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$20 million settlement with smart home company Vivint shuts the door on a different form of identity deception

There’s a certain irony in the FTC’s record-setting $20 million settlement with Vivint Smart Home, a national seller of smart home technology platforms, including security devices and monitoring services. One purpose of the company’s products is to help residents ensure that people at their front door are who they say they are. But according to the FTC, Vivint engaged in some identity deception of its own.

Corporate boards: Don’t underestimate your role in data security oversight

For businesses in the middle of a global pandemic, there’s no such thing as “business as usual.” The percentage of Americans working remotely has grown substantially, now reportedly up to 33% of the U.S. workforce. Accompanying that seismic shift have been increased security threats to data, with one analysis reporting that over 36 billion online records were exposed in the first half of 2020 alone. Consumers whose lives have been upended by identity theft are paying close attention to how corporations are responding.

FTC says Yellowstone wasn’t faithful to claims it made to small businesses

Yellowstone – the majestic national park – is known for Old Faithful, roaming bison, and vistas to take your breath away. According to a 2020 FTC complaint, Yellowstone – the merchant cash advance provider – was unfaithful to its promises, buffaloed small business owners, and made illegal withdrawals that took their cash away. A settlement will return more than $9.8 million to customers and includes injunctive provisions to change how Yellowstone does business.

Aiming for truth, fairness, and equity in your company’s use of AI

Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) technology promise to revolutionize our approach to medicine, finance, business operations, media, and more. But research has highlighted how apparently “neutral” technology can produce troubling outcomes – including discrimination by race or other legally protected classes. For example, COVID-19 prediction models can help health systems combat the virus through efficient allocation of ICU beds, ventilators, and other resources.

First FTC case filed under new COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act

Congress passed a law in December 2020 – the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act – that imposes monetary penalties on violators. The Department of Justice and the FTC just brought their first action under the statute, alleging that a Missouri chiropractor and his company violated both the new law and the FTC Act by deceptively marketing vitamin D and zinc products to treat or prevent COVID-19.

Asking for your insights into digital dark patterns

Have you marked your calendar for April 29, 2021, to attend Bringing Dark Patterns to Light: An FTC Workshop? The virtual event will examine digital “dark patterns,” potentially deceptive or unfair user interfaces on websites and mobile apps. In addition to your participation, the FTC is asking for research and public comments on topics related to the workshop.

A look back at post hoc analysis

People who claim that hindsight is 20/20 probably weren’t talking about the post hoc evaluation of clinical testing. That’s an alleged flaw the FTC challenged in purported substantiation submitted by the marketers of Hepaxa and Hepaxa PD, fish oil products advertised as clinically proven to treat liver disease in adults and children. In addition to injunctive provisions, the proposed settlement includes a financial remedy of $416,914.

A word to landlords about eviction moratoriums

According to a recent CFPB report, the pandemic has left more than 8.8 million consumers behind on their rent. Tenants at risk of homelessness are disproportionately people of color, primarily Black and Hispanic families. Federal, state, and local governments, including the CDC, have put temporary holds on evictions for non-payment of rent – a measure proven to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

In hindsight: 2020

This time last year, we all were adjusting to a new normal. As the pandemic took hold, the FTC kicked into high gear on COVID-19-related issues, while continuing its work on other fronts, too. The just-announced 2020 Annual Highlights reflect important enforcement actions, policy initiatives, and outreach efforts undertaken in the past year.

Avoid mixed signals when advertising antennas

Many consumers experience sticker shock when they total up what they pay each month for television, add-on channels, satellite programming, streaming services, and the vast array of other content they buy. So it’s no surprise that people thinking about cutting the cord were drawn to claims by New York-based Wellco, Inc., and CEO George Moscone that the company’s TV antennas would let users cancel their cable service and still get all of their favorite channels for free.

Business owners: Scams will follow new rescue plan

The pandemic is still taking a toll on your customers, your employees – and your business. The new American Rescue Plan, just signed into law, gets the ball rolling to help out on many people’s financial well-being. Payments will soon be coming by direct deposit, checks, or a debit card to people eligible for the payment. You can learn more about who’s eligible, and the timing, at IRS.gov/coronavirus. Share that link with your staff to help keep them informed.

What to do if you’re billed for an SBA EIDL loan you don’t owe

Did you get a bill for a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan, but you didn’t apply for one? It’s possible that an identity thief applied for the loan using your personal or business information. The SBA has new guidance about reporting the fraud, and the FTC has tips to help you clear up any credit problems it may cause.
 

FTC and Florida allege magazine subscription company deceived inmates’ families

Misleading tactics in the sale of magazine subscriptions is an illegal practice the FTC has challenged in numerous cases. But an action just filed by the FTC and the State of Florida focuses on a new audience allegedly targeted for deception: the families of people who are incarcerated and inmates themselves. The pending case also suggests compliance reminders that apply to companies in just about any industry.

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