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FTC to Small Businesses: Gather Round

Legend has it that King Arthur gathered his knights at a round table. Because the table had no head, it signaled that everyone seated at it was respected, and their contributions were welcome. At the FTC, we love the concept of a round table. It's a way to bring together stakeholders for a mutually beneficial discussion.

We can’t go for that (no can do)

Of course, phantom debt collection – the practice of pressuring people to pay “debts” they don’t owe – harms consumers. But as an FTC complaint demonstrates, when phantom debt collectors strike, they could affect your company, too. According to the FTC, a Florida-based outfit engaged in a scheme to defraud consumers through the collection of debts people didn’t actually owe or the company didn’t have the authority to collect.

How is your business honoring Month of the Military Consumer?

Pork Chop Hill Road, Screaming Eagle Boulevard, Hell on Wheels Avenue, or my former home on Patton Drive. If those street names sound familiar, chances are you’re a servicemember, a veteran, or part of a military family. July is the Month of the Military Consumer and the FTC has resources to help keep members of the military fiscally fit and scam savvy – and a tip for businesses that do business with military consumers.

Billed for office supplies you didn’t order? Don’t pay!

It typically started with a schmoozy call to an unsuspecting small business or nonprofit. Sometimes the caller claimed to be “confirming” an existing order, “verifying” an address, or offering a “free” catalog or sample. Then came the supplies surprise – unordered merchandise arriving at the company’s doorstep followed by high-pressure demands to pay up.

Paint settlements suggest caution with broad-brush VOC, safety claims

If marketing claims are any indication, “green” paint is popular with consumers, but not just in the sense of emerald, mint, or avocado. Companies are advertising that their paints are emission-free, VOC-free, and without chemicals that could harm consumers, including pregnant women, babies, and people with asthma. Some brands even feature seals and certifications touting purported environmental benefits.

Lead generation: When the “product” is personal data

There’s been a lot of talk about “ping trees” and other activities associated with the lead generation industry. The FTC’s concern is that consumers don’t get ponged in the process. A proposed settlement gives a glimpse into how one lead generation company operated and offers insights for businesses about compliance considerations when the “product” in question is consumers’ personal data.

Review, rethink, reform

TVs, textiles, appliances, and spam. That may sound like an eclectic shopping list at a big box retailer, but they’re clues to an FTC development you and your clients should know about.

They’re all categories affected by four rules the FTC is putting under the regulatory microscope: the Picture Tube Rule, the Textile Rules, the Energy Labeling Rule, and the CAN-SPAM Rule.

Best practices to foil gas station skimmers

If you own or operate gas stations, chances are you know about skimmers – illegal card readers attached to payment terminals, like gas pumps, that grab data off a credit or debit card’s magnetic stripe without the customer’s knowledge. Criminals sell the stolen data or use it to buy things online. If your pumps are compromised, customers won’t know their information has been stolen until they get an account statement or overdraft notice.

Customers aren’t only victims here. Your business can suffer from the associated costs, including a damaged reputation and lost sales.

Connected cars: What’s on the agenda

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines. The FTC and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have announced the agenda for their joint workshop on the consumer privacy and security implications of connected cars. If this emerging tech issue is of interest to your clients, race to Washington (within the lawful speed limit, of course) to attend the event on Wednesday, June 28, 2017.

Court orders $280 million from Dish Network, largest ever Do Not Call penalty

It’s a record-setting win for America’s consumers and a resounding affirmation that the Do Not Call Registry means DO NOT CALL. Eight years of tenacious litigation by the Department of Justice, the FTC, and the Attorneys General of California, Illinois, North Carolina, and Ohio has resulted in a $280 million civil penalty against Colorado-based satellite TV provider Dish Network.

PrivacyCon 3: Save the date

With schedules changing as frequently as they do, we can’t be sure what’s on tap for tomorrow. But we already know where we’ll be on Wednesday, February 28, 2018. We’ll be at the FTC’s third PrivacyCon – a gathering of researchers, academics, industry members, consumer advocates, and government representatives talking about the privacy and security implications of emerging technologies.

FTC settlement with Amazon yields $70 million for consumers, advice for business

The FTC’s law enforcement action against Amazon for unauthorized billing recently settled, leaving two key takeaways: 1) Consumers are eligible for more than $70 million in refunds; and 2) Businesses need to get customers’ express consent before placing charges on their credit or debit cards.

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