Business Blog

Law and (Un)ordered

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.

Full Disclosure

If the disclosure of information is necessary to prevent an ad from being deceptive, the disclosure has to be clear and conspicuous. That shouldn’t be news to any advertiser and certainly not to the 60+ companies – including 20 of the 100 biggest advertisers in the U.S. – that received warning letters as a part of the FTC’s Operation Full Disclosure.

Who’s mining the store? FTC sues company selling bitcoin mining equipment

History buffs – and fans of the series “Deadwood” – know that promises of riches lured many prospectors west. Now imagine if the general store in Deadwood advertised state-of-the-art shovels, pans, and pick axes necessary for mining, but never delivered the gear or delivered it long after others had mined the prime parcels. That’s pretty much what the FTC says Kansas City-based Butterfly Labs is up to, except that what today’s prospectors are mining are bitcoins.

Telling tales out of school

An online high school that bypasses the pep rallies, proms, and the principal’s office? Under the right circumstances, that might be an innovation in education. But what if it skips the classes and coursework while falsely promising a valid sheepskin from an accredited institution?

A loan again?

Say a consumer is thinking about buying something. They give a company information that would be necessary if they ultimately decide to make the purchase.  Now suppose the company auctions off that data to the highest bidder, who completes the transaction without ever getting the consumer’s consent to the terms.

Big COPPA problems for TinyCo

Fans of Tiny Pets, Tiny Zoo, Tiny Village, Tiny Monsters, and Mermaid Resort will be relieved to know that adorable Sully the Dog and arch-nemesis Duke Spendington haven’t been named in their individual capacities. But the developer of those kid-directed apps – San-Francisco-based TinyCo, Inc. – just settled an FTC lawsuit alleging the company violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule.

Today’s the day for Big Data

Big Data is a big deal for businesses, consumers, academics, and policymakers.  There's no doubt it opens the door to more powerful analytical techniques that can advance medical research, education, transportation, etc.  But some have voiced concerns about whether it may be used to categorize consumers in ways that may affect them unfairly, or even unlawfully.  That's the topic on the table at an FTC workshop, Big Data: A Tool for Inclusion or Exclusion?, and it's happening today,

“High School Skinny” claims are thin on proof

“Get High School Skinny!”  That was one pitch Georgia-based HealthyLife Sciences made for its Healthe Trim line of diet products.  The company’s radio ads, TV commercials, and website promised it all.  Just a couple of capsules in the morning would burn fat, boost metabolism, and suppress the appetite, leading to the fast and easy loss of as much as 19 pounds the first week.  But according to a proposed FTC settlement, the real result was the fast and easy loss of b

Pass It On

There's an abundant natural resource that’s underused in the U.S. – and unleashing its power could make a major contribution to economic independence.

It’s the expertise and experience of America’s older consumers.

Wake up and smell the coffee

Just as Helen of Troy has gone down in history as The Face that Launched a Thousand Ships, a seriously flawed study purporting to show that green coffee bean extract is scientifically proven to cause weight loss may be remembered as The Fake that Launched a Thousand Slips.  An FTC settlement with Applied Food Sciences, Inc. – whose ingredient has been promoted everywhere from diet pill ads to The Dr.

4 tips businesses can take from the FTC’s $19+ million Google settlement

The polar bears and penguins sold within kids’ apps offered in the Google Play Store may have been virtual, but the unauthorized charges Moms and Dads got stuck with were all too real.  A proposed FTC settlement will refund at least $19 million to parents whose accounts were charged illegally, according to the complaint, and will implement enforceable changes in how Google handles in-app purchases.  Of course, the order applies just to Google, but the case of

Robocalls, honeypots and DEF CON 22

If it were a 50s scifi movie, we’d call it “Invasion of the Serenity Snatchers” – illegal and annoying robocalls that disturb consumers’ peace and quiet. The battle continues, of course, but we’re happy to announce the winners of the FTC’s “Zapping Rachel” contest held just a few weeks ago at DEF CON 22.

The contest challenged participants to design a robocall honeypot, a system for attracting robocallers. It’s a critical tool for helping law enforcers, researchers, and others enhance our understanding of robocallers’ tricky tactics.

A bossy business scam

You get an email from your boss’s boss requesting that you make a wire transfer to a new vendor. The email is marked urgent, so you ignore the 20 others that need your attention to take care of it. You handle wire transfers all the time, and you’ll definitely score points for responding so quickly, right? Maybe not.

Hunting the wily CROA-codile

They’re dangerous, they strike fast, and they rely on camouflage to ambush their prey. We call them CROA-codiles – companies that lure cash-strapped consumers in with false promises of debt relief and credit repair, in violation of the FTC Act and the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA). According to a lawsuit just filed by the FTC, the defendants added to the injury by claiming a bogus affiliation with federal agencies – and the President.

The final chapter in the FTC’s “Your Baby Can Read!” case

With a product name like “Your Baby Can Read!” – exclamation point in the original – it didn’t take long for consumers to figure out what the marketers were promising.  The company’s massive ad campaign featured 14-month-olds mastering vocabulary flashcards, two-year-olds reading books, and an array of charts, graphs, and studies purporting to show that Your Baby Can Read! was scientifically proven to work.

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