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FinTech Forum: A closer look at peer-to-peer payment systems and crowdfunding platforms

Financial technology remains a hot topic for consumers, offering the possibilities of increased convenience and access to financial services at a lower cost. As part of its FinTech Forum series, the FTC continues to promote public discussion of the ways in which innovative FinTech services – many provided by non-banks and technology companies within the FTC’s jurisdiction – can benefit consumers and the potential issues for stakeholders to keep in mind.

Celebrating small business during National Consumer Protection Week

Today kicks off National Consumer Protection Week, but what the FTC does to protect consumers is only part of the story. We also work hard to help small business get down to business. Here are just a few examples of what we’re doing to protect your business from deceptive practices.

Has a phishing scam hooked your company’s good name?

When internet fraudsters mimic a legitimate business to trick consumers into giving out their personal information, it’s called phishing. It’s not just a problem for consumers, but for the companies the scammers are impersonating too. The FTC has long provided advice to consumers about steps they can take to avoid phishing scams. But what should you do if customers contact your company upset that they responded to a phishing email from a scammer impersonating your legitimate business?

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.

This tax season, join a webinar, protect your data

Tax season has just begun, but tax identity thieves already are posting their “gone phishin’” signs: fake emails designed to trick companies into handing over their employees’ personal information. To help small businesses avoid the hook, the FTC and the IRS are hosting a free Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week webinar on Wednesday, February 1, at 4 p.m. EST.

Track record? Staff report explores cross-device tracking

We recently saw a fellow diner reach across the cafeteria soup station until splat! His phone fell out of his shirt pocket and into the minestrone. But even before he ladled out his soup-logged smartphone, he reached into his bag and took out his tablet. As consumers have come to rely on multiple devices, companies are using technologies to connect a consumer’s activity across those devices – smartphones, tablets, desktops, laptops, and more.

FTC challenges claims for smartphone breathalyzer pitched on “Shark Tank”

Fans of “Shark Tank” will remember it as one of the show’s most dramatic bidding wars. Charles Yim, CEO of Breathometer, pitched his smartphone-enabled breathalyzer as a way to “help people make smarter and safer decisions” about drinking and driving. All five sharks went for the product hook, line, and sinker. But according to the FTC, the defendants’ deceptive claims about the accuracy of the devices’ readings left consumers floundering.

$20 million FTC settlement requires Uber to have proof for earnings, auto financing claims

In promotional materials to attract prospective drivers, ride-hailing company Uber Technologies touted how much money drivers would earn and the favorable terms they could get by financing a car through Uber’s Vehicle Solutions Program. But according to an FTC complaint, Uber exaggerated those earnings claims and misrepresented the terms of its Vehicle Solutions Program.

Looking back at privacy in 2016, and on to the future

Protecting consumers’ privacy and personal data has long been a priority at the FTC. Over the years, we’ve helped millions of identity theft victims recover from that crime. We created the National Do Not Call Registry to limit unwanted telemarketing, and we continue to fight illegal robocalls. And we’ve brought more than sixty cases against companies that didn’t take reasonable steps to protect people’s data.

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