Business Blog Posts http://www.ftc.gov/ en Shape up your shapewear claims http://www.ftc.gov/business-guidance/blog/2014/09/shape-your-shapewear-claims <span property="schema:name">Shape up your shapewear claims</span> <span rel="schema:author"><span lang="" about="/user/74" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">wfg-adm109</span></span> <span property="schema:dateCreated" content="2014-09-29T16:07:26+00:00">September 29, 2014 | 12:07PM</span> <h3 class="node-title"><a href="/business-guidance/blog/2014/09/shape-your-shapewear-claims" hreflang="en">Shape up your shapewear claims</a></h3> <div class="field field--name-field-author field--type-string field--label-inline"> <div class="field__label">By</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item">Lesley Fair</div> </div> </div> <div property="schema:text" class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden"> <div class="field__items"> <div property="schema:text" class="field__item"><p>We can’t vouch for the accuracy of Shakira’s representation that “Hips Don’t Lie.” But the <a href="http://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2014/09/norm-thompson-outfitters-wacoal-america-settle-ftc-charges-over">FTC says anti-cellulite and slimming claims for caffeine-embedded underwear sold by lingerie company Wacoal and catalog retailer Norm Thompson were deceptive</a>. As for Norm Thompson's statement that Dr. Oz endorsed its products, the <a href="http://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/cases/1409normancmpt.pdf">complaint challenges that as false</a>. (And no, we’re not kidding about the caffeine-embedded underwear part.)</p> <p><img alt="" src="/sites/default/files/business/Wacoal%20small.jpg" style="float:left; height:310px; padding:5px; width:235px" />Wacoal advertised its iPant line in magazines, online, through social media, and on point-of-sale displays. Was this just a temporary smoothing illusion when women wore the tights, bike shorts, or leggings under clothing? Not according to Wacoal: "Novarel Slim microfiber incorporates microcapsules containing caffeine, retinol, ceramides and other active principles that improve skin’s appearance and control cellulite.  The caffeine activates microcirculation and speeds up the breakdown of fat. The active principles are released during the garment’s use, providing a permanent anti-cellulite effect."</p> <p>Wacoal’ s hangtag, which recommended wearing the tights or shorts 8 hours a day for 28 days, claimed that “test results show most women reported,” among other things, “a reduction in thigh measurement.”</p> <p>But there was less to Wacoal’s “proof” than met the eye. The <a href="http://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/cases/1409wacoalcmpt.pdf">FTC says Wacoal based its claims on two unblinded, uncontrolled trials with serious methodological flaws</a>. What’s more, the company stretched the truth about the results people got from wearing the shapewear. Wacoal's ads promised a "reduction in thigh measurement," but the study showed an average loss of less than 1/6 of an inch.</p> <p>Norm Thompson also made cellulite and reduction claims for the products it sold – bike shorts, tights, and leggings marketed with the brand name Lytess: “Lose 2 inches off hips and 1 inch off thighs in less than a month . . . without effort.”  The ads continued, “No diets or pills. Lose inches just by wearing these cellulite-slimming Lytess leggings. The unique fabric is infused with caffeine to metabolize fat. . . . In less than a month, you’ll be visibly slimmer and firmer.” The company claimed the product worked because “caffeine metabolizes and dehydrates fat cells” and “botanicals flush out toxins.”</p> <p><img alt="" src="/sites/default/files/business/Norm%20Thompson.jpg" style="float:right; height:463px; padding:4px; width:285px" />Don’t just take our word for it, Norm Thompson said: “Dr. Oz loves these.” The company’s <em>Body Belle</em> and <em>Solutions</em> catalogs added, “Recommended by Dr. Oz for fighting cellulite!”</p> <p>What did the science really show?  According to the FTC, the studies cited by the company were unblinded, uncontrolled, and rife with methodological flaws. Furthermore, Norm Thompson selectively advertised a lone statistical outlier. Only one participant out of the 55 people in the studies reported a 2” loss from the hips and only one reported 1” off the thighs.</p> <p>That glowing recommendation from Dr. Oz? The FTC charged that Dr. Oz never endorsed the product.</p> <p>Under the terms of separate proposed settlements, the companies will need competent and reliable scientific evidence to support a broad range of future ad claims. In addition, Wacoal will pay $1.3 million and Norm Thompson will pay $230,000 to provide refunds for people who bought the products. </p> <p>What can other companies take from these cases?</p> <p><strong>Substantiation for objective claims: A foundational principle.</strong>  When selling unmentionables, most advertisers mention fit, comfort, or other subjective attributes. But the law draws a sharp distinction between a suggestion that a certain kind of underwear may help people look or feel better while wearing it vs. an affirmative representation (especially one supposedly supported with scientific evidence) that it will reduce cellulite, shrink hips or thighs, and destroy fat. If you don’t have a solid underpinning for what you say, don’t make objective claims that are subject to the FTC’s long-standing “reasonable basis” standard.</p> <p><strong>A brief word on testing methodology. </strong> In both cases, the FTC challenged the way the underlying studies were conducted. Of course, the appropriate methodology will depend on – among other things – the nature of the claim and what experts in the field believe is necessary to support it. But uncontrolled, unblinded tests for caffeine-infused fat-dehydrating underwear?  A prudent advertiser would evaluate the methodology with care.</p> <p><strong>When recapping results, remove the rose-colored glasses.</strong>  Even putting aside the fundamental flaws in methodology, the FTC says Wacoal and Norm Thompson falsely reported the results of their studies. As these cases suggest, it’s unwise to build an ad campaign around statistical outliers. Basing claims on best-case-scenario findings could lead to a worst-case-scenario result for advertisers.</p> <p><strong>Name dropping?</strong>  It’s Marketing 101 that advertisers like to associate their products with famous names. But it’s FTC Law 101 that if an ad says a person endorses a product – whether an expert, a celebrity, or someone else – that claim has to be true. By falsely stating "All styles are recommended by Dr. Oz for fighting cellulite!" Norm Thompson violated that principle.</p> <p>You can file online comments about the proposed settlements with <a href="https://ftcpublic.commentworks.com/ftc/wacoalamericaconsent/">Wacoal</a> and <a href="https://ftcpublic.commentworks.com/ftc/normthompsonconsent/">Norm Thompson</a> by October 29, 2014.</p> </div> </div> </div> Mon, 29 Sep 2014 16:07:26 +0000 wfg-adm109 74282 at http://www.ftc.gov Grading your degradability claims: The latest for green marketers http://www.ftc.gov/business-guidance/blog/2013/10/grading-your-degradability-claims-latest-green-marketers <span property="schema:name">Grading your degradability claims: The latest for green marketers</span> <span rel="schema:author"><span lang="" about="/user/74" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">wfg-adm109</span></span> <span property="schema:dateCreated" content="2013-10-29T14:25:18+00:00">October 29, 2013 | 10:25AM</span> <h3 class="node-title"><a href="/business-guidance/blog/2013/10/grading-your-degradability-claims-latest-green-marketers" hreflang="en">Grading your degradability claims: The latest for green marketers</a></h3> <div class="field field--name-field-author field--type-string field--label-inline"> <div class="field__label">By</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item">Lesley Fair</div> </div> </div> <div property="schema:text" class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden"> <div class="field__items"> <div property="schema:text" class="field__item"><p>Golf tees, food containers, paper plates, shopping bags, additives for plastics, and rebar caps to prevent construction workers from getting impaled on the job. That’s either the strangest shopping list ever or just some of the products at the center of the <a href="http://ftc.gov/opa/2013/10/greenactions.shtm">FTC’s latest law enforcement effort to make sure companies’ environmental claims are truthful and substantiated</a>.