February 2017

Third FinTech Forum to discuss artificial intelligence and blockchain

Artificial intelligence and blockchain. If those terms relate to your company’s work, you might want to mark March 9, 2017, on your calendar. If you have financial services clients and you’re not up to speed on how either artificial intelligence or blockchain relates to their business, you’ll definitely want to reserve March 9th for the FTC’s third FinTech Forum.

FTC and NASCO to explore consumer protection and charitable solicitations

Americans are among the most generous people in the world, contributing more than $373 billion to charity in 2015, according to The Giving Institute. Not only are Americans giving more to charity, but evolving marketing practices and new technologies have introduced different ways for organizations to accept donations and new challenges for consumer protection law enforcement and education.

Trial and error

Imagine a series of promotions that involve pain relief promises, cognition claims, endorsements, 30-minute radio ads, “risk-free” money-back guarantees, “free” trial offers, negative options, telemarketing, and upsells of buying club memberships. What could possibly go wrong for consumers?

Where would you like to start?

Participation is voluntary, but live up to what you promise

To facilitate the transfer of data, many U.S. companies that do business internationally participate in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Cross-Border Privacy Rules (CBPR) system. It’s voluntary, of course, but if companies say they participate, that representation – like other objective claims – must be truthful. That’s the lesson of three proposed settlements just announced by the FTC.

It’s illegal to ban honest reviews

Congress unanimously passed the Consumer Review Fairness Act to protect people’s ability to share in any forum their honest opinions about a business’ products, services, or conduct. Some companies had been using contract provisions – including their online terms and conditions – to threaten to sue consumers or penalize them financially for posting negative reviews or complaints. The new law makes that illegal.

Background checks? Don’t double-dip.

Need to verify an applicant's employment or income history? Checking to see if a candidate has a criminal history or civil judgments?

If you get information from a company that compiles it so you can make eligibility determinations, you must comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). That means no double-dipping. If you get a consumer report for one purpose, don’t use it for a different purpose.

Don’t make an R-value claim if you can’t support it

An ongoing FTC case is a reminder to businesses — If you make product claims based on scientific testing, you must have valid proof to back up those claims.

Case in point: Last fall, the FTC filed a lawsuit against Innovative Designs, Inc. (IDI) over allegations that the company violated the FTC Act by making false and unsubstantiated claims about its house wrap products.

What Vizio was doing behind the TV screen

Consumers have bought more than 11 million internet-connected Vizio televisions since 2010. But according to a complaint filed by the FTC and the New Jersey Attorney General, consumers didn’t know that while they were watching their TVs, Vizio was watching them. The lawsuit challenges the company’s tracking practices and offers insights into how established consumer protection principles apply to smart technology.

FTC says filtration system’s Made in USA claims didn’t hold water

For consumers in the market for a water filtration system, the choices can leave them feeling drenched. So when deciding among competing products, a claim that a particular system is “Proudly Built in the USA” may turn a browser into a buyer. But an FTC lawsuit against iSpring Water Systems alleges that the company’s “Built in USA” claims were all wet.