A coalition of consumer and children's organizations has asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Topps candy and trading card company, which is owned by Michael Eisner, for allegedly violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act Rule, according to the Center for Digital Democracy, which filed the complaint on Tuesday.
The complaint claims Topps collected personal information and photos from children without parental permission through its Candymania website for contests aimed at kids, including #RockThatRock, a promotion for Bazooka's Ring Pop candy. Topps owns Bazooka.
The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act Rule prohibits companies from collecting personally identifying information from children younger than 13 without parental permission.
"Of the photos collected, Topps used several that were photos of children clearly under 13 years old," the complaint says.
The complaint further claims Topps retained the photos online and used them for social media marketing.
Topps issued a statement on Tuesday denouncing the allegations.
Topps vehemently disagrees with these assertions. Topps takes the utmost care to abide by all applicable regulations concerning children's privacy, including COPPA, in its marketing campaigns and promotions. Topps partners with the Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU), a division of the Better Business Bureau, to ensure all of its advertising directed to children meets CARU's high standards. Consistent with COPPA and the CARU Guidelines, rules governing the recent Ring Pop "Rock That Rock" Campaign did not allow anyone under 13 to be included in the advertising. Furthermore, a parent's consent was required for anyone age 13-18 to be included in the advertising.
Topps will review all of the information included in the request to the FTC and will fully cooperate with any requests the FTC may have.
Attorney Eric G. Null represents the Center for Digital Democracy and told The Hollywood Reporter he expects the FTC will respond to the request to investigate Topps after the holidays.
Eisner's Tornante Company and Madison Dearborn Partners bought Topps in 2007 and began expanding into entertainment and media.
The company tapped former 19 Television executive Staci Weiss to develop its television, film and other entertainment projects, including Bazooka Joe, Garbage Pail Kids, Wacky Packs, Dinosaur Attacks, Mech Warrior and Attax.
The Center for Digital Democracy was joined in its FTC request by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, Center for Science in the Public Interest Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America Consumer Watchdog, Consumers Union, The Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, and United Church of Christ Office of Communication, Inc.