</p> <p>Five of the cases deal with green claims for products made with additives advertised to make plastics completely biodegradable — even in landfills where a lot of trash winds up, but not much biodegrading takes place.  The lawsuits challenge allegedly deceptive representations both by the company that manufactured one of the additives in question <em>and</em> by businesses that sold finished products with the misleading assurance the items were biodegradable.</p> <p>According to the FTC’s complaint against Ohio-based ECM Biofilms, the company marketed an additive called Master Batch Pellets that other businesses bought to use in their own manufacturing.  ECM advertised that its additive would make plastics “fully biodegrade in 9 months to 5 years.”  Furthermore, ECM claimed that material treated with its additive had been tested and proven as biodegradable using ASTM D5511, a standard familiar to plastics people.  In addition, ECM issued its own “Certificates of Biodegradability” and “Certificates of Assurance” to convince industry clients — and ultimately consumers – that its additive was effective.</p> <p>But according to the complaint, plastics containing ECM’s additive won’t completely break down and decompose into elements found in nature within a reasonably short period of time after customary disposal or after disposal in a landfill.  The FTC also challenged the specific “9 months to 5 years” timeframe ECM touted in its promotional materials.  In addition, the FTC says the testing methods relied upon by ECM, including the ASTM D5511, don’t support the company’s marketing claims and don’t simulate the conditions in landfills or at other disposal facilities.  Another allegation in the complaint:  that ECM violated the law by providing other companies with the "means and instrumentalities" to make deceptive green claims about their own products.  The case against ECM will go to trial before an Administrative Law Judge.</p> <p>The FTC also announced two settlements with companies charged with making deceptive biodegradability claims for products manufactured with ECM’s additive.  According to the complaint against Seattle-based American Plastic Manufacturing, the company made deceptive biodegradability claims for its plastic shopping bags.  The agency also alleged that CHAMP, located in Marlborough, Massachusetts, sold plastic golf tees online and in retail stores with biodegradability promises the FTC says are misleading.</p> <p>The agency reached two additional settlements with companies that sold products containing similar additives marketed by different manufacturers.  Clear Choice Housewares of Leominster, Massachusetts – which also does business as Farber Ware EcoFresh — sold reusable plastic food containers it claimed were biodegradable. What was supposed to make them biodegradable?  According to the company, it was a substance called Eco Pure, made by Bio-Tec Environmental.  But the FTC charged that Clear Choice didn’t have proof to support claims that its product “quickly biodegrades in landfills.”</p> <p>Carnie Cap, Inc., of East Moline, Illinois, made similar degradability representations for its plastic rebar covers, which were manufactured with an additive called Eco-One, marketed by Ecologic.  According to the FTC, Carnie Cap’s “100% biodegradable” claim — advertised on its website and through distributors nationwide — wasn’t backed up with sound science.</p> <p>There’s more from the FTC on the green front, including a settlement with Michigan-based AJM Packaging Corporation, which makes paper plates, cups, bowls, napkins, etc.  Does that name ring a bell?  It did for the FTC, due to a 1994 settlement with the company for allegedly deceptive environmental claims for its Green Label paper plates.</p> <p>The new lawsuit centers on AJM’s representations that some of its most popular paper plates, grocery bags, lunch bags, and lawn and leaf bags were biodegradable and compostable.  The company also touted its paper plates as recyclable.  AJM went a step further by saying in a brochure that its products are “SFI and ‘Cedar Grove’ approved, which means our products are ‘Renewable, Recyclable and Compostable.’”</p> <p>Not so fast, says the FTC.  According to the complaint, AJM didn’t have sound science to back up its claim that the products will biodegrade (in other words, completely break down and decompose into elements found in nature) within a year when tossed in a landfill.  The lawsuit also says the company didn’t have appropriate proof for its compostability promises.  What about AJM’s recyclability claims for paper plates?  Most recycling facilities won’t take paper plates, rendering that claim deceptive, too.</p> <p>AJM's settlement includes a $450,000 civil penalty.</p> <p>For compliance resources, visit the Business Center's <a href="/advertising-and-marketing/environmental-marketing">Environmental Marketing page</a>.</p> <p><a href="/blog/2013/10/6-tips-keeping-your-green-claims-clean"><strong><em>Next:</em></strong>  6 tips to take from the FTC’s latest green cases</a></p> <p> </p></div> </div> </div> Tue, 29 Oct 2013 14:25:18 +0000 wfg-adm109 74314 at http://www.ftc.gov FTC and FDA warn marketers about fertility-related products http://www.ftc.gov/business-guidance/blog/2021/05/ftc-fda-warn-marketers-about-fertility-related-products <span property="schema:name">FTC and FDA warn marketers about fertility-related products</span> <span rel="schema:author"><span lang="" about="/user/96" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">lfair</span></span> <span property="schema:dateCreated" content="2021-05-26T15:54:32+00:00">May 26, 2021 | 11:54AM</span> <h3 class="node-title"><a href="/business-guidance/blog/2021/05/ftc-fda-warn-marketers-about-fertility-related-products" hreflang="en">FTC and FDA warn marketers about fertility-related products</a></h3> <div class="field field--name-field-author field--type-string field--label-inline"> <div class="field__label">By</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item">Lesley Fair</div> </div> </div> <div property="schema:text" class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden"> <div class="field__items"> <div property="schema:text" class="field__item"><p>People facing infertility have a lot to think about in exploring the options available to them. But one thing that shouldn’t be on that list are unapproved products that make questionable claims to “treat” infertility. <a href="https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2021/05/federal-trade-commission-fda-warn-five-companies-may-be-illegally">That’s the warning the FTC and the FDA have sent</a> to companies that have pitched products to consumers searching for answers to what can be a complex medical condition.</p> <p>The agencies sent joint warning letters to five companies making fertility representations. Here are just a few of the claims cited in the letters:</p> <ul><li><strong><a href="https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/warning-letters/warning-letter-conceiveeasy">LeRoche Benicoeur.</a></strong>  In advertising a product called ConceiveEasy, the California company has claimed that it “does not treat only one cause of infertility, but tackles them all simultaneously: it regulates menstrual and ovulatory disorders; it helps eliminate luteal phase defects . . . .”</li> <li><a href="https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/warning-letters/warning-letter-eu-natural-inc"><strong>EU Natural Inc.</strong></a>  According to the Nevada company, a substance in its Conception Female Fertility Prenatal product “can absolutely combat infertility issues.” The company has further claimed that in one study of 25 women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, “10 of the 25 women actually got pregnant” while taking the ingredient.</li> <li><a href="https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/warning-letters/warning-letter-fertility-nutraceuticals-llc"><strong>Fertility Nutraceuticals LLC.