Business Blog

Combating "cramouflage": What businesses can learn from the FTC's latest mobile case

Call it "cramouflage" — unauthorized (and unexplained) charges that show up on people's mobile phone bills.  Regardless of whether consumers use cell phones, land lines, or two cans tied together with string, it’s illegal to bill them without their express consent.  That’s always been the law.  It’s the law now.  And we’ll go out on a limb and predict it’ll always be the law.  A settlement involving "cramouflage" charges is the FTC's latest foray against deception in the mobile marketplace.

Heads up, payment processors

Here’s a fun fact we didn’t know:  Contrary to popular belief, ostriches don’t bury their heads in the sand.  And here's a disturbing observation borne out by FTC experience:  Some companies that grease the wheels for fraudsters do bury their heads in the sand.  Others go a step further and help cover up their affiliates’ wrongdoing.  Either course of conduct could land them in legal hot water.  That’s just one message businesses can take from the FTC’s settlement with Process America, Inc.

Blurred lines

Blurred lines are the talk of the media world.  No, not that “Blurred Lines.”  What advertisers, consumer groups, academics, and the FTC are trying to put into focus is the blending of ads with news, entertainment, and other content in digital media — sometimes called “native advertising” or “sponsored content.”  That’s what’s up for discussion at a December 4, 2013, public workshop at the FTC.  Blurred Lines:  Advertising or Content? will explore ways that consumers

How your business can help protect those who protect us

Maybe it’s a “We Support Our Troops” sign at the front of your business or a special discount for members of the military.  There are lots of ways companies try to show appreciation to servicemembers and their families.  If Veterans Day has you thinking about how to say “thank you” for their sacrifice, the FTC has an easy first step:  Honor their legal rights.

How I spent my summer vocation: FTC revises Vocational School Guides

We’ve all seen ads for vocational schools promising the inside track on well-paying careers in exciting industries.  If you have clients in the vocational school business, class is in session about revisions to key FTC guides.

In place since 1972, the Vocational School Guides (known more formally as the Guides for Private Vocational and Distance Education Schools) are designed to protect potential enrollees from deceptive statements about educational programs that claim to qualify people for certain occupations or trades.

In a world . . .

In a world where your coffee pot secretly notifies your toaster that you’re ready for breakfast, one agency dares to stand up and ask the question others won’t:  Just what are the consumer privacy and security implications?

A Mark, A Yen, A Buck or A Pound

Those billions of dollars people send from the U.S. to other countries make the world go around. If your company or your clients are in the business of sending remittances overseas for consumers, you need to know about a rule from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that just took effect.

6 tips for keeping your green claims clean

A recent FTC law enforcement crackdown focused on allegedly deceptive biodegradability claims for plastics. Four of the cases settled and a fifth is heading to trial. Another action targeted green claims made by a company the FTC had sued before. Of course, the orders in the cases apply just to those companies, but if you’re intent on keeping your green claims clean, there’s a lot you can glean from the announcement.

Grading your degradability claims: The latest for green marketers

Golf tees, food containers, paper plates, shopping bags, additives for plastics, and rebar caps to prevent construction workers from getting impaled on the job. That’s either the strangest shopping list ever or just some of the products at the center of the FTC’s latest law enforcement effort to make sure companies’ environmental claims are truthful and substantiated.

Phantom of the owe-pera

This tale of phantoms doesn’t involve crashing chandeliers and operatic crescendos.  But according to a lawsuit filed by the FTC, the results were just as dramatic for consumers mistreated by debt collectors who used deceptive and threatening tactics to collect on “phantom” payday loans — bogus debts people didn’t really owe.  The complaint charges Atlanta- and Cleveland-based Pinnacle Payment Services, LLC and a chorus of corporate officers and affiliated outfits with violations of the FTC Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practic

How Aaron's erred: What your business should take from the latest spycam case

Remember the cases the FTC announced last year against a software developer and rent-to-own stores that secretly monitored people in their homes?  Unbeknownst to consumers, computers came installed with a program called PC Rental Agent.  When the software was in “Detective Mode,” companies could remotely activate the camera — meaning they were surreptitiously snapping, transmitting, and storing pictures of anything in the range of the webcam.

Made in USA? Avoiding a Yankee Doodle Don't

There are lots of nifty phone accessories, bottle holders, tow straps, pet items, and lanyards out there.  So a label that says the product is Made in the USA may help make the decision for some consumers.  When it bears the American flag and says “TRULY MADE IN THE USA,” that just might seal the deal.  But according to an FTC lawsuit, a lot of the “Made in the USA” merchandise touted by Logan, Utah-based E.K.

App developers and privacy: An invitation to hone your skills

App developers, add this to your schedule. On Wednesday, October 23, 2013, the Application Developers Alliance, working with the FTC and the California Attorney General, will present a Mobile Privacy Summit in Santa Monica, California.  Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, will kick off a day of panels to help you understand industry best practices and requirements to protect the privacy of mobile app users.

DONT VIOL8 FDCPA. K? THX

If we were sending a text about the FTC’s case against Glendale, California, based debt collector National Attorney Collection Services, that might be all we could convey, given space limitations.  That abbreviated headline illustrates just one of the technological challenges posed when using new means of communication.  But regardless of the method debt collectors choose when contacting people who owe money, the consumer protections of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act still apply.  That’s just one point members of the industry shoul

And now a word from our sponsor: FTC announces "native ad" workshop

It used to be pretty clear.  The entertainment portion of a show ended and the commercials began.  The two-column article ran on one side of the newspaper and the ad ran on the other.  Or the webpage had the content in the middle with a banner ad running across the top.  Things are more complicated now.  Some call it “native advertising” or “sponsored content.”  Whatever the name, it’s for sure ads in digital media are starting to look a lot like the surrounding content.  What are the consumer protection implications now that those lines appear to be blurring?  That’s the topic of an

Practicing what we preach

"Disclose the cost upfront."  We tell businesses that all the time, so it’s important we follow our own advice.  In that spirit, fees for telemarketers accessing the National Do Not Call Registry are going up a smidge as of October 1, 2013.

Under the law, telemarketers have to download numbers on the Do Not Call Registry to make sure they don’t call people who have said they want to be left alone.  The first five area codes are free.  Exempt groups, like some bona fide charities, can get the list at no charge.

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