July 2014

Wholly hobby

We’ll confess a certain fondness for the Hobby Protection Act. Based on the name, we were hoping it safeguards our right to watch reality TV while eating ice cream – our favorite hobby – but the real purpose is much different.

Acc-cen-tuate the negative?

Acc-cen-tuate the positive.
Eliminate the negative.
Latch on to the affirmative.
And don't mess with Mr. In-Between.

That's how the catchy Bing Crosby-Andrews Sisters number went in the 40s. When it comes to negative options now, the message for marketers is to explain things positively.

Keep your Made in USA claims red, white, and true

There sure are a lot of seals out there. The British singer. The Navy special ops unit. The aquatic mammal. But the seals that matter to the FTC are certifications that convey representations consumers might not be able to evaluate for themselves. If your company makes Made in the USA claims, you’ll want to “Get Closer.” (And yes, that was a hit by 70s folk rockers, Seals and Crofts.)

Throwing the book at directory scammers: 5 B2B frauds to watch out for

Wily deception. Masters of impersonation. International intrigue. We could be describing PBS’ re-imagining of Sherlock Holmes, but we’re not. We’re talking about a scam that’s been around almost as long as the famous resident of 221B Baker Street – and still leaves small businesses barking like the Hound of the Baskervilles.

This time it's personal

Ask most people to name the streets in the neighborhood where they grew up and they’ll tell you Maple Lane or Sycamore Drive. Ask a military kid – ask this military kid – and she’ll mention Tank Destroyer Boulevard and Hell on Wheels Avenue. Years ago, if you drove down Tank Destroyer and exited the East Gate of Fort Hood, the neon signs advertising “zero down,” “E-Z credit,” or “low monthly payments” lit up the Central Texas sky like a discount aurora borealis.

In-app and unapproved: FTC says Amazon charged parents' accounts without their OK

If there’s one theme that runs through decades of FTC law, it’s that companies need consumers’ informed consent to bill their accounts. That was true in the early days of mail order. It carried through to online shopping. And it remains the law for mobile devices, including in-app purchases. The FTC’s lawsuit against Amazon alleges the company didn’t honor that elementary principle.

Who profits from cramming? FTC challenges T-Mobile's role in bogus billing

It was an all-too-common occurrence.  People’s mobile phone bills included unexplained – and unauthorized – monthly charges.  It’s called cramming and the FTC has brought a series of cases against companies that had fees for ringtones, horoscopes, “love tips,” etc., placed on cell phone bills without consumers’ consent.  The crammers took a chunk of the cash, but you might be surprised to learn who the FTC says pocketed a 35-40% piece of the action.  A just-filed lawsuit pulls back the curtain on