</strong></a>  The New York business has advertised multiple products on its website for the treatment of infertility, including Conflam-Forte, Fertinatal DHEA, and Ovoenergen CoenzymeQ10. For example, the company has claimed that “Fertinatal Fertility DHEA has been shown in multiple studies to . . . reduce miscarriage risk.”</li> <li><a href="https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/warning-letters/warning-letter-ns-products-inc"><strong>NS Products, Inc.</strong></a>  In marketing a product called NaturaCure, the Washington company has claimed, “You will get pregnant very fast and give birth to healthy children regardless of . . . how severe or chronic your infertility disorder.” NS Products further stated, “Depending on individual customers and the types of infertility treated, success rates ranged from about 50% up to 98%.”</li> <li><strong><a href="https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/warning-letters/warning-letter-sal-nature-llcfertilherb">Sal Nature LLC. </a> </strong>The Wyoming company sells a product called FertilHerb. On its website, the company has represented that “many studies” have found an ingredient in FertilHerb “to be a simple and safe treatment capable of restoring . . . fertility in most patients with PCOS.”</li> </ul><p>The letters remind the companies of their obligation under the FTC Act to have competent and reliable scientific evidence – which, depending on the circumstances, may mean well-controlled human clinical testing – to support advertising claims that a product can prevent, treat, or cure a disease. That includes both express misrepresentations as well as exaggerations, whether conveyed directly or indirectly through the use of a product name, website, metatags, or other means. The letters further state that recipients may be subject to civil penalties of as much as $43,792 per violation under Section 5(m)(1)(B) of the FTC Act, and may have to pay refunds to consumers or provide other relief under Section 19(b). The five companies have 15 working days to get back to the FTC with the steps they’ve taken to address the concerns about their possibly deceptive claims.</p> <p>In addition, the letters let the advertisers know that their products are considered “new drugs” under the FDA’s Food, Drug, &amp; Cosmetic Act and thus can’t be legally introduced without prior FDA approval. According to the FDA, “Failure to adequately address this matter may result in legal action including, without limitation, seizure and injunction.” The recipients also have 15 working days to notify the FDA of the specific steps they have taken to address any violations.</p> <p>From the FTC’s perspective, the message should be clear to those five companies and others making fertility-related claims for their products. Infertility is a serious medical concern that can be caused by many different multi-factorial conditions. Don’t make advertising claims unless you can back them up with the highest level of methodologically sound science.<br /><br /><br />  </p> </div> </div> </div> Wed, 26 May 2021 15:54:32 +0000 lfair 74347 at http://www.ftc.gov A Look at What ISPs Know About You: A must-read report from the FTC http://www.ftc.gov/business-guidance/blog/2021/10/look-what-isps-know-about-you-must-read-report-ftc <span property="schema:name">A Look at What ISPs Know About You: A must-read report from the FTC</span> <span rel="schema:author"><span lang="" about="/user/96" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">lfair</span></span> <span property="schema:dateCreated" content="2021-10-21T19:45:17+00:00">October 21, 2021 | 3:45PM</span> <h3 class="node-title"><a href="/business-guidance/blog/2021/10/look-what-isps-know-about-you-must-read-report-ftc" hreflang="en">A Look at What ISPs Know About You: A must-read report from the FTC</a></h3> <div class="field field--name-field-author field--type-string field--label-inline"> <div class="field__label">By</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item">Lesley Fair</div> </div> </div> <div property="schema:text" class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden"> <div class="field__items"> <div property="schema:text" class="field__item"><p><a href="https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2021/10/ftc-staff-report-finds-many-internet-service-providers-collect">The FTC just released a report</a> based on data received from major players in the mobile Internet market and <a href="https://www.ftc.gov/reports/look-what-isps-know-about-you-examining-privacy-practices-six-major-internet-service">A Look at What ISPs Know About You: Examining the Privacy Practices of Six Major Internet Service Providers</a> is an eye opener. According to the FTC, several Internet service providers collect and share far more personal data than their customers expect while failing to give customers meaningful choice about how that data can be used.</p> <p>Under Section 6(b) of the FTC Act, the agency may require companies to file “reports or answers in writing to specific questions” about their business practices. In 2019 the orders went to six ISPs that make up about 98% of the mobile Internet market:<a href="https://www.ftc.gov/reports/look-what-isps-know-about-you-examining-privacy-practices-six-major-internet-service"><img alt="" src="/sites/default/files/isp_6b_report_cover.jpg" style="float:right; height:288px; margin:20px 15px; width:225px" /></a></p> <ul style="list-style-type:disc; margin-top:0in" type="disc"><li>AT&amp;T Mobility,</li> <li>Cellco Partnership (Verizon Wireless),</li> <li>Charter Communications Operating,</li> <li>Comcast Cable Communications (Xfinity),</li> <li>T-Mobile US, and</li> <li>Google Fiber.</li> </ul><p>The FTC also sent 6(b) orders to three advertising companies affiliated with those ISPs: AT&amp;T’s Appnexus (now Xandr), Verizon’s Verizon Online, and Oath Americas (now Verizon Media).</p> <p>You’ll want to read the entire <a href="https://www.ftc.gov/reports/look-what-isps-know-about-you-examining-privacy-practices-six-major-internet-service">report</a> for more about data collection and privacy practices, but here are just a few observations that merit closer consideration:</p> <p><strong>Many ISPs amass large pools of sensitive consumer data.</strong> Several ISPs and affiliates collect significant amounts of consumer information across a broad range of products. Add to that the fact that people are using so many other services that depend on their Internet access – for example, home security and automation, video streaming, content creation, advertising, email, search, wearables, and connected cars. The result is the collection of detailed data about individual subscribers. When combined with even more information from third party data brokers, those ISPs are able to draw highly specific insights and inferences not just about subscribers, but about their families and households, too.</p> <p><strong>Several ISPs in the study gather and use data in ways consumers don’t expect and could cause them harm.</strong> Consumers may expect ISPs to collect certain information about the sites they visit as part of the task of providing internet service, but it goes way beyond that. Many ISPs in the study also collect and combine other highly sensitive data – browsing information, TV viewing history, contents of email and search, data from connected devices, location information, and data about race and ethnicity, to name just a few categories. That raises the specter of how that information could be used for discriminatory or other harmful purposes.</p> <p><strong>Although many ISPs in the study purport to offer consumers choices, those choices are often illusory.</strong> Several ISPs in the study claim to offer choices about data collection, but how clearly do they explain that to their subscribers? And to what extent do those ISPs nudge people toward sharing more data?</p> <p><strong>Many ISPs in the study can be at least as privacy-intrusive as large advertising platforms.