Business Blog

Speaking of Spokeo: Part 1

Like chicken and waffles or ham and pineapple on pizza, some combos don’t sound like they’d go together, but make sense once you find out more.  Put the FTC’s settlement with Spokeo on that list.  According to the FTC, data broker Spokeo violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act and used deceptive endorsements in violation of Section 5.  A closer look at the pleadings explains how those two hot topics found their way into one FTC complaint.

Peer pressure

You wouldn’t post customers’ Social Security numbers on your website or stand on the street distributing handbills with hospital patients’ medical information.  But if there is improperly configured peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing software on a company computer, the result could be about the same.  That’s why two FTC settlements deserve your attention.

"Where" conditioning

A tank top and cut-offs are perfect for a balmy day in Boca Raton, just as a down parka and fuzzy mittens will ward off the shivers in Sheboygan.  That's the idea behind the Department of Energy’s new regional efficiency standards for heating and cooling equipment.  Unlike earlier DOE regs, which mandated uniform energy efficiency levels, the new standards for residential furnaces, central air conditioners, and heat pumps vary by region.  That way, consumers will have the information they need to make a choice suited to their locale.

Some sprucing up

We've done a little renovating around the BCP Business Center.  Nothing major like adding a rumpus room or finishing the basement.  Just a few updates in response to your suggestions.

Collection deception

On classic episodes of the Tonight Show, affable sidekick Ed McMahon sought guidance from Johnny Carson's all-knowing Carnac character.  But as demonstrated by a recent FTC law enforcement action — which involved a company's misleading reference to the late Mr. McMahon — you don't need a psychic to know that challenging deceptive debt collection practices remains a top priority.

Judge issues Initial Decision in POM Wonderful case

An FTC Administrative Law Judge ruled that POM Wonderful LLC and related parties made misleading claims that POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice and other products would treat, prevent, or reduce the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction.  Although the remedy in the case wasn’t everything the FTC staff had asked for, the ALJ concluded that POM had engaged in false and deceptive advertising.

What your ads say and what the science supports: If the shoe doesn't fit...

According to the FTC, Skechers made false and deceptive claims about the benefits of Shape-ups and other Skechers brands.  If you’re in the fitness or health business, the $40 million settlement should grab your attention.  But the underlying principles apply to all advertisers.  If you're looking to get a leg up on substantiation, here are some footnotes to take from the case.

Drip pricing conference in the pipeline

Drip pricing: It may sound like something involving faulty plumbing fixtures, but it's the practice of advertising only part of a product’s price up front and then revealing other charges as the shopper goes through the buying process.

On May 21, 2012, the FTC is sponsoring a Conference on the Economics of Drip Pricing.  The panels of econ profs — boasting more degrees than a thermometer — will discuss empirical analyses of drip pricing and the policy implications for consumers and competition.

A closer look at the Myspace Order: Part 2

Social network site Myspace promised users it wouldn’t share their personally identifiable information in a way that was inconsistent with the reason people provided the info, without first notifying them and getting their approval. The company also said that information used to customize ads wouldn’t identify people to third parties and that Myspace wouldn’t share browsing activity that wasn’t anonymous.

FTC's Myspace case: Part 1

Have you reviewed your company’s privacy policy lately? The FTC’s proposed settlement with social network Myspace serves as a timely reminder to make sure what you tell people about your privacy practices lines up with what actually happens in the day-to-day operation of your business. While you’re at it, double-check to make sure you’re giving customers the straight story about third-party access to their information.

The second time around

Here’s a compliance tip that extends beyond the narrow facts of the FTC case at hand: If you run into legal trouble and are able to avoid law enforcement action, make sure it doesn’t happen a second time. That’s what business people from every sector can take from the FTC’s settlement with James Donofrio and Donmaz Ltd., doing business as New York’s Blair-Mazzarella Funeral Home.

Close-up on disclosures

The FTC just released the preliminary agenda for the May 30, 2012, workshop to consider the need for new guidance for online advertisers about making disclosures. If that’s a topic of interest to your business (and it’s tough to imagine a company not involved in those discussions), you’ll want to stay up on the latest.

What’s on the schedule for May 30th? After a kick-off presentation on usability research, the workshop will feature four panels:

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