Business Blog



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.

CARdinal rules for online advertisers

If there are strings attached to a particular deal, those material terms and conditions have to be clearly and conspicuously disclosed up front. That well-settled legal principle applies to online ads. It applies to car ads.  And so (QED) it applies to online car ads. That should come as no surprise to savvy marketers. But two FTC settlements underscore it, highlight it, and festoon it with multi-colored pennants for members of the auto industry — and other advertisers, too.

FTC files data security complaint against LabMD

If your clients are focused on data security — and they should be — here’s a development they’ll want to know about.  The FTC just filed an administrative complaint against Atlanta-based LabMD.  The company does lab work for people across the country when their local doctors send in samples for testing.  The primary allegation:  that the company failed to reasonably protect the security of consumers’ personal data, including medical information.

FTC's Jamster case: 5 tips for mobile marketers

So people were taking a few minutes to play the free version of Angry Birds on their Android device.  At some point between the Giant Slingshot and the Mighty Eagle, they got a "Virus Detected" warning.  But according to an FTC lawsuit, that scary-looking security alert was phony and just a way for Jamster (the court papers use the corporate name Jesta Digital) to place charges on people's cell phone bills without their express consent.

Surely you Jesta: Jamster jammed for mobile cramming

You thought Angry Birds get peeved at those annoying green pigs?  That's nothing compared to consumers’ reaction when they found unauthorized charges “crammed” onto their cell phone bills for phony virus scans that showed up when they played Angry Birds on their Android devices.  To settle an FTC lawsuit, Jesta Digital LLC — you may know them as Jamster — will give refunds to a significant number of consumers, pay an additional $1.2 million, and change the way they do business.

Welcome back, COPPA

Rerun watchers will remember “Welcome Back, Kotter,” a schoolroom sitcom featuring a hummable theme by folk rocker John Sebastian and a cast of smart-alecky students.  The character of Juan Epstein was famous for forging excuse notes and permission slips and claiming they were from his mother.  What tipped off Mr. Kotter was that the letters always ended with “Signed, Juan Epstein’s Mother.”  OK, it’s a stretch, but there’s a connection between that 70s sitcom and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule.

"Check" out the $3.5 million penalty in the latest FCRA case

Here’s a newsflash:  There’s a troubling amount of inaccurate information in people’s credit reports that can result in the denial of a job, a place to live, and even necessities like groceries and medicine.  That’s why the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) to “follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy.”  The FTC’s settlement with Certegy Check Services — which includes the second-largest civil penalty ever in an FCRA case — offers insights into what the law requires.

Banned of Sterling?

It’s not often we can draw a connection between Motown recording artist Freda Payne and an FTC law enforcement action, but here goes:  Ms. Payne topped the charts in the 70s with “Band of Gold” and the FTC recently announced a “Banned of Sterling” — a settlement with business opportunity pitchman Christopher Andrew Sterling that will ban him for life from marketing work-at-home promotions.

FTC and Colorado AG: Infomercial pitchman's promissory promises not premised on truth

According to the ubiquitous infomercials, to rake in the big bucks with Russell Dalbey’s “wealth-building” programs, all you had to do was “Find ‘Em,” “List ‘Em,” and “Make Money" — the “‘Em” being seller-financed promissory notes.  The pitch was convincing to the close to one million people who bought the programs.  But according to the FTC and Colorado AG, the defendants’ claims of quick and easy money were deceptive.

Business buyer beware

As a small business person, you’re looking for ways to keep your credit and debit card processing costs down.  So when someone calls claiming to be associated with your current card processor, Visa or MasterCard, or your bank and promises big savings, of course you’d be all ears.  But according to a lawsuit filed by the FTC, the deceptive practices of one processing outfit have given new meaning to the word “swipe.”

New COPPA FAQs: You asked, we answered

If you’re the COPPA cop for your company or clients, you know that Complying with COPPA: Frequently Asked Questions (A Guide For Business And Parents And Small Entity Compliance Guide) – close friends call ‘em The FAQs – are an indispensable resource.  When FTC staff revised the FAQs a few months ago to reflect changes to COPPA that took effect July 1, 2013, we promised to update them as questions arose.  And we’re making good on that promise.

It'll all come out in the wash

Maybe you can’t tell from looking at us, but the FTC is very label-conscious.  No, not in that red carpet “Who are you wearing?” way.  We’re more concerned that apparel and other products covered by the Care Labeling Rule give consumers accurate cleaning instructions.  Fashionistas, take note because the FTC just announced a one-day roundtable on October 1, 2013, to talk over proposed changes to the Rule.

Magistrate Judge's finding: Payday lenders covered by FTC Act even if affiliated with American Indian Tribes

In an FTC action challenging allegedly illegal business practices by a payday loan operation affiliated with American Indian Tribes, a United States Magistrate Judge just issued a report and recommendation on the scope of the FTC Act.  Attorneys will want to give the order a careful read, but here’s the need-to-know nugget:  Over the defendants’ vigorous opposition, the Magistrate Judge concluded that the FTC Act “gives the FTC the authority to bring suit against Indian Tribes, arms of Indian Tribes, and employees and contractors of arms of

We've got your number

Most people are familiar with labels in clothing and other textile products that name the fabric and explain how to clean it.  But look a little closer and you may spot the prefix RN followed by a series of digits.  If you’re in the textile business, those are important numbers to know.

Itchy and Scratchy

Two things that bug us:  1) head lice, bed bugs, and other creepy crawlies that score off the charts on the eeww-ometer; and 2) companies that make deceptive claims that their products can treat and prevent infestations.  Settlements the FTC just announced with the marketers of the BEST Yet! line of cedar oil-based products reminds companies of the importance of backing up claims with sound science.

The truth is out there

Earlier this week was the 66th anniversary of the so-called Roswell UFO incident.  No, Mulder and Scully aren't on temporary assignment to the FTC and we don’t have any “now it can be told” government news on the subject.  But we can offer insights into what happening on MARS:  the Mortgage Assistance Relief Services Rule.  As X Files fans would say, "The truth is out there," but one place it appears to be lacking is in promotions making overhyped promises to homeowners in financial trouble.