FOR THE CONSUMER
The FTC's monthly newsletter for the Congressional community
It's the news you - and your constituents - can use.
Volume 5 - Number 11
IN THIS ISSUE
DIABETES SWEEP. The FTC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), working with government agencies in Mexico and Canada, have launched a drive to stop the sale of products misrepresented as cures or treatments for diabetes and raise consumer awareness of fraudulent claims. The agencies have sent out 180 warning letters and other advisories to online outlets in the three countries and developed new consumer education materials, including a “teaser” website that advertises Glucobate, a supposed diabetes cure. When consumers click for more information or to order the product, the site reveals information about avoiding ads for phony cure-alls. Visit the Glucobate teaser site: http://wemarket4u.net/glucobate/index.html. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2006/10/diabetessweep.htm
KEEPIN' IT REAL. The FTC charged two real estate groups operating Multiple Listing Services (MLSs) in Michigan with illegally restraining competition by limiting consumers’ ability to get the benefits of low-cost real estate brokerage services. The FTC also announced consent agreements with five other groups operating MLSs in parts of Colorado, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Virginia, and Wisconsin that have discontinued the challenged practice. All seven groups allegedly withheld valuable benefits of their MLSs from consumers who entered into non-traditional listing contracts with real estate brokers. Six of the seven blocked non-traditional, less-than-full-service listings from being transmitted by the MLS to popular Internet websites. The seventh went further, adopting policies that included blocking such non-traditional brokerage contracts from the MLS entirely. The FTC says these policies limited consumer choice, in violation of federal law. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2006/10/realestatesweep.htm
BOGUS BILLING SCHEME. A federal judge has stopped a Canadian billing scheme from defrauding US businesses out of millions of dollars by billing and taking payment for unauthorized ads and listings in non-existent business directories. The defendants allegedly cut ads from real publications and pasted them onto their own bogus invoices to trick consumers into paying for goods or services they never received. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2006/10/iitd.htm
SWEEPSTAKES SCAM. The FTC has brought charges in federal court against a fraudulent sweepstakes operation that sent personalized mail to millions of consumers nationwide, falsely telling them that they had won a substantial cash prize and urging them to immediately send $20 to receive their prize. The operators allegedly told consumers of a “guaranteed cash/prize amount” in the seven-figure range, although consumers never received any prizes. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2006/10/nationalframe.htm
PHONE RECORDS. An Internet business that advertised and sold consumers’ phone and credit card records to third parties has agreed to settle FTC charges that it violated federal law. The settlement bars the defendants from getting or selling consumers’ confidential phone and credit account records unless authorized by law or court order, and requires that they give up the money they made selling phone records in the past. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2006/10/isis.htm
CARE TO COMMENT? The FTC is looking for public comment on its proposal to solicit information from food and beverage companies about how they market to children and adolescents. Comments are due to the FTC by December 21, 2006. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2006/10/fyi0666.htm
SELLING YOUR HOME? TIPS FOR SELECTING A REAL ESTATE PROFESSIONAL. Brochure explains the differences between real estate brokers and agents, and exclusive right-to-sell and agency listing contracts. Also provides questions to ask when interviewing real estate professionals. 8.5"x11", 4 pages. www.ftc.gov/bc/realestate/pubs/zrea01.pdf
BE SMART. BE SKEPTICAL. Consumer Alert has seven tips for evaluating diabetes-related products and spotting fraudulent health claims. 8.5"11", 2 pages. www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt145.htm
MARK YOUR CALENDARS. The FTC will host three days of public hearings to examine evolving technology and consumer protection in the coming decade. The event will bring together experts from business, government and the technology sector, consumer advocates, academics, and law enforcement officials. The hearings will be held November 6-8 at the Lisner Auditorium of George Washington University and will be free and open to the public. On November 9, the FTC will host a non-public meeting of invited law enforcers and other government officials to examine the implications of emerging technologies on consumer protection in the coming decade. For more about the hearings: www.ftc.gov/techade. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2006/07/techade.htm
GREEN LIGHTS & RED FLAGS. The FTC and its Ohio partners will present two half-day “back-to-basics” workshops about complying with truth-in-advertising laws. "Green Lights & Red Flags: FTC-BBB Rules of the Road for Advertisers" features national experts discussing the latest developments in advertising law for business owners, marketing executives, and in-house counsel. The Cleveland workshop on December 7 will be held at Cuyahoga Community College's Corporate College East from 8:30a to 12:30p. The Columbus workshop on December 8 will be held at the Columbus Athenaeum, from 8:30a to 2:15p. The admission for each workshop includes lunch and a CD-ROM of all workshop materials. For more information or to register, visit www.ftc.gov/greenlights.
Most teens who drink get their alcohol from “social” sources – parents of other teens, older siblings, and other relatives and friends. We Don’t Serve Teens, a new national campaign to reduce underage drinking, is focusing on stopping social sources from providing teens with access to alcohol. The campaign’s centerpiece is www.DontServeTeens.gov, a website sponsored by a coalition of public and private sector organizations, including the FTC. The message to neighbors, relatives, and friends is “Don’t serve alcohol to teens. It’s unsafe. It’s illegal. It’s irresponsible.”
The legal drinking age in the United States is 21. Drinking can cause serious health and safety consequences – as well as legal consequences for the person providing the alcohol. A recent national survey showed that most parents said the drinking age should remain 21 or be raised. But parents need help to make sure their teens don't have access to alcohol. For more information on stopping teens’ easy access to alcohol, visit www.DontServeTeens.gov.
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