
Stephanie is Troutman Pepper’s senior government relations manager in the state attorneys general department.