Business Blog


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.


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.