On the first day of law school, students learn the Latin maxim Res ipsa loquitor – “The thing speaks for itself.” Pardon the inaccurate translation, but in the case of the FTC’s Annual Highlights, we think Tabula crustum ipsa loquitor – “The pie chart speaks for itself.” In other words, the statistical recap of the past year tells an important story about what the FTC is doing to protect consumers and promote competition.
An FTC lawsuit has put the brakes on a debt collection operation that the agency says used deception to collect traffic tickets, court fines, and other municipal debts for more than 300 local governments in eight Southern and Midwestern states.
When websites prominently advertised “FREE!” golf balls and other gear, duffers and low-handicappers alike swung for the deal. But according to the FTC, 10 related defendants drove consumers into the rough with poorly disclosed terms and conditions, deceptive negative options, and misleading upsells, in violation of the FTC Act and the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act.
Scammers try to contact people in many ways. They call, email, put ads online, send messages on social media and more. If you own a small business, they’re trying to contact you, too.
There was a twisted kind of accuracy in one of the company names used by a Phoenix-based outfit that peddled business opportunities. It was called “Building Money” and build it they did. The problem was that they built it for themselves – and not for the older consumers, military veterans, and folks on fixed incomes the FTC says they bilked out of millions of dollars.
If you make promises to consumers, you must honor them – and if you sign an FTC order, you must comply with it. That’s the lesson learned by Upromise, a college savings website, which must pay $500,000 for violating its existing FTC order.
Not familiar with Upromise? It offers free memberships that allow consumers to earn cash-back rewards on certain purchases. Members can direct those rewards to a college savings plan or to pay down student loans.
Threats of imprisonment, warnings about extortion, and a security team allegedly comprised of ex-Israeli Special Ops trained in Krav Maga? It sounds like an action-packed movie plot, but it’s all related to a complaint filed by the FTC. And you’ll never guess the nature of the defendants’ business.
They sell patent and invention promotion services – or at least that’s what defendants World Patent Marketing, Desa Industries, and CEO Scott Cooper claim.
Businesses often ask: “If I comply with the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, am I complying with what the FTC requires?” Maybe you read our blog explaining how the NIST Cybersecurity Framework relates to the FTC’s work on data security? Now, check out this related video featuring Andrea Arias, an attorney in the FTC’s Division of Privacy and Identity Protection.
The scene is the west coast, the subject is emerging technology, and AI is in the title. But it’s not the 2001 Spielberg sci fi film.
According to a settlement announced by the FTC, a Texas-based company used misleading Made in USA claims to push its pulleys. Read on for an ironic object lesson related to a specific pulley component engraved with the phrase “Made in USA.”
Financial technology remains a hot topic for consumers, offering the possibilities of increased convenience and access to financial services at a lower cost. As part of its FinTech Forum series, the FTC continues to promote public discussion of the ways in which innovative FinTech services – many provided by non-banks and technology companies within the FTC’s jurisdiction – can benefit consumers and the potential issues for stakeholders to keep in mind.
Today kicks off National Consumer Protection Week, but what the FTC does to protect consumers is only part of the story. We also work hard to help small business get down to business. Here are just a few examples of what we’re doing to protect your business from deceptive practices.
When internet fraudsters mimic a legitimate business to trick consumers into giving out their personal information, it’s called phishing. It’s not just a problem for consumers, but for the companies the scammers are impersonating too. The FTC has long provided advice to consumers about steps they can take to avoid phishing scams. But what should you do if customers contact your company upset that they responded to a phishing email from a scammer impersonating your legitimate business?
Take me out to the ballgame.
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and crackerjack
And sound statistics to give us feedback.
Phishing emails can harm businesses whose identities are spoofed. Don’t want that to happen to your business? Read the new Staff Perspective from our Office of Technology, Businesses Can Help Stop Phishing and Protect their Brands Using Email Authentication.
Artificial intelligence and blockchain. If those terms relate to your company’s work, you might want to mark March 9, 2017, on your calendar. If you have financial services clients and you’re not up to speed on how either artificial intelligence or blockchain relates to their business, you’ll definitely want to reserve March 9th for the FTC’s third FinTech Forum.
Americans are among the most generous people in the world, contributing more than $373 billion to charity in 2015, according to The Giving Institute. Not only are Americans giving more to charity, but evolving marketing practices and new technologies have introduced different ways for organizations to accept donations and new challenges for consumer protection law enforcement and education.
Imagine a series of promotions that involve pain relief promises, cognition claims, endorsements, 30-minute radio ads, “risk-free” money-back guarantees, “free” trial offers, negative options, telemarketing, and upsells of buying club memberships. What could possibly go wrong for consumers?
Where would you like to start?
To facilitate the transfer of data, many U.S. companies that do business internationally participate in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Cross-Border Privacy Rules (CBPR) system. It’s voluntary, of course, but if companies say they participate, that representation – like other objective claims – must be truthful. That’s the lesson of three proposed settlements just announced by the FTC.
Congress unanimously passed the Consumer Review Fairness Act to protect people’s ability to share in any forum their honest opinions about a business’ products, services, or conduct. Some companies had been using contract provisions – including their online terms and conditions – to threaten to sue consumers or penalize them financially for posting negative reviews or complaints. The new law makes that illegal.