</strong> Despite ISPs’ relative size in a market dominated by Google, Facebook, and Amazon, the privacy implications of ISPs are amplified. Four reasons suggest why: 1) Many ISPs have access to 100% of consumers’ unencrypted internet traffic; 2) many ISPs can verify the identity of their subscribers; 3) several ISPs can track consumers across websites and geographic locations; and 4) a significant number of ISPs can combine subscribers’ browsing and viewing history with large amounts of other information they get from additional Internet-dependent products, services, and features they offer.</p> <p>Read <a href="https://www.ftc.gov/reports/look-what-isps-know-about-you-examining-privacy-practices-six-major-internet-service">A Look at What ISPs Know About You: Examining the Privacy Practices of Six Major Internet Service Providers</a> for key details.<br /><br /><br />  </p> </div> </div> </div> Thu, 21 Oct 2021 19:45:17 +0000 lfair 78016 at http://www.ftc.gov The lesson of the MARS Rule: Not one penny up front http://www.ftc.gov/business-guidance/blog/2018/01/lesson-mars-rule-not-one-penny-front <span property="schema:name">The lesson of the MARS Rule: Not one penny up front</span> <span rel="schema:author"><span lang="" about="/user/96" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">lfair</span></span> <span property="schema:dateCreated" content="2018-01-26T17:51:35+00:00">January 26, 2018 | 12:51PM</span> <h3 class="node-title"><a href="/business-guidance/blog/2018/01/lesson-mars-rule-not-one-penny-front" hreflang="en">The lesson of the MARS Rule: Not one penny up front</a></h3> <div class="field field--name-field-author field--type-string field--label-inline"> <div class="field__label">By</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item">Lesley Fair</div> </div> </div> <div property="schema:text" class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden"> <div class="field__items"> <div property="schema:text" class="field__item"><p>Like calling an NFL lineman “Tiny,” we appreciate an ironic name as much as the next person. But it’s different when a company calls itself – among other things – Consumer Defense, Preferred Law, and Modification Review Board and then makes allegedly deceptive claims regarding loan modification services to consumers struggling to hold onto their homes. An <a href="https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2018/01/ftc-halts-deceptive-mortgage-loan-modification-scheme">FTC lawsuit filed against a related group of 14 companies and individuals</a> charges them with violations of the FTC Act and the MARS Rule (Regulation O).</p> <p><img alt="" src="/sites/default/files/preferred_law.jpg" style="float:right; height:198px; margin:10px 15px; width:175px" />According to the FTC, the defendants preyed on struggling homeowners with promises that their expert legal advice could stop consumers from going into foreclosure and that they could get affordable mortgage modifications. Advertising on TV and radio, online, through direct mail, and on the phone, the defendants often claimed that these modifications would not only save consumers’ homes, but also big bucks – for example, by slashing interest rates in half and reducing monthly payment by hundreds of dollars.</p> <p>Touting a track record as high as 98%-100%, the defendants typically charged cash-strapped consumers $3,900 in monthly installments of $650. Some contracts with consumers made representations like this:</p> <p style="margin-left:40px">Based on the past performance of American Home Loan Counselors with the assistance of Preferred Law’s federal legal services, and our knowledge of your factual situation, MRB [Modification Review Board] hereby GUARANTEES that a modification or home foreclosure alternative pursuant to the HAFA program will be secured for you conditioned upon the following terms . . . .</p> <p>(The “conditions” were things like paying required fees and returning documents in a timely fashion.)</p> <p>The FTC says that the defendants strung consumers along for months with misleading promises that modification packages were in the works. As part of the ploy, the defendants allegedly directed homeowners not to pay their mortgages and not to communicate with their lenders. The defendants insisted that consumers pay <em>them</em>, of course.</p> <p>But <a href="https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/cases-proceedings/172-3021/federal-trade-commission-v-consumer-defense-llc-et-al-0">according to the FTC</a>, in numerous instances, the defendants failed to get any relief for their customers. The complaint alleges that consumers learned from their lenders that the defendants didn’t provide complete modification documents, submitted irrelevant requests for information, or never even contacted the lender in the first place. The lawsuit charges that by turning over what little cash they had to the defendants and getting next to nothing in return, many consumers ultimately lost their homes.</p> <p><img alt="" src="/sites/default/files/preferred_law_mha.jpg" style="float:right; height:161px; margin:5px 10px; width:200px" />Of course, there <em>are</em> federal programs to assist struggling homeowners, like Making Home Affordable (MHA). The FTC alleges that the defendants used doctored logos and other tactics to suggest a false affiliation with government programs.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/cases-proceedings/172-3021/federal-trade-commission-v-consumer-defense-llc-et-al-0">complaint</a> alleges the defendants violated the FTC Act by misrepresenting their services, touting a false affiliation with or endorsement by the federal government, claiming to have special relationships with the consumers’ mortgage companies, and telling people they should stop making their mortgage payments.</p> <p>The lawsuit also charges multiple violations of the MARS Rule, which makes it illegal – among other things – to ask for or receive upfront payments before there’s a written agreement between the consumer and the loan holder or servicer. The FTC says the defendants also failed to make specific disclosures required by the Rule, including (to name just a few)</p> <ul style="list-style-type:square"><li>“[Name of Company] is not associated with the government, and our service is not approved by the government or your lender.&amp;rdquo</li> <li>“Even if you accept this offer and use our service, your lender may not agree to change your loan.”</li> <li>“You may stop doing business with us at any time. You may accept or reject the offer of mortgage assistance we obtain from your lender [or servicer]. If you reject the offer, you do not have to pay us. If you accept the offer, you will have to pay us [insert] amount or method for calculating the amount] for our services.”</li> <li>“If you stop paying your mortgage, you could lose your home and damage your credit.”</li> </ul><p>The case is pending in a Nevada federal court, which granted the FTC’s request for a <a href="https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/cases-proceedings/172-3021/federal-trade-commission-v-consumer-defense-llc-et-al-0">temporary restraining order</a>.</p> <p>Looking for tips on complying with MARS? Read <a href="https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/mortgage-assistance-relief-services-rule-compliance-guide">Mortgage Assistance Relief Services Rule: A Compliance Guide for Business</a>. The most important reminder is that businesses claiming to offer mortgage assistance services can’t charge upfront fees – as in not one penny – until consumers and their loan holders or servicers sign a new agreement.