FTC Blogs

Tidying up: Decluttering the COPPA FAQs

Maybe it’s the influence of that best-selling book on home organization or perhaps the silos of stuff in our makeshift home offices are becoming more noticeable. Either way, people are in a decluttering mood – and we are, too. Our recent project: updating and streamlining Complying with COPPA: Frequently Asked Questions, known as the COPPA FAQs. But not to worry. The revisions don’t raise new policy issues and our COPPA Rule review continues.

The FTC weighs in on repair restrictions

When you buy a new smartphone, computer, home appliance, or other product, you may not always think about whether it can be fixed if it breaks or has an issue. But here’s the thing: some manufacturers prevent you from fixing the things you buy. They might do things like gluing in batteries, limiting the availability of spare parts, and not giving you the repair instructions and software to help figure out the problem.  

$20 million settlement with smart home company Vivint shuts the door on a different form of identity deception

There’s a certain irony in the FTC’s record-setting $20 million settlement with Vivint Smart Home, a national seller of smart home technology platforms, including security devices and monitoring services. One purpose of the company’s products is to help residents ensure that people at their front door are who they say they are. But according to the FTC, Vivint engaged in some identity deception of its own.

FTC continues to crack down on companies peddling fake COVID treatments and cures

As part of our ongoing efforts to protect you from sellers of scam COVID-19 treatments, the FTC has sent 30 warning letters to companies that claimed their products can prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19. These letters gave the sellers 48 hours to notify the FTC of the specific actions they have taken to address the agency’s concerns. Companies failing to make adequate corrections could have faced lawsuits under the 2020 COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act. Not only does the law make it illegal to deceptively market products that claim to prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19, it also lets the FTC seek financial penalties. The good news: as a result of these letters, all the companies have stopped making the false or deceptive claims.

FTC sends customer refunds in three cases

The FTC works to fulfill its mission in many ways, including bringing cases against companies who are being unfair or deceptive. And it’s happy news when those cases result in refunds. Last year, FTC cases returned $483 million to people who lost money to companies the FTC sued. The FTC’s latest refund announcement involves checks totaling over $11 million going out to more than 11,000 people who paid E.M. Systems & Services, a company that falsely promised consumers with credit card debt that they would reduce their interest rates and save them thousands of dollars. After settling with First Data Merchant Services — the payment processor that made it possible for this company to collect credit card payments — the FTC is sending customers of E.M. Systems & Services 100% of their lost money back.

Corporate boards: Don’t underestimate your role in data security oversight

For businesses in the middle of a global pandemic, there’s no such thing as “business as usual.” The percentage of Americans working remotely has grown substantially, now reportedly up to 33% of the U.S. workforce. Accompanying that seismic shift have been increased security threats to data, with one analysis reporting that over 36 billion online records were exposed in the first half of 2020 alone. Consumers whose lives have been upended by identity theft are paying close attention to how corporations are responding.

FTC says Yellowstone wasn’t faithful to claims it made to small businesses

Yellowstone – the majestic national park – is known for Old Faithful, roaming bison, and vistas to take your breath away. According to a 2020 FTC complaint, Yellowstone – the merchant cash advance provider – was unfaithful to its promises, buffaloed small business owners, and made illegal withdrawals that took their cash away. A settlement will return more than $9.8 million to customers and includes injunctive provisions to change how Yellowstone does business.

COVID vaccines are FREE!

Scammers are doubling down on their efforts to scam people out of their money and personal information. That’s why the FTC and the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) are teaming up to remind you: No matter what anyone tells you, you can’t buy COVID-19 vaccines online and there’s no out-of-pocket cost to get the shots. Here are some ways to avoid a vaccine-related scam.