FOR THE CONSUMER
The FTC's monthly newsletter for the Congressional community
It's the news you - and your constituents - can use.
Volume 7 - Number 8
IN THIS ISSUE
SURVEYING THE SITUATION. The FTC will study the experiences of consumers who contacted the agency after becoming victims of identity theft. The survey will focus on certain rights of victims: to place fraud alerts on their credit files if they are, or suspect they may become, victims of identity theft; to block information on their credit reports that resulted from identity theft; and to get copies of their credit reports free of charge. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/07/fcra.shtm.
INVENTION PROMOTION COMMOTION. The owners of an invention promotion operation have agreed to pay $10 million in consumer redress to settle FTC charges that they deceived prospective customers. According to the FTC, Davison Design and Development, Inc., its affiliates, and its principal, George Davison, charged consumers up to $12,000 to evaluate and promote inventions, and made false statements about the operation’s selectivity in choosing products to promote, their track record in turning inventions into profitable products, and their relationships with manufacturers. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/07/davison.shtm.
ANTITRUST FOR THE LAYPERSON. The FTC has a new online plain-language guide that summarizes the laws that prevent mergers that harm consumers and ban other unfair business practices. The guide has 25 fact sheets and explains antitrust topics — like price fixing, bid rigging, and refusals to deal — using real-world examples from FTC cases. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/07/bcwebfyi.shtm.
The FTC has issued three new reports on consumer protection issues.
Marketing Food to Children and Adolescents. This report found that, in 2006, 44 major food and beverage marketers spent $1.6 billion to promote their products to children under 12 and adolescents ages 12 to 17 in the United States. Marketers spent more money on television advertising than on any other technique ($745 million or 46 percent of the 2006 total.) Cross-promotions tied foods and beverages to about 80 movies, television shows, and animated characters that appeal primarily to children. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/07/foodmkting.shtm.
Do Not Call. The report, which covers Fiscal Year 2007, addresses the Registry’s effectiveness, operation, and enforcement. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/07/dncfyi.shtm.
Phishing. This report is about the FTC’s Roundtable Discussion on Phishing Education that brought together nearly 60 experts from business, government, the technology sector, the consumer advocacy community, and academia to discuss outreach strategies to help consumers avoid attempts to steal their personal information. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/07/phishing.shtm.
OH BEHAVE! The FTC testified about behavioral advertising before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. According to the testimony, behavioral advertising can benefit consumers by allowing free content and personalized ads. It also may subsidize free online content — like blogging, search engines, and instant access to information — that otherwise might not be available. At the same time, some consumers say they are uncomfortable with the privacy implications of being tracked online. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/07/behavorialad.shtm.
DEBT RELIEF. The FTC is hosting a workshop on September 25 to examine the growth of for-profit debt relief entities. Representatives from business, consumer advocacy groups, and government will discuss the industry’s advertising and marketing, the role of third-party lead generators, regulatory developments, and consumer education. The workshop, which is free and open to the public, will be held at the FTC’s Conference Center, 601 New Jersey Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. A government-issued photo ID is required for entry. Pre-registration is not required. Interested parties can submit original research, surveys, and academic papers until August 15. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/06/debt.shtm.
ON THE ROAD
DATA SECURITY. The FTC and the California Office of Privacy Protection will co-host a half-day, free public workshop in Los Angeles on how businesses can secure personal information and protect the privacy of consumers and employees. The workshop features business people, attorneys, government officials, privacy officers, and other experts who will provide practical guidance for businesses of all sizes on data security, privacy, developing an appropriate data security program, and responding to data breaches and other privacy and security problems. It will be held Wednesday, August 13, 2008, in the Ronald Reagan State Building. For more information, visit www.ftc.gov/infosecurity.
CREDIT REPAIR: SELF HELP MAY BE BEST. Explains how to improve your credit worthiness and lists legitimate resources for low or no-cost help. 8.5"x11", 6 pages, color.www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre13.shtm.
CHOOSING A CREDIT CARD: THE DEAL IS IN THE DISCLOSURES. Discusses credit card terms, how your balance is computed, and how to shop for the best deal. 8.5"x11", 6 pages, color. www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre05.shtm.
NEW 'RED FLAG' REQUIREMENTS FOR FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS AND CREDITORS WILL HELP FIGHT IDENTITY THEFT. Describes regulations requiring financial institutions and creditors to develop and implement written identity theft prevention programs. 8.5"x11", 2 pages.
Television is going digital on February 17, 2009. If you get your programming on an analog TV through a rooftop antenna or "rabbit ears," you may need a converter box. With many consumers in the market for converter boxes, the FTC has some shopping tips.
1. Never pay for a coupon for a digital converter box. The coupons are free from the federal government. It's illegal to sell the coupons but you can give them to a family member or friend.
2. Don’t give your Social Security number or other sensitive financial information when you order — or redeem — your coupon.
3. If you return a converter box you bought using a coupon, you can’t get the value of the coupon back. Before you buy a converter box, ask the retailer about the box’s features, any manufacturer’s warranty, and the store’s return policy.
4. Before you leave the store with your new converter box, check to make sure installation instructions are included. If you have questions, ask the retailer to explain the installation — or check to see whether the manufacturer offers a toll-free help line. You can find general installation instructions at www.dtv.gov/publications.html.
5. Installing a converter box is easy, but if you decide to hire someone to install it, get the price in writing before you agree to the job, and put any personal information you may keep in your home in a safe place.
6. Ignore any offer for a “free” converter box, especially if it requires you to pay for shipping or a warranty. The companies that are making these offers are not certified by the government, and their converter boxes are not eligible for the coupon program.
7. You can connect your analog TV to a paid service like cable or satellite. If you choose to subscribe to such a service, contact your local providers to see the kinds of services available in your area. Compare prices and terms, service commitments, and customer satisfaction rates.
8. You can buy a TV with a built-in digital tuner (also called a digital receiver). You won’t have to order a coupon or install a converter box. Check your owner's manual to see if your TV is analog or digital. You don't need to buy a high definition TV (HDTV) to get a digital picture.
For more information about the transition to digital TV, visit: www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt034.shtm or www.dtv.gov.
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