2015 saw the end of The Late Show with David Letterman, but his Top 10 List legacy lives on. From the home office in Washington, D.C., here is our informal take on ten topics we covered this year in the BCP Business Blog.
Advertising substantiation. People will be citing the D.C. Circuit’s POM Wonderful opinion for years to come, so we extracted a dozen quotable quotes. Other relevant posts: Spilling the beans: The anatomy of a diet craze discussed what some folks call “The Oz Effect” and analyzed how green coffee bean extract became a weight loss thing (an unsubstantiated thing, according to the FTC). Five principles to help keep your health claims healthy offered lessons from recent cases. Other health-related highlights: the Tommie Copper settlement and the workshop on advertising for homeopathic products.
Auto ads. It’s been an eventful year in the FTC’s drive to ensure accuracy in auto advertising. For instance, in Operation Ruse Control, the FTC and 32 law enforcement partners brought more than 200 actions alleging illegal claims or conduct in auto sales.
Cognition claims. Whether the target market is brainy babies, successful students, or sharp-as-a-tack seniors, advertisers are promoting products that promise to improve what’s between the ears. The FTC took on a number of purported cognition claims, including a videogame pitched to improve kids’ school performance and a dietary supplement advertised to reverse age-related mental decline.
Data security and privacy. The Third Circuit’s decision in FTC v. Wyndham and the subsequent settlement are worth a reread. The proposed settlement with Oracle involving Java SE updates and two COPPA cases addressing the use of persistent identifiers are notable, too. But the action hasn’t just been on the law enforcement front. To help businesses build sound security into their day-to-day operations, the FTC debuted its Start with Security initiative, featuring a new publication, videos, and conferences. Next on the itinerary is Start with Security: Seattle on February 9, 2016.
Debt collection. This year saw unprecedented activity against questionable debt collection tactics. For example, Operation Collection Protection involved 115 actions by the FTC and state, federal, and international partners. In addition, the list of banned debt collectors now numbers 93. The $63 million FTC-CFPB settlement with Green Tree alleged a host of violations related to loan servicing and debt collection. We’ve also worked to keep the lines of communication open with industry members and other stakeholders by hosting Debt Collection Dialogues in Buffalo, Dallas, and Atlanta.
Enforcement. The FTC’s $100 million settlement with Lifelock for alleged violations of an existing order proves that it’s about the follow-through. Settlements with Bed Bath & Beyond, Nordstrom, J.C. Penney Company, and Backcountry.com for “bamboo” claims send the related message that companies should heed warnings about possible law violations.
Fair Credit Reporting Act. As the adage goes, life begins at 40. Look no further than the Fair Credit Reporting Act. 2015 saw a $2.9 million settlement with Sprint for alleged violations of the Risk-Based Pricing Rule. For employers interested in how the FCRA applies to the personnel process, this post put a disco spin on compliance.
Native advertising and endorsements. The FTC’s Enforcement Policy Statement on Deceptively Formatted Advertisements and the accompanying guide for business explore how established truth-in-advertising and disclosure principles apply to native ads. On the related topic of testimonials, the proposed settlement with Machinima, a blog post debunking seven myths about endorsements, and The FTC’s Endorsement Guides: What People Are Asking offer advice on keeping your practices compliant.
Technology. Tech touches pretty much everything the FTC does these days, but here are some noteworthy developments: the $40 million settlement with TracFone for purported promises of “unlimited” data, lawsuits challenging deceptive claims for apps, the Internet of Things report and business brochure, workshops on lead generation and cross-device tracking, and the establishment of OTECH, BCP’s Office of Technology Research and Investigation.
Telemarketing. Lifestyles of the pitchin’ shameless describes lawsuits by the FTC, all 50 states, and D.C. challenging illegal telemarketing practices and other alleged violations by the Cancer Fund of America and related parties. A partial summary judgment in the pending FTC-state AG action against Dish Network cited 57,606,609 calls made in violation of the Telemarketing Sales Rule. In the ongoing battle against illegal robocalls, the FTC joined forces with 10 state AGs to challenge a campaign by Caribbean Cruise Line and others that involved robocalls by the billion. We also sponsored a new challenge, Humanity Strikes Back, to encourage tech solutions to pesky pre-recordings. And following a public comment period, the FTC announced updates to the TSR.
What should consumers know about the year in review? This post from our Consumer Blog recaps law enforcement actions and warns about emerging scams. In addition, our Every Community initiative continues to bring the FTC to neighborhoods across the country.