We’ve brought law enforcement actions – dozens of ‘em. We’ve held workshops, issued reports, and sent warning letters. If it takes sky writing, tap dancing, and a float in a Thanksgiving Day parade, we’ll do that, too. But here’s what’s not going to happen. The FTC is not giving up until businesses get the message that: 1) Free means free; and 2) Key terms and conditions have to be clearly and conspicuously disclosed.
(In observance of the FTC's 100th anniversary, here's the next in our FTC Milestones series.)
People who aren’t into marketing jargon might not know a “credence claim” from a Creedence Clearwater Revival, but experts tell us it’s a representation about a product that consumers aren’t in a position to evaluate for themselves. One example is what websites say about their privacy practices. Because consumers can’t test the accuracy of those claims, they often rely on third-party seals trusted for their expertise and independence.
It’s rare we get Shakespearean on you, but a letter the FTC staff just sent to Verizon Communications reminds us of the quote from Julius Caesar, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves. . . ” When it comes to the FTC’s now-closed investigation of Verizon, the staff says the fault wasn’t in the stars, but in the default.
If you’ve been following the FTC’s 50+ data security settlements, you know there are some places it’s not wise to leave sensitive information laying around – for example, in a dumpster behind a drugstore, in the trash near a payday loan company, or in an employee’s backpack.
In celebration of the FTC’s 100th anniversary, we’ve been examining the leaves on our family tree. The FTC’s founding is often associated with turn-of-the-century trust busting, but a closer look – including a study of the very first case published in Volume 1 of Federal Trade Commission Decisions – proves that the intertwined roots of consumer protection and competition run deep. That’s one of the themes of the FTC@100 Symposium on Friday, November 7, 2014.
Patent assertion entities have been the subject of much debate in antitrust and intellectual property circles. But there’s one proposition we hope that parties on all sides of the issue can agree on: It’s illegal to falsely threaten patent suits against small businesses or make unfounded claims that other companies have paid for patent licenses.
This is a special week for the Federal Trade Commission. On Thursday evening, November 6, along with the Antitrust Section of the ABA, the FTC will host our 100th Anniversary Dinner, a public event for FTC staff, alumni, friends, and supporters. Information about the event and tickets can be found on the event’s registration page.
Parents want to make the best choices for their babies’ health. But between diaper changes and 2 AM feedings, they aren’t in a position to spend much time surveying the scientific literature for ways to reduce the chance their kid will develop the allergies they suffer from. So when Gerber (also doing business as Nestle Nutrition) advertised Good Start Gentle baby formula as a way to “reduce the risk of developing allergies” – and featured a gold seal on products suggesting FDA approval – it’s understandable that parents would take note.
How’s this for a profile on a dating site? “Enjoys travel, long walks on the beach, fake potential dates that really are subscription solicitations, and illegal negative option programs, in violation of the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act (ROSCA).” If that’s your idea of a dream date, have we got a site for you!
A rental car company prominently advertises “unlimited mileage.” You rent from them and everything is going fine until you’ve done a few hours of highway driving. That’s when the company tells you it’s changed its unlimited mileage policy. Since you’ve traveled more than 100 miles, they've restricted it so the car you contracted for won't accelerate over 30.
Paying with plastic is a convenience for consumers, but a cost for companies. So small businesses are always looking for a penny to pinch in what they pay to process credit and debit cards. Enter unscrupulous pitch people who resort to impersonation, erasures, fine print, half-truths, and flat-out lies to get a business owner’s signature on a contract. When you're pricing processing, the FTC has advice on protecting yourself from a B2B bamboozle.
When you think about places lacking in oxygen, outer space might come to mind. But there’s another location right here on Planet Earth. And it’s the subject of 15 warning letters just sent by the FTC staff to companies making certain environmental marketing claims for plastic bags.
It’s called ROSCA – the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act – and it prohibits marketers from charging consumers for an online transaction unless the marketer has clearly disclosed all material terms of the deal and received the consumer’s express informed consent. Your e-commerce clients will want to know about the FTC’s first ROSCA case, filed recently in Nevada.
The FTC has been taking a 360° look at debt collection and credit reporting lately – workshops, reports, education, and law enforcement. On October 23, 2014, we're hosting a roundtable in Long Beach, California, with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to get perspectives on how these issues affect Latino consumers, especially those who have limited English proficiency.
At the FTC, we consider policy developments or proposed rule changes one rung at a time. An integral step in that process is the public comment period. If you have clients interested in two matters pending at the FTC, they have more time to put pen to paper.
A. This company just settled a case with the FTC for Do Not Call violations and deceptive promises that its purported educational products would improve kids’ grades and standardized test scores.
Q. What is WordSmart?
We’re not saying it’s the most important phone message since “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.” But the FTC hopes a $105 million settlement with AT&T Mobility stemming from unauthorized charges on consumers’ mobile phone bills will motivate industry members to listen up.
A box of light bulbs. A case of cleaner. Another box of light bulbs. Ordinary supplies that businesses and nonprofits of all sizes use every day. If these things arrive at your office doorstep, someone in your company or organization must have ordered them, right? And when the bill comes, you have to pay it, right? Well, not necessarily.