April 2020

New funding for Coronavirus SBA loans attracts scammers

If you’re a business owner, you may be planning to apply for a loan through the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) program. These programs recently got hundreds of billions of dollars in new funding. But, while you’re focused on getting a loan, scammers may be focused on you: hoping to trick you into giving them sensitive business information, like your bank account numbers, employees’ Social Security numbers, and even your money.
 

What’s at the intersection of COVID-19, cancer claims, and CBD? This FTC case

It’s a case that brings together eight capital letters that are making headlines: COVID and CBD. A California marketer of a product advertised to prevent or treat COVID-19 has agreed to a preliminary order that prohibits him from making those claims. Pending the resolution of a parallel FTC administrative action, the proposed order also bars the defendant from representing that three CBD-based products he sells are effective cancer treatments.

21 more companies warned about questionable COVID claims

FTC staff just sent 21 more warning letters to companies that have used allegedly unsubstantiated coronavirus prevention and treatment claims to promote products and services. Many of the latest letters focus on questionable representations for high doses of vitamins, intravenous treatments, ozone, and purported stem cell therapies.

FTC in action

In these unprecedented times, the Commission is working on all fronts to stop pandemic-related scams or deception – and to warn consumers and businesses about them. But our work in other areas continues, too. Today, we’re taking a minute to take stock of some of the highlights from 2019.

$9.3 million FTC settlement suggests Mail Order Rule compliance is always in style

Trend-conscious buyers want the latest styles ASAP and online retailer Fashion Nova reinforced those expectations by promising “Fast Shipping,” “2-Day Shipping,” and “Expect Your Items Quick!” But according to the FTC, the California company’s shipment delays violated the Mail, Internet, or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule and left consumers haute under the collar. The $9.3 million settlement is the largest ever in a case of its kind.

When the price is wrong: $175 million FTC settlement with Progressive Leasing shows why cost clarity is key

Some things have changed in the rent-to-own business, but a $175 million proposed settlement with Progressive Leasing reminds companies that bedrock consumer protection principles apply, especially the fundamental proposition that deceiving people about cost strikes at the heart of the FTC Act. Not in the rent-to-own industry? Not so fast. The case offers compliance pointers for your company, too.

First FTC coronavirus lawsuit alleges company lured consumers with false SBA connection

The COVID-19 crisis has many small businesses on the ropes, so it’s unfortunate we have to warn them about another threat. According to a lawsuit just filed by the FTC, a Rhode Island company that goes by the name “SBA Loan Program” has been soliciting applications from small businesses, but has no affiliation with the U.S. Small Business Administration and the loan programs that agency is currently running.

No pain (relief), no gain? FTC challenges claims aimed at older consumers

“Oh, my achin’ . . . .” It’s a common refrain for many older Americans and others who experience chronic pain. Some businesses respond with ads heavy on puffed-up promises, but light on the scientific evidence necessary to support serious health claims. That’s the FTC’s allegation against a company that sold a pill called Isoprex. The complaint also challenges the undisclosed use of compensated friends and family as purported consumer endorsers.

Small business financing: Considerations for borrowers and lenders during the coronavirus crisis

For small businesses, there’s never been a time when “business as usual” has been so unusual. With many companies facing coronavirus-related challenges, the FTC has tips for business owners – and for those offering small business financing – about navigating today’s uncharted financial waters.

Thinking about making Coronavirus claims? Read the latest FTC warning letters first.

It’s FTC Advertising 101: Don’t make claims about serious medical conditions unless you have solid proof in hand to substantiate what you say. It’s been the law for decades and now more than ever, it’s essential for advertisers to honor that fundamental principle. And yet companies continue to market everything from facial brushes to IV drips with promises to prevent, treat, or cure Coronavirus – claims the FTC calls into question in a new round of warning letters.

COPPA Guidance for Ed Tech Companies and Schools during the Coronavirus

“Social distancing,” “shelter-in-place,” “virtual happy hour”— these are some of the new expressions on everyone’s lips the past few weeks. For many, add “remote learning” to the list. Because of school closures, millions of students are now using online, education technology (or “ed tech”) services to engage in remote learning from home. And while this fills a vital need, it’s important to keep in mind that many of these ed tech services collect and use student’s personal information.

Using Artificial Intelligence and Algorithms

Headlines tout rapid improvements in artificial intelligence technology. The use of AI technology – machines and algorithms – to make predictions, recommendations, or decisions has enormous potential to improve welfare and productivity. But it also presents risks, such as the potential for unfair or discriminatory outcomes or the perpetuation of existing socioeconomic disparities. Health AI offers a prime example of this tension.

Joint letters take new steps to stop illegal Coronavirus robocalls

Consumers hate illegal robocalls. And as the thousands of reports pouring into the FTC indicate, they also hate robocalls that exploit concerns about Coronavirus. In recent months, the FTC has taken innovative steps to take on not only illegal robocallers, but also companies that “assist and facilitate” their conduct.

Where small businesses can turn for accurate information about financial relief

As a business owner, you’ve seen the headlines about financial relief that may be available to some companies through the Small Business Administration (SBA). But you’ve also heard about scammers who extract a grain of truth from the news and distort it in an effort to cheat small businesses. Now more than ever it’s critical for small business owners to go straight to the source for accurate information about what’s happening at the SBA. And that source, of course, is the Small Business Administration’s dedicated page, sba.gov/coronavirus.