Business Blog

(Penn) Corner the Market?

Humorist Harold Coffin is credited with saying that "A consumer is a shopper who is sore about something." Whether or not that’s true, savvy marketers appreciate the value of keeping their finger on the pulse of consumer protection. What questionable practices have attracted law enforcement attention? What consumer cases are people talking about? What sales tactics have your prospective customers been warned to avoid?

Let's Make a Seal

For many people, environmental considerations play an important role in what they put in their shopping carts.  But it's tough to know when green claims are credible.  Seals and certifications can be a useful tool to help shoppers decide where to place their trust and how to spend their money — but only if they're backed by solid proof.

Many happy returns

The packages have been opened and the ribbons have been collected by that one relative who claims to recycle them. The good news is that early reports suggest that 2010 was a robust holiday shopping season. But now retailers are starting to hear that the sweater didn’t fit, the electronic gadget is on the fritz, and Great Aunt Gladys didn’t really want hang gliding gear after all.

Shedding Light on Effective Date of New Bulb Labels

Should manufacturers have more time to incorporate new light bulb labeling on their packaging? And should the new light bulb rule exempt certain bulbs that soon will be obsolete? The FTC is asking for public comment on those two questions.

The new labels, which were announced in July 2010, will help buyers choose among the different types of bulbs on store shelves — traditional incandescent bulbs, and newer high-efficiency compact fluorescent (CFL) and light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs.

Four Steps to Protecting Your Business from Con Artists

You've just opened an invoice for office supplies you didn't order or for a listing in a business directory. It’s the same invoice you got last week – but this one is stamped "Past Due." Perhaps one of your colleagues says there's someone hounding her on the phone, demanding payment for Internet services your business didn’t request. You refuse to pay, and the next thing you know, they're threatening to take you to court, or turn the bill over to a collection agency and ruin your credit.

FTC challenges Dannon’s claims for Activia Yogurt and DanActive

If you or your clients make health claims in advertising, the FTC’s settlement with Dannon Corporation for allegedly false and deceptive representations about Activia Yogurt and DanActive is a must-read.  The FTC worked closely with 39 state Attorneys General, who announced a simultaneous $21 million settlement with the company.

Data Security: Copi-er That!

If your company keeps sensitive data like Social Security numbers, credit reports, account numbers, health records, or business secrets, you’ve probably instituted safeguards to protect that information, whether it’s stored in computers or on paper. That’s great.  But it’s time to take those safeguards a step further.

ID-ylls of the Ring: FTC rethinks TSR’s Caller ID provisions

When the FTC amended the Telemarketing Sales Rule in 2003, it required telemarketers to transmit Caller ID information.  That policy had three benefits.  It promoted privacy by allowing people to screen out unwanted telemarketing calls.  It increased industry accountability by making it harder for companies to remain anonymous.  And it helped law enforcement by making it easier to identify fraudsters and companies who violated the Do Not Call Registry.

It's in the cards

The hot present this holiday season is plastic: gift cards from popular online and brick-and-mortar retailers. But this year’s cards come wrapped in important new protections for people who buy and use them.

FTC’s EchoMetrix settlement: EULA-ppreciate this guidance on privacy disclosures

Parents are understandably concerned about keeping their kids safe online.  That’s why many moms and dads paid $3.99 a month for Sentry Parental Controls, software sold by EchoMetrix, Inc.  Once Sentry is installed on a computer, buyers can log into their online account to monitor activity on that computer, including web history, online chats, and password-protected IMs.

So far, so good.  But that wasn’t the only product marketed by EchoMetrix.

Shopping in a Winter Wonderland

These days more and more holiday shoppers will be decking the halls by ducking the malls.  According to some reports, Cyber Monday has eclipsed Black Friday as the day when the going gets tough – and the tough go online shopping.

That’s great news for Internet retailers, but only if they’re up to speed on the FTC’s Mail Order Rule, which also applies to online sales. So now’s the time for businesses to make a list and check it twice to ensure Mail Order Rule compliance.

Second Largest Debt Collection Civil Penalty in FTC History – and New Compliance Resource for Business

The FTC’s recent settlement with Allied Interstate, one of the nation’s largest debt collectors, sends a timely reminder to industry members to comply with the law – and an important message to consumers that the FTC has their back when it comes to companies that cross the line.

Tales From the Unencrypted

Does your business have a wireless network?  Do you or your employees ever use wifi to catch up on work from home?  Think about all the data that could be transmitted over your wireless network – credit card numbers, bank account information, business secrets.  You probably don’t want to share that information with everyone who passes through your neighborhood.  But that’s what you’re doing if you don’t use strong encryption and take other steps to secure your home network.  Someone nearby could “piggyback” on your network, or even access the information on your computer.

"Liability? Shmiability. We're just processing payments."

Short-sighted thinking like that has landed a lot of businesses in hot water with law enforcers.  They forget that the reach of federal and state consumer protection statutes can be expansive.  Under appropriate circumstances, payment processors – as well businesses handling ad copy, telemarketing, fulfillment, and a host of other functions – may be liable for the role they play in another company’s deceptive or unfair practices.

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