<br />  </p> </div> </div> </div> Fri, 26 Jan 2018 17:51:35 +0000 lfair 54263 at http://www.ftc.gov FTC sends $149 million in refunds to people harmed in alleged AdvoCare pyramid scheme http://www.ftc.gov/business-guidance/blog/2022/05/ftc-sends-149-million-refunds-people-harmed-alleged-advocare-pyramid-scheme <span property="schema:name">FTC sends $149 million in refunds to people harmed in alleged AdvoCare pyramid scheme</span> <span rel="schema:author"><span lang="" about="/user/96" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">lfair</span></span> <span property="schema:dateCreated" content="2022-05-04T21:46:44+00:00">May 4, 2022 | 5:46PM</span> <h3 class="node-title"><a href="/business-guidance/blog/2022/05/ftc-sends-149-million-refunds-people-harmed-alleged-advocare-pyramid-scheme" hreflang="en">FTC sends $149 million in refunds to people harmed in alleged AdvoCare pyramid scheme</a></h3> <div class="field field--name-field-author field--type-string field--label-inline"> <div class="field__label">By</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item">Seena Gressin</div> </div> </div> <div property="schema:text" class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden"> <div class="field__items"> <div property="schema:text" class="field__item"><p><span><span><span><span><span>The FTC is returning more than $149 million to people who <a href="https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/news/press-releases/2022/05/federal-trade-commission-returns-more-149-million-consumers-harmed-advocare-pyramid-scheme">lost money to AdvoCare International</a>, a former multi-level marketer that the FTC says operated a pyramid scheme disguised as a business opportunity and swindled hundreds of thousands of people who signed up to be distributors of its health-and-wellness products.</span></span></span></span></span></p> <p><span><span><span>The FTC sued Texas-based AdvoCare, its former CEO, and its top promoters in 2019, alleging the defendants deceived people into believing they could earn unlimited income, attain financial freedom, and quit their regular jobs by becoming distributors for the company. In reality, the FTC alleged, the vast majority of AdvoCare distributors either earned no money or lost money.</span></span></span></p> <p><span><span><span><a href="https://www.ftc.gov/legal-library/browse/cases-proceedings/162-3109-advocare-international-lp">According to the lawsuit</a>, AdvoCare’s compensation plan required distributors to buy thousands of dollars’ worth of AdvoCare products to be eligible for cash bonuses and other rewards and, in classic pyramid scheme style, compensated the distributors for bringing new recruits into the business, rather than for selling products to customers.</span></span></span></p> <p><span><span><span></span></span></span></p> <article class="align-right media media--type-image media--view-mode-sm"><div class="media__content"> <div class="field field--name-field-media-image field--type-image field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field__label usa-sr-only">Image</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/scaled_sm/public/consumer_ftc_gov/images/UpdateAdovoCare_Consumer_BlogGraphics_052022_1200x630_EN.png?itok=VCyKWmEn" width="640" height="336" alt="Did you lose money to AdvoCare? Starting May 5, 2022: Check your mail or PayPal account about a refund " loading="lazy" typeof="foaf:Image" style="aspect-ratio: 640/336" /></div> </div> </div> </div> </article><p><span><span><span>To recruit people, the FTC alleged, the defendants told distributors to make exaggerated claims about how much money ordinary people could make — as much as hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars a year. The FTC alleged that distributors were told to create emotional narratives about how they gained financial success through AdvoCare and to instill fear in potential recruits that they would suffer from regrets later if they declined to invest in AdvoCare.</span></span></span></p> <p><span><span><span><span><span>Under a landmark settlement, AdvoCare and its former CEO were banned from multi-level marketing. AdvoCare is the largest company to be banned from multi-level marketing due to an FTC law enforcement action.</span></span></span></span></span></p> <p><span><span><span><span><span>As a result of the <a href="https://www.ftc.gov/legal-library/browse/cases-proceedings/162-3109-advocare-international-lp">settlement</a>, the FTC is sending payments to more than 224,000 people who lost money to the alleged scheme. The payments are being distributed by PayPal and by check. </span></span></span></span></span></p> <ul><li><span><span><span><span>If you get a PayPal payment, please accept it within 30 days. If you don't have a PayPal account and would prefer to get a check, call 1-855-744-1802.</span></span></span></span></li> <li><span><span><span><span></span></span></span></span>If you get a check, please cash it within 90 days<span><span><span><span>.</span></span></span></span></li> <li><span><span><span><span>Visit the <a href="https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/refunds/advocare-refunds">AdvoCare Refunds page</a> for more information. <span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span>The refund administrator, Analytics, is available at 1-855-744-1802 if you have questions.</span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></li> <li><span><span><span><span>Find answers to common questions about FTC refund payments on </span><a href="https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/cases-proceedings/refunds/refund-programs-frequently-asked-questions"><span><span>our Refund Program FAQ page</span></span></a><span>. </span></span></span></span></li> </ul><p><span><span><span><span><span>One thing to know: The FTC <b>never </b>requires people to pay money or provide account information to get a refund or to cash a refund check.</span></span></span></span></span></p> </div> </div> </div> Wed, 04 May 2022 21:46:44 +0000 lfair 78939 at http://www.ftc.gov Operation Main Street targets scams against small business http://www.ftc.gov/business-guidance/blog/2018/06/operation-main-street-targets-scams-against-small-business <span property="schema:name">Operation Main Street targets scams against small business</span> <span rel="schema:author"><span lang="" about="/user/96" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">lfair</span></span> <span property="schema:dateCreated" content="2018-06-18T14:20:13+00:00">June 18, 2018 | 10:20AM</span> <h3 class="node-title"><a href="/business-guidance/blog/2018/06/operation-main-street-targets-scams-against-small-business" hreflang="en">Operation Main Street targets scams against small business</a></h3> <div class="field field--name-field-author field--type-string field--label-inline"> <div class="field__label">By</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item">Lesley Fair</div> </div> </div> <div property="schema:text" class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden"> <div class="field__items"> <div property="schema:text" class="field__item"><p>Small business keeps America in business. But while you have your shoulder to the wheel and nose to the grindstone, it can be tough to keep an eye out for scammers. That’s why the FTC and law enforcement partners across the country have your back. Just one example is Operation Main Street: Stopping Small Business Scams, <a href="https://ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2018/06/ftc-bbb-law-enforcement-partners-announce-results-operation-main">a coordinated initiative involving 24 civil and criminal actions against B2B fraudsters</a>.</p> <p><img alt="" src="/sites/default/files/operation_main_street_infographic.png" style="float:right; height:452px; margin:10px 20px; width:275px" />In addition to ongoing litigation and recent settlements, the FTC filed a new case as part of Operation Main Street. The FTC has gone to court to challenge the conduct of nine U.S.- and Canada-based individuals and corporations operating as Premium Business Pages. (They also use the names Ameteck Group, The Local Business Pages, and Data Net Technologies.) The FTC says the defendants call small businesses claiming to be collecting on past-due bills for online directory listings, search engine optimization services, web design, or web hosting. Pay now, the callers threaten, or your account will be turned over to “collections” or will be “red flagged” – actions the callers warn could have a negative impact on the company’s credit. But in truth, the targeted small businesses never ordered the products or services in the first place.</p> <p>Another tactic the FTC says the defendants use is to offer “discounts” or to “waive” fees on the supposedly overdue amount. But if business owners pay, they can expect more calls from defendants’ telemarketers. In some cases, the telemarketers claim the payment was only the first installment. In other instances, the FTC says they perform the equivalent of telemarketing “ventriloquism,” pretending to be from a different company, but using the same bogus “overdue invoice” gambit. A federal judge has granted the FTC’s request for a temporary restraining order.