Imagine getting a prerecorded robocall claiming to be from a “data service provider for Google” giving you “final notice” that “If you do not act soon, Google will label your business as permanently closed.” Second only to a fire alarm going off, that constitutes an ASAP emergency for many small business owners. But those robocall warnings aren’t from Google.
You can say this about scammers: They tend toward the trendy. As new products and services enter the marketplace, it’s not long before fraudsters find a way to exploit consumer interest in the innovation to make a quick buck. Cryptocurrencies are no exception, which is why the FTC is hosting a workshop in Chicago on June 25, 2018, Decrypting Cryptocurrency Scams.
On April 27, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit dismissed a challenge to a November 2016 FTC staff letter addressing certain prerecorded calls or “robocalls” using soundboard technology.
Mosquitoes don’t just bug us. A big concern is their penchant for passing along pernicious diseases, including the Zika virus. New Jersey-based Aromaflage claimed its sprays and candles were effective at repelling mosquitoes – including ones that spread serious illnesses – and repelled mosquitoes as effectively as 25% DEET. The FTC alleges those representations were false or misleading.
Why are you mumbling?
The TV is not too loud!
What did you say? This restaurant is like Grand Central Station.
Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words. According to warning letters from the FDA and FTC, certain sellers of e-liquids – flavorings for e-cigarettes – are using packaging that imitates foods or beverages popular with children. Little kids who ingest what’s inside boxes that appear to be apple juice, cookies, candy, etc., risk acute nicotine toxicity, poisoning that can result in seizure, coma, cardiac and respiratory arrest, and death.
Keep a watchful eye on your service providers. For conscientious companies, that’s Privacy & Data Security 101. It’s also a key compliance tip from the FTC’s proposed settlement with mobile device manufacturer BLU.
Remember that public service announcement: “It’s 8:00. Do you know where your children are?” Technology has given parents tools for answering that question. But under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule, online services touted as ways to keep kids connected need to comply with key parental notice and consent provisions of COPPA – especially when they’re collecting children’s geolocation. That’s the message of two warning letters just sent by FTC staff.
It’s a given that companies shouldn’t charge consumers hidden fees. But it raises a particular concern when an online lender makes “No Hidden Fees” claims a centerpiece of its marketing – and then deducts from those loans hundreds or even thousands of dollars in hidden up-front fees.
Last year, we heard from small business owners about their cybersecurity challenges at a series of roundtable discussions the FTC hosted with some of its partners. What we learned is that small business owners need and want information on how to keep their computer systems and business data safe. So we’re planning to provide that to them. Later this year, the FTC will launch a small business education campaign on cybersecurity, in partnership with other federal agencies.
In its August 2017 proposed consent agreement with Uber, the FTC alleged, among other things, that the company’s unreasonable security practices resulted in a May 2014 data breach. But there’s more to the story now. According to the FTC, Uber experienced another breach in the fall of 2016 – right in the middle of the FTC’s nonpublic investigation – but didn’t disclose it to the FTC until November 2017.
No matter what you call it – facts and figures, the boxscore, or a report from the stat-o-sphere – a recap is a great way to get the lay of the land. Which brings me to the FTC’s Annual Highlights, a short but detailed summary of the Commission’s 2017 efforts to promote competition and protect consumers.
When the screen goes blue
And the car breaks down
And the smartphone keeps rebooting eternally
Consumers won’t be afraid
No, they won’t be afraid
Just as long as you stand by your warranty.
Here’s the thing about nectar. It can be sweet, but sticky. People who paid Palo Alto-based Nectar Brand LLC for mattresses labeled “Designed and Assembled in the USA” thought they were getting a sweet deal. In fact, buyers were stuck with mattresses imported from China, already completed. The company, which also uses the names Nectar Sleep and DreamCloud, performed no assembly operations in the United States.
An FTC lawsuit alleges that money-making claims made by a related group of companies and individuals for their Amazing Wealth System are “amazing” all right – if by “amazing” you mean “not credible” or “unsupported by the facts.” The complaint charges the defendants with violating the FTC Act and the Business Opportunity Ru
When the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection started the Business Blog in 2010, we promised readers “a minimum of ho-hum, a maximum of how-to, and as little yadda yadda yadda as a legal website can manage.” More than 1,000 Business Blog posts later and we’re still striving to keep things engaging and enlightening (although being a legal website and all, we’ve succeeded is cutting out only two of the yaddas).
Medical professionals, consumer advocates, industry members, and law enforcers are gathering in Washington right now in anticipation of today’s workshop, The Contact Lens Rule and the Evolving Contact Lens Marketplace. Panelists will scrutinize issues related to competition in the marketplace, consumer access to contact lenses, prescription release and portability, and other topics.
Every business wants to forge an ongoing relationship with their customers. That principle takes on special significance for mobile device manufacturers when they need to issue security patches for the operating system software on their phones and tablets. Once devices are in consumers’ hands, are they getting the patches they need to protect against critical vulnerabilities? Are companies deploying those patches in a timely fashion and for a reasonable length of time?
Once bitten, twice shy. That fundamental principle of human behavior is why reputable businesses that work hard to earn consumers’ confidence should support the FTC’s ongoing efforts to fight fraud. According to the FTC’s 2017 Consumer Sentinel Data Book, consumers reported losing a total of $905 million to fraud last year. That’s close to a billion bucks people won’t be able to spend on legitimate products and services from credible companies.