After the FTC revised its Endorsement Guides in 2009, we followed up with What People are Asking, an informal staff publication to answer questions that were on advertisers’ minds. More than five years have passed – a lifetime in blog years – but the legal principles remain the same. What has changed are the kinds of questions we’re getting.
It’s graduation season. How’s this for a truthful take on the usual oratory?
Esteemed guests and distinguished graduates, despite what we said in our ads, many of you just got a degree or diploma that won’t qualify you to get the licenses you need to land a job in your field. And don’t count on your credits transferring to four-year colleges. But thanks for the thousands of dollars you paid out of your own pocket!
It’s a text that would make most people take notice: ALERT ALERT ALERT .. YOUR PAYMENT WAS DECLINED DUE TO AN INSUFFICIENT ACH TRANSACTION…CALL 866.597.3075. But it wasn’t really an alert. There wasn’t a declined payment. And an “insufficient ACH transaction” isn’t even a real thing.
It was a deceptive text message sent by debt collectors to illegally lure purported debtors into contacting them.
It’s a question we’re asked a lot. “What happens if I’m the target of an FTC investigation involving data security?” We understand – no one wants to get that call. But we hope we can shed some light on what a company can expect.
First things first. All of our investigations are nonpublic. That means we can’t disclose whether anyone is the subject of an investigation. The sources of a data security investigation can be news reports, complaints from consumers or other companies, requests from Congress or other government agencies, or our own initiative.
Caribbean cruises, jet ski outings, trips to Disneyworld, tickets to sporting events and concerts, and even dating service subscriptions. You’d expect to see that on reruns of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” What you wouldn’t expect is that they were paid for by donations people made to cancer charities.
A royal flush? More like a royal pain for consumers who trusted claims that moist flushable wipes manufactured by trade supplier Nice-Pak were safe for home plumbing systems. According to an FTC complaint, the wipes were made of a non-woven fabric that didn’t break down as quickly and easily as advertised, rendering that “flushable” claim a pipe dream – or maybe a pipe nightmare if your sewer or septic system got clogged as a result.
In the immortal words of renowned legal scholar Yogi Berra, it’s “déjà vu all over again.” A national company is in bankruptcy court and an issue has arisen regarding the possible sale of consumers’ personal information, at least some of which was collected with the express promise, “We will not sell or rent your personally identifiable information to anyone at any time.”
Maybe it’s a suspicious tax document flagged by your HR staff or a customer concern about an unauthorized charge. Identity theft can reveal itself in many ways. Regardless of the tip-off, there’s a new one-stop federal resource – IdentityTheft.gov – to help people report and recover from ID theft.
Everyone harbors a dark secret – a forbidden mystery concealed behind closed doors. Three cases just filed by the FTC pull back the curtain on one of those taboos:
The efforts people make to hide the fact they’re going gray.
In her blog, a registered nurse offered candid opinions about a broad range of topics, including parenthood, men with comb-overs, and the challenges of menopausal weight gain. There wasn’t much she could do about the comb-over issue, but she claimed to have found a solution to those extra pounds: a dietary supplement called Amberen.
According to the proverbs of Solomon, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all plan to guarantee the security of personal information in your company’s possession. But one effective strategy is to consider what experts at different agencies and organizations are saying. They offer a variety of tips and techniques, but the foundational principles of sound security remain the same.
In the annals of undercover operatives, their work may not be the most glamorous. But the intelligence they glean plays a central role in protecting consumers.
By now, it shouldn’t be news. Using illegal spam and bogus news sites to convey false claims for diet products is bound to attract FTC attention. Oh, and did we mention the phony representation that the products were endorsed by Oprah and the people on the TV show "The Doctors"?
As the FTC staff discussed at a seminar about consumer generated and controlled health data, people are turning to apps, devices, and websites to manage their own health information. Yesterday we talked about the contours of the compliance landscape.
With the help of innovative businesses, consumers are taking a more active role in managing their health information. How? Maybe it’s an app that monitors their exercise habits, a device that lets diabetics track glucose levels, or a site where patients with the same condition share information. In addition, people are starting to download their information into personal health records, partially because of regulatory initiatives promoting secure online access to medical data.
Buffalo is famous as the home of the Bills, but it’s also home to many bill collectors. The FTC is sponsoring a series of Debt Collection Dialogues across the country and the first stop will be Buffalo on June 15, 2015, in conjunction with the New York Attorney General’s Office. If debt collection practices are of interest to you, fry the wings, take out the hot sauce – and mark your calendar for June 15th.
Is your business breaking into the latest mobile device tracking technologies? If so, remember that the FTC Act still applies. Your business’ basic legal obligation to keep its promises is just as important when using emerging technologies as it is in other contexts.
As the name suggests, Green Tree Servicing was supposed to service homeowners’ mortgages by collecting and crediting monthly payments. But according to a $63 million settlement announced by the FTC and CFPB, rather than service, Green Tree gave many homeowners the business.
- $642.4 million in redress and disgorgement ordered in consumer protection cases.
- 2,582,851 complaints received from consumers.
- 192 orders obtained.
Like juggling chain saws or using a Ming vase as a sippy cup, some things are just too risky to be reasonable. Here’s one to add to that list: posting unencrypted financial information about 55,000 consumers on a website available to anyone with an internet connection.