</p> <p>Other law enforcers are also taking aim at scammers who target small business. The Attorneys General of Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, New York, Tennessee, and Texas took action as part of Operation Main Street. From bogus business directories to government imposter fraud, the breadth of the challenged conduct illustrates the many shady faces of B2B fraud.</p> <p>Other noteworthy developments are two criminal cases brought as part of Operation Main Street. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York – with assistance from the New York Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service – announced the arrest of a person allegedly operating a $3 million fake invoice scam. In addition, the U.S. Attorney for Maryland brought a criminal action of particular interest to FTC watchers. Last year the FTC <a href="https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/cases-proceedings/132-3275-x140044/standard-industries-llc">settled a lawsuit</a> against an outfit that bilked small businesses and nonprofits out of more than $50 million in a scam involving unordered light bulbs and cleaning supplies. The U.S. Attorney’s Office just reached a plea agreement with a leader of that operation. He’ll face sentencing soon.</p> <p><a href="https://ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/scams-your-small-business-guide-business"><img alt="" src="/sites/default/files/scams_and_your_small_business.jpg" style="float:right; height:224px; margin:10px 20px; width:150px" /></a>But law enforcement is only one part of Operation Main Street. Education is a key component, too. The FTC just issued a new publication, <a href="https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/scams-your-small-business-guide-business">Scams and Your Small Business</a>, with to-the-point tips on how you can spot the signs of a scam and what to do if con artists have targeted your company.</p> <p>In addition, the Better Business Bureau has issued a <a href="https://www.bbb.org/SmallBusiness">research report</a> on small business scams, based on information from 1200 small businesses. According to the BBB, 67% of those surveyed perceive scammers as a growing risk to their company. The top five scams they identified: 1) bank/credit card company imposters; 2) directory listing and advertising services; 3) fake invoices/supplier bills; 4) fake checks; and 5) tech support scams.</p> <p>What can your business do to magnify the impact of Operation Main Street?</p> <ul><li><strong>Educate your employees.</strong> The FTC has you covered with that new publication, <a href="https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/scams-your-small-business-guide-business">Scams and Your Small Business</a>. By learning about the latest scams, your staff can deliver a devastating one-two punch to fraudsters: a forceful <em>buh</em>-bye followed by a “we mean business” hang-up.</li> <li><strong>Report fraud. </strong>People who responded to the BBB survey say that one of their primary motivations for reporting fraud is to help warn others. That says a lot about the small businesses that form the backbone of our economy. Spot a scam? Speak up. <a href="https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&amp;panel1-1">Report</a> what you’ve seen to the FTC.</li> </ul></div> </div> </div> Mon, 18 Jun 2018 14:20:13 +0000 lfair 54302 at http://www.ftc.gov Stemming unproven stem cell therapy claims http://www.ftc.gov/business-guidance/blog/2018/10/stemming-unproven-stem-cell-therapy-claims <span property="schema:name">Stemming unproven stem cell therapy claims</span> <span rel="schema:author"><span lang="" about="/user/96" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">lfair</span></span> <span property="schema:dateCreated" content="2018-10-18T15:27:14+00:00">October 18, 2018 | 11:27AM</span> <h3 class="node-title"><a href="/business-guidance/blog/2018/10/stemming-unproven-stem-cell-therapy-claims" hreflang="en">Stemming unproven stem cell therapy claims</a></h3> <div class="field field--name-field-author field--type-string field--label-inline"> <div class="field__label">By</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item">Lesley Fair</div> </div> </div> <div property="schema:text" class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden"> <div class="field__items"> <div property="schema:text" class="field__item"><p><span><span>Old West nostrum sellers used to market treatments for a broad range of diseases with the slogan “Good for what ails ya.” California-based Regenerative Medical Group used a current buzzword in science – stem cell therapy – to peddle what they claimed were treatments for conditions as varied as cerebral palsy and autism to Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and macular degeneration. But <a href="https://ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2018/10/ftc-stops-deceptive-health-claims-stem-cell-therapy-clinic">according to the FTC</a>, they didn’t have proof to back up their expansive promises. “What ails ya?” For consumers struggling with serious diseases, the lawsuit demonstrates the FTC’s concern with “what fails ya” – in other words, unproven “cures” that lack scientific support.</span></span></p> <p><span><span><img alt="Regenerative Medical complaint exhibits" src="/sites/default/files/regerative_medical_complaint_exhibits_3.jpg" style="float:right; height:684px; margin-left:20px; margin-right:20px; width:225px" />Advertising online and through social media, the defendants, including owner Bryn Jarald Henderson, D.O., promoted stem cell treatments derived from the amniotic fluid of women who have given birth via C-section. Their <a href="https://edit.ftc.gov/enforcement/cases-proceedings/172-3062/regenerative-medical-group-inc">marketing claims</a> were – to say the least – dramatic. According to a promotional letter from Dr. Henderson, “Lives are being saved, the blind see, the crippled walk and the patients with heart, lung, kidney and nerve diseases can alter the course of their suffering with a simple therapy [that] lasts for years and impacts their lives NOW!”</span></span></p> <p><span><span>The defendants’ ads also made express claims about specific intractable medical conditions:</span></span></p> <ul><li><span><span>“Stem Cell Treatments have been shown to improve sight in patients with Macular degeneration.”</span></span></li> <li><span><span>“We can make blinded People see again!”</span></span></li> <li><span><span>“We can reverse Autism symptoms.”</span></span></li> <li><span><span>“Can stem cell therapy help patients with chronic kidney disease? Yes it can. It can make new cells that replace damaged cells and reverse chronic kidney disease symptoms.”</span></span></li> <li><span><span>“Cure for Parkinson’s? The only Medical Group worldwide that treats Parkinson’s with amniotic Stem Cells!”</span></span></li> <li><span><span>For stroke victims with damaged brain tissue, “Stem Cell treatment acts as a form of medical time machine, reversing the damage that has already been made.”</span></span></li> </ul><p><span><span>One of the company’s YouTube videos featured an 11-year-old girl with cerebral palsy who purportedly spoke “her first words” after receiving treatment from the defendants. </span></span></p> <p><span><span>Regenerative Medical Group and Dr. Henderson charged consumers between $9,500 to $15,000 for an initial treatment with recommended “boosters” going for between $5,000 to $8,000. What’s more, they claimed that what they offered was comparable to or even better than conventional medical care.</span></span></p> <p><span><span>That’s what the defendants said, but what’s the real story on stem cells? In fact, there are many different kinds of stem cells – amniotic stem cells are only one variety – and they vary widely in potency. According to the <a href="https://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics/1.htm">National Institutes of Health (NIH) website</a>, “Much work remains to be done in the laboratory and the clinic to understand how to use these cells for cell-based therapies to treat disease.”