July 2011

Swish Marketing decision nets consumers $4.8 million

Thinking about using a pre-checked box to obligate buyers in an online transaction?  Maybe you’re considering a negative option arrangement without clearly and conspicuously disclosing the details of the deal.  Or perhaps you’re an affiliate marketer who’s concluded that legal compliance is somebody else’s responsibility.  A $4.8 million judgment entered by a federal court in California suggests you might want to reconsider those strategies.

Demystifying the art of the deal

As businesses executives have noticed, recent changes in the credit laws reflect a move toward more transparency. For example, it’s generally lawful to factor a consumer’s credit history into your decision about what rate to offer them. But last year, the FTC and Federal Reserve Board shed a little more light on that process by implementing the Risk-Based Pricing Rule.

FCRA at 40: It's a matter of interpretation

They say life begins at 40 — so watch what’s happening to the Fair Credit Reporting Act as it enters an exciting new phase of its regulatory career.

To mark this consumer protection milestone, the FTC has issued Forty Years of Experience with the Fair Credit Reporting Act: An FTC Staff Report and Summary of Interpretations.  The report offers a brief overview of the FTC’s role in enforcing and interpreting the FCRA and includes a section-by-section summary of the agency’s interpretations of the Act.

$108 million for homeowners in distress

Homeowners in financial trouble aren’t getting a lot of great news these days.  But 450,177 of them will be getting a check in the mail that represents their share of the FTC’s $108 million settlement with mortgage giant Countrywide. And companies that take advantage of Americans struggling to pay the bills will be getting a little something, too:  a strong message from the FTC that unfair or deceptive practices targeting cash-strapped consumers won’t be tolerated.

Accounts deceivable

Perhaps you see cops on the beat when they pass by your office. Maybe you serve on a committee with the Chief of Police or have a relative in the Sheriff’s Department. However you cross paths with local law enforcement, do them — and yourself — a favor by telling them about Consumer Sentinel.

Modifying the orbit of MARS, but not protections for consumers

Today, the FTC announced it won't enforce most parts of the Mortgage Assistance Relief Services (MARS) Rule against real estate brokers and their agents who help consumers with short sales. A short sale — a phrase consumers have heard a lot recently — is the sale of a home for less than the homeowner owes on the mortgage, and where the bank accepts the sale proceeds instead of foreclosing.

Candid spamera

Say “spam” and most business executives think of annoying messages that litter their IN box.  But the CAN-SPAM Act and the FTC’s CAN-SPAM Rule cover a much broader range of commercial email.  Yes, that includes messages offering to split $50 million languishing in the foreign bank account of a deposed prince.  But the Rule also applies to a wide variety of communications with customers or potential customers — for example, an email notifying them about a product you’re featuring or an upcoming sale.

Get FTC news and updates your way

Last week, Facebook announced new video calling and group chat services for the social network. That same afternoon, the President of the United States held a town hall on Twitter to talk about the economy and jobs in America. Today, people have many methods to communicate, often right at the tips of their fingers.  That’s why the FTC has introduced a new STAY CONNECTED feature on ftc.gov.

Room with review

Is your briefcase feeling lighter? That’s because your dog-eared copy of Volume 16 of the Code of Federal Regulations (where most FTC rules and guides live) is decidedly thinner these days. For the past two decades, the agency has undertaken a systematic review of its rules and guides to make sure they’re up to date, effective, and not overly burdensome. As each rule comes up for review, we ask ourselves — and you — four questions:

Thigh maintenance

A skin cream that can reduce body size.  Are historians sure that wasn’t what Ponce de Leon was seeking?  It’s certainly what buyers are looking for, if ads are any indication.  But claims like that have to be backed up by solid science, as is clear from the FTC’s $900,000 settlement with Beiersdorf, Inc., marketer of Nivea My Silhouette!  (Yes, the exclamation point is on the package.)

What's on the table

The preliminary voluntary principles proposed in April by the Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children have got people talking about kids, advertising, and nutrition. Congress — in a bipartisan effort led by former Senator Sam Brownback and Senator Tom Harkin — directed the FTC, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to develop recommendations for the nutritional quality of food marketed to kids, ages 2 to 17.