Business Blog

Cooling-Off heats up

Say “Cooling-Off Rule” and most people (OK, most people over a certain age) think of the classic door-to-door salesman — although the scope of the Rule is broader than that.  After listening to comments about the future of the Cooling-Off Rule, the FTC has decided to keep it in place, but is asking for your feedback about one important proposed change.

FTC's revised COPPA Rule: Five need-to-know changes for your business

It’s not often we describe something as a drop-what-you’re-doing development.  But if you’ve been following proposed changes to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule, this may qualify.  After national workshops, Federal Register Notices, and hundreds of comments from the public, the FTC just issued final changes to the COPPA Rule.

Going for broke(r)

Until recently, most consumers — and a whole lot of businesses — were unfamiliar with the operations of the data broker industry.  Data brokers collect personal information from a variety of public and non-public sources and resell it to other companies.  No doubt, there are economic benefits to the flow of certain kinds of information.  But legislators, law enforcers, and others have raised concerns about the privacy implications of what goes on behind the scenes.

Masquer-aid?

Usually we lay out the facts of a case and then summarize what we see as the take-away tips for business.  But this time we’re switching things up.  Here are the two bottom-line messages from the FTC’s ongoing action against The Cuban Exchange:  It’s a Bad Idea to use robocalls to impersonate familiar groups in an effort to trick people into turning over their bank account info and other sensitive data.  And it’s a Really Bad Idea when the group you impersonate is the Federal Trade Commission.

New URL in town

Business.ftc.gov is happy to welcome a sibling:  consumer.ftc.gov — the new URL for consumer resources from the FTC, the nation’s consumer protection agency.

Why should the FTC’s consumer site matter to your business?  It’s become a catchphrase, but it’s true: An educated consumer really is your best customer.  When prospective buyers are empowered with information, satisfaction soars.  And there’s another reason:  You put in a long day on the job, but in your down time, you’re a consumer, too.

Survey says: What FTC follow-up report on kids' apps means for your business

Next time you’re in a long line at the grocery store, watch how parents distract a kid who's feeling cranky.  They used to jangle keys or offer a favorite toy.  But now a lot of Moms and Dads hand them a smartphone with an app designed for children.  As the kids' app market continues to grow, FTC staff issued a report detailing survey results showing that neither app stores nor app developers were giving parents the information they need to figure out what data is being collected from their kids, how it’s shared, and who has access to it.  The report recommended that members of the app ind

Proposed changes to the Used Car Rule: What you auto know

The wheels are turning on proposed updates to the FTC’s Used Car Rule.  Formally known as the Used Motor Vehicle Trade Regulation Rule (although only its Mother calls it that), the Rule has been in effect since 1985.  It requires car dealers to display a window sticker, called a Buyers Guide, on used cars they offer for sale.  The Buyers Guide gives people information about the car — for example, whether it’s being sold “as is” or with a warranty, what percentage of the repair costs a dealer will pay under the warranty, and the syst

Sporting goods companies: Guard against deception

Some sports fans spend Saturdays on the field.  For the rest of us, raising a Big Foam Finger is exertion enough.  But we’ve all read stories about the dangers that head injuries pose to participants in contact sports.  That’s why the FTC is continuing to raise concerns about possibly unsubstantiated claims for products advertised to reduce the risk of sports concussions.

The last resort

When it comes to making hotel reservations, some consumers aren’t feeling very hospitable about drip pricing — the practice of advertising only part of the price and then revealing other charges later as the customer goes through the buying process.  That’s why FTC staff sent out 22 warning letters to companies raising concerns about the practice.

The Big Picture

Are you and your clients taking in The Big Picture?  That’s what the FTC is calling its December 6, 2012, workshop on comprehensive online data collection.  The event will gather consumer groups, academics, industry representatives, privacy professionals, and others to look at the current state of comprehensive data collection, its risks and potential benefits, and where it could be going in the future.

Enforceable Codes of Conduct: Protecting Consumers Across Borders

Business has gone global, but how should consumers be protected when transactions cross borders?  The FTC is hosting a forum on Thursday, November 29, 2012, to talk about the role of enforceable industry codes of conduct to protect consumers in cross-border commerce.  What’s on the agenda?  Systems where government entities, businesses, consumer groups, and others develop and administer voluntary procedures that govern areas outside of traditional government oversight.

Down in the dumps(ter)

Every business generates paper destined for the circular file.  But if documents contain sensitive information, don’t toss them out in a way that could invite unauthorized access.  According to the FTC’s lawsuit against PLS Financial Services, PLS Group, and The Payday Loan Store of Illinois, loan applications, credit reports, and other confidential paperwork found their way into dumpsters near the defendants’ locations.  The settlement applies just to the entities specified in the order.  But is it a good time to take a look at

Cracking down on contrepreneurs

Call them contrepreneurs — marketers who use hyped-up promises to sell business opportunities to people eager to be their own boss.  As part of a federal-state blitz on bogus bizopps, the FTC announced seven law enforcement actions and developments in five other cases against outfits the agency says used illegal tactics to take more than half a billion dollars from two million Americans trying to make ends meet in a challenging economy.

Trash Talking

Some things you’d expect to find in a trash can:  last night’s potato peelings, the casserole that looked so promising in the cookbook photo, and Oscar the Grouch.  But if you run a business, the one thing you don’t want in the dumpster behind your office is paperwork containing sensitive information about your customers.  Just ask PLS Financial Services, PLS Group, and the Payday Loan Store of Illinois.

Calling for back-up

Everybody needs a wingman — somebody there just in case you need back-up.  When it comes to explaining the consumer protection basics of mobile apps to client and colleagues, you’ve got a wingman at the ready.

It’s called Marketing Your Mobile App: Get It Right From the Start.  It’s a to-the-point brochure from the FTC outlining fundamental truth-in-advertising and privacy principles for app developers.  The brochures focuses on time-tested tips like:

Facing Facts

Say facial recognition and it’s easy for people to get all Minority Report-ish.  But it’s no longer science fiction.  If you’ve uploaded a photo to try on a pair of glasses or check yourself out with a different hairstyle, you’ve used a form of the technology.  Marketers are taking advantage, too, using facial characteristics like gender or age to serve up targeted ads in retail spots.

Pages