</span></span></p> <p><span><span>Furthermore, the vast majority of amniotic stem cell research has been conducted on animal models. According to the FTC, there are no human clinical studies showing that amniotic stem cell therapy treats <em>any</em> diseases in humans and certainly not the long list of conditions the defendants claimed to cure. </span></span></p> <p><span><span>The <a href="https://ftc.gov/enforcement/cases-proceedings/172-3062/regenerative-medical-group-inc">proposed settlement</a> requires the defendants to have human clinical testing</span></span><span> to support future claims related to the treatment of <span>any disease or health condition. Based on the defendants’ financial status, the $3.3 million judgment – which represents what patients paid for the treatments – will be partially suspended when the defendants turn over $525,000. That money will be returned to consumers. The company also has to send a letter about the lawsuit to their customers and others who have expressed an interest in their stem cell therapy treatments.</span></span></p> <p><span><span>What does the FTC prescribe for misleading health representations? Here are some suggestions.</span></span></p> <p><strong><span><span>“Cure” claims command clinical confirmation.</span></span></strong><span><span>  Products that promise to treat or cure diseases need the support of human clinical testing. Don’t draft your ad copy until you have methodologically sound testing in hand that demonstrates statistically and clinically significant results. The FTC’s action against Regenerative Medical Group is the latest in a long line of cases challenging unproven treatments for autism, arthritis, macular degeneration, and other serious conditions. Claims like that are at the center of the enforcement radar screen and they’re likely to stay there. </span></span></p> <p><strong><span><span>Exercise caution when using in-the-headlines medical terms.</span></span></strong><span><span>  The phrase “stem cell treatment” covers a broad range of therapies – from promising research to flat-out fraud – and it may not be easy for consumers to make nuanced distinctions. Marketers shouldn’t add to the confusion by playing fast and loose with the facts. Don’t overstate the results consumers are likely to receive or falsely state or imply that your product is superior to other treatments.</span></span></p> <p><strong><span><span>Patients should s</span></span></strong><strong><span>tudy treatment options carefully.  </span></strong><span>People diagnosed with serious diseases can find a wealth of information online, but not every site is trustworthy. Before diving into the deep end of the internet, start your research with agencies like the NIH or FDA. Take stem cells therapies as an example. While encouraging scientists to continue their research, the FDA also has <a href="https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm286155.htm">warned consumers about the dangers of questionable stem cell “treatments.”</a> </span><br />  </p> </div> </div> </div> Thu, 18 Oct 2018 15:27:14 +0000 lfair 54338 at http://www.ftc.gov FTC to law violators: Don’t bank on bankruptcy http://www.ftc.gov/business-guidance/blog/2019/02/ftc-law-violators-dont-bank-bankruptcy <span property="schema:name">FTC to law violators: Don’t bank on bankruptcy</span> <span rel="schema:author"><span lang="" about="/user/96" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">lfair</span></span> <span property="schema:dateCreated" content="2019-02-19T18:14:48+00:00">February 19, 2019 | 1:14PM</span> <h3 class="node-title"><a href="/business-guidance/blog/2019/02/ftc-law-violators-dont-bank-bankruptcy" hreflang="en">FTC to law violators: Don’t bank on bankruptcy</a></h3> <div class="field field--name-field-author field--type-string field--label-inline"> <div class="field__label">By</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item">Lesley Fair</div> </div> </div> <div property="schema:text" class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden"> <div class="field__items"> <div property="schema:text" class="field__item"><p><a href="https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2019/02/ftc-wins-key-ruling-allowing-agency-continue-efforts-hold">A recent ruling by a Florida Bankruptcy Judge</a> sheds light on a tenacious team within the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. But first, let’s set the time machine to 2008 when the FTC entered into a settlement with BlueHippo, a computer financing company that pitched electronics to consumers with “less than perfect credit, bad credit, no credit.”</p> <p><a href="https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2008/02/bluehippo-defendants-will-pay-5-million-settle-ftc-charges">The FTC sued BlueHippo</a> for a host of illegal practices, many related to the company’s refund policies. The defendants settled that case, agreeing to pay as much as $5 million in consumer redress. But just a year later, the FTC went back to court, alleging that BlueHippo was already in violation of the order because it didn’t clearly disclose the terms of its refund policy. According to the FTC, rather than giving consumers their money back, BlueHippo purported to offer “store credit,” but failed to disclose that major strings were attached. Consumer didn’t learn about the onerous policies until they tried to use their “credit,” only to have BlueHippo tell them they’d have to shell out more cash first. As a result, more than 55,000 people paid money to BlueHippo, but got nothing in return.</p> <p>The trial judge granted the FTC’s contempt motion against the corporate defendants and BlueHippo CEO Joseph Rensin, but entered a remedy of only $609,000. After the FTC appealed, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed and remanded the matter to the trial court, which entered a <a href="https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/blogs/business-blog/2016/05/judge-orders-134-million-contempt-action-challenging">judgment against Mr. Rensin for $13.4 million</a>, the financial harm the court determined that consumers suffered as a result of the scheme.</p> <p>Mr. Rensin refused to pay the contempt judgment, and according to the FTC, he tried to evade it by filing for bankruptcy. That’s when the FTC’s bankruptcy team stepped in. At a trial before the Bankruptcy Judge, Mr. Rensin argued (among other things) that he was unaware of certain aspects of his company’s refund policies and that his in-house counsel had been responsible for them – testimony the Court expressly rejected as not credible.</p> <p>Mr. Rensin also claimed that the $13.4 million he owed was dischargeable in bankruptcy. The FTC disagreed, citing a provision in the law that a debt is not discharged “to the extent obtained by . . . false pretenses, a false representation, or actual fraud . . . .” The Bankruptcy Judge held, “What constitutes ‘false pretenses’ in the context of § 523(a)(2)(A) has been defined as ‘implied misrepresentations or conduct intended to create and foster a false impression.’” You’ll want to read the <a href="https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/cases-proceedings/052-3092/bluehippo-funding-llc-bluehippo-capital-llc">Memorandum Opinion</a> for the details, but the Court concluded that consumers “relied on what BlueHippo told them, which was fatally misleading and amounted to fraudulent misrepresentation and concealment.”</p> <p>The FTC’s bankruptcy team also argued that an additional provision applied: § 523(a)(6), which “does not discharge an individual debtor from any debt . . . for willful and malicious injury by the debtor to another entity or to the property of another entity.” The Bankruptcy Judge concluded that the FTC “met its burden in proving that Mr. Rensin’s conduct was wrongful and without just cause and thus was malicious within the meaning of § 523(a)(6). Mr. Rensin used BlueHippo to create a series of transactions aimed at defrauding consumers for the purpose of filling the coffers of BlueHippo. There was nothing defensible about his actions.”</p> <p>What’s more, the Court ruled, “Based on the credible evidence admitted in this case, not only did Mr. Rensin go along with this fraud, but he was at the helm of and guided BlueHippo in its every action in connection with this fraud.” The Court put it this way:</p> <p style="margin-left:60px; margin-right:60px">As the captain of the ship, with not only direct oversight but regular operational involvement in every aspect of the business relevant to this fraud, and with full knowledge of the financial benefits reaped from the fraud, at a time when BlueHippo was otherwise cash strapped, there is no doubt that Mr. Rensin orchestrated the entire affair.</p> <p>The effect of the ruling is that the FTC may proceed in its efforts to recover money for consumers injured by BlueHippo’s practices. But even at this intermediate stage, the case offers two important reminders: 1) It’s unwise for companies and corporate officers to assume that bankruptcy will necessarily shield them from the financial consequences of their illegal conduct toward consumers; and 2) If it’s necessary to follow a defendant to Bankruptcy Court to protect consumers’ interests, the FTC has an experienced team ready to go there.</p> <p> </p> </div> </div> </div> Tue, 19 Feb 2019 18:14:48 +0000 lfair 54374 at http://www.ftc.gov The many facets of advertising diamonds with clarity http://www.ftc.gov/business-guidance/blog/2019/05/many-facets-advertising-diamonds-clarity <span property="schema:name">The many facets of advertising diamonds with clarity</span> <span rel="schema:author"><span lang="" about="/user/96" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">lfair</span></span> <span property="schema:dateCreated" content="2019-05-03T14:58:09+00:00">May 3, 2019 | 10:58AM</span> <h3 class="node-title"><a href="/business-guidance/blog/2019/05/many-facets-advertising-diamonds-clarity" hreflang="en">The many facets of advertising diamonds with clarity</a></h3> <div class="field field--name-field-author field--type-string field--label-inline"> <div class="field__label">By</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item">Lesley Fair and Robert Frisby</div> </div> </div> <div property="schema:text" class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden"> <div class="field__items"> <div property="schema:text" class="field__item"><p>Last month <a href="https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2019/03/ftc-sends-warning-letters-companies-regarding-diamond-ad" target="_BLANK">the FTC sent staff warning letters</a> to eight firms advertising simulated or laboratory-created diamonds. <a href="https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/blogs/business-blog/2019/04/warning-letters-re-mined-diamond-sellers-describe-products">According to the letters</a>, the companies had promoted their products without adequately disclosing that they weren’t mined diamonds. Since then, industry members have been talking about the best ways to ensure compliance with the FTC’s <a href="https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=e74d22268b1ca1ee8974514f8a940f87&amp;mc=true&amp;node=pt16.1.23&amp;rgn=div5" target="_BLANK">Jewelry Guides</a>, which are designed to help companies avoid confusing or deceiving consumers. We posed some of the questions we’ve heard to FTC attorney Robert Frisby.</p> <h6>Our company sells simulated or laboratory-created diamonds as alternatives to mined diamonds. Should we disclose that our products aren’t mined?</h6> <p><strong>ROBERT:</strong>  Yes. To avoid the risk of deceiving consumers about the type of jewelry you offer, advertisers selling simulated or laboratory-created diamonds should disclose that the products aren’t mined diamonds. Describing simulated or laboratory-created diamonds merely as “diamonds,” without more, would likely convey the false impression to consumers that they’re buying mined diamonds. Using a brand name that includes the word “diamond,” without qualifying your claim with a clear explanation, would present the same problem. (In this context, a “qualified” claim means a claim that is appropriately limited, explained, or narrowed.) Similarly, describing a simulated or imitation diamond like cubic zirconia as a “laboratory-created diamond” without a clear qualification would likely lead consumers to the inaccurate conclusion that the product has the same optical, physical, and chemical properties as a laboratory-created or mined diamond.</p> <h6>What terms should we use to disclose that our simulated or laboratory created-diamonds aren’t mined diamonds?</h6> <p><strong>ROBERT:</strong>  Use terms that clearly convey to consumers that the item is a simulated or laboratory-created diamond, rather than a mined diamond. Although the FTC’s Jewelry Guides don’t specify the wording you should use to make this disclosure, the <a href="https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=e74d22268b1ca1ee8974514f8a940f87&amp;mc=true&amp;node=pt16.1.23&amp;rgn=div5#se16.1.23_112">Jewelry Guides</a> state that the terms “laboratory-grown,” “laboratory-created,” “[manufacturer name]-created,” “imitation’’ or ‘‘simulated” would be appropriate to describe the nature of the product and to disclose the fact that it’s not a mined diamond. The Guides give advertisers flexibility to use another “word or phrase of like meaning” to make the disclosure. However, if you choose to use alternative phrases, exercise care to ensure that consumers understand them.</p> <h6>How and where should we disclose that simulated or laboratory-created diamonds are not mined diamonds?</h6> <p><strong>ROBERT:</strong>  What matters is that consumers see the disclosure, read it, and understand what it means. That’s why advertisers should make those disclosures clearly and conspicuously, and in close proximity to where the ad uses the term “diamond” to describe the jewelry. In addition, the disclosure should appear early in the product description. Putting it at the end of a lengthy block of text or on a different webpage – for example, on an FAQ or “diamond education” page – won’t suffice because consumers might skip over it. However, in a particular ad, you may not have to make the same disclosure repeatedly if the nature of the items offered for sale is clear from the context.</p> <h6>In social media advertising, can we make disclosures through hashtags?</h6> <p><strong>ROBERT:</strong>  Exercise care when using hashtags to disclose information that is necessary to avoid deception. A hashtag at the end of a social media post might not convey the information effectively, especially if appears in a string of other hashtags or if the other hashtags arguably contradict it. For example, a list of hashtags including both #diamonds and #labgrown might confuse consumers about whether the product contains mined diamonds. Just a reminder: Advertisers are responsible for <em><u>all</u></em> reasonable interpretations of their advertising, including ads on social media that make claims or that fail to make adequate disclosures.</p> <h6>What if we want to tout the environmental benefits of our simulated or laboratory-created diamonds?</h6> <p><strong>ROBERT:</strong>  The FTC’s Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims – the <a href="https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=df2fb9fc8f945c15092156cbd3967e2b&amp;mc=true&amp;node=pt16.1.260&amp;rgn=div5" target="_BLANK">Green Guides</a> – offer advice on how to make environmental claims non-deceptively. Keep two basic principles in mind: 1) Advertisers must have a reasonable basis for any environmental benefit claims they make for their products; and 2) Advertisers must qualify their claims adequately to avoid deception. The <a href="https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=df2fb9fc8f945c15092156cbd3967e2b&amp;mc=true&amp;node=pt16.1.260&amp;rgn=div5" target="_BLANK">Green Guides</a> advise advertisers to avoid making unqualified general environmental benefit claims – for example, “environmentally friendly” – because it is highly unlikely the advertiser can substantiate all reasonable interpretations of these claims. The better practice is for advertisers to qualify a general claim by disclosing the specific reasons why the product has environmental benefits. <a href="https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=df2fb9fc8f945c15092156cbd3967e2b&amp;mc=true&amp;node=pt16.1.260&amp;rgn=div5#se16.1.260_14" target="_BLANK">Section 260.4 of the Green Guides</a> features examples of claims that are appropriately qualified under the circumstances.<br />  <br />  </p> </div> </div> </div> Fri, 03 May 2019 14:58:09 +0000 lfair 54413 at http://www.ftc.gov