Business Blog

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.

A piece of advice

You’ve heard the truisms.  Never eat at a place called Mom’s.  Never play cards with a guy named Doc.  We’ve got another one for you:  Think twice before doing business with a company called Legitimate Debt Settlement.

Painting the town green

The biggest decision facing a DIYer in the paint store used to be whether Dusting of Snow or Wistful Beige was right for the dining room.  But nowadays more businesses are making express claims about their products, including purported environmental benefits.  Two of the nation’s leading paint companies — The Sherwin-Williams Company and PPG Architectural Finishes, Inc. — advertised that some of their paints were free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Do you do B2B?

Old Blue Eyes wasn’t in the tech biz, but before giving the ring-a-ding-ding to a B2B transaction that allows partners to share customer data through software one company licenses to the other, we’re guessing he would have agreed with some basic principles derived from the FTC’s proposed settlement with web analytics company Compete, Inc.

Be clear about what you collect

Twenty years ago nobody told their third grade classmates they wanted to go into web analytics when they grew up.  But unlike cowboys and dinosaur wranglers, the analytics business is booming.  Information about consumer behavior can offer companies helpful insights to boost web traffic and sales.  But as a recent FTC settlement suggests, it’s wise to be transparent about your practices and take reasonable and appropriate measures to keep sensitive information secure.

A spirited closing letter

Bulk up while partying down.  At least, that’s the message FTC staff was concerned consumers might take from ads for Devotion Vodka.  According to the staff, the beverage was advertised to contain a significant amount of protein and to help build muscle mass — with the additional benefit of not causing hangovers.

If you deal in data

If information is your stock in trade, FTC settlements with consumer reporting giant Equifax Information Services and San Diego-based Direct Lending Source merit your attention.  The cases are a timely reminder to businesses that when buying and selling data, it’s important to build legal compliance into your day-to-day operations.

Networking to solve the problem of illegal robocalls

Like the character in the 70s movie “Network,” many consumers are “mad as hell and not going to take this anymore.”  What’s aroused their ire?  Robocalls made in violation of a 2009 rule outlawing many of these automated calls.  That’s why the FTC is convening Robocalls: All the Rage, a one-day conference —  it’s free and open to the public — set for October 18, 2012, in Washington, DC.

At the boiling point about "tech support" boiler rooms

For most consumers, the scam started with a disturbing phone call.  We’re from Microsoft (or Dell or Norton or McAfee), the “tech support” person on the line said, and we’ve detected a serious problem with your computer.  To underscore the need for immediate action, the caller directed people to a particular location on their computers and claimed that the presence of certain files — often accompanied by red Xs, yellow triangles, and other ominous features — was proof that their computers were riddled with malware and in imminent danger of crashing.  "Tech support" promised to correct the

Green Day

If you make environmental claims in your marketing or have clients who do, today’s the day you’ve been waiting for:  the release of the FTC’s revised Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims — the Green Guides.  In the next few weeks, we’ll follow up with blog posts going into detail about what’s new, what’s changed, and what’s stayed the same.  But here’s our suggested TO DO list to help you get started.

Private eyes: Lessons from the rent-to-own webcam cases

The charges outlined in the FTC’s lawsuits against a software business and seven rent-to-own companies are surprising — and OK, some might say a little creepy.  Software on rented computers gave the companies the ability to hit the kill switch if people were behind on their payments.  But according to the complaints, it also let them collect sensitive personal information, grab screen shots, and take webcam photos of people in their homes.

"I always feel like somebody's watching me"

Paranoid delusion from 80s R&B artist Rockwell?  Not necessarily, if he had used a computer from a rent-to-own store.  Because according to lawsuits filed by the FTC, many stores — including franchisees of Aaron’s, ColorTyme, and Premier Rental Purchase — spied on their customers through secret software that logged key strokes, captured screen shots, and in some cases, remotely activated the computer’s webcam to take pictures of people in their homes.  Huh?  Yeah, really.

Care a-parent

It can take a lot of shoe leather to investigate housing options for older relatives.  So entrepreneurs have stepped in to help make those transitions easier.  But according to the FTC, two unrelated businesses that offered free online placement services for people looking for long-term care facilities didn’t live up to their claims that they researched each location thoroughly.  The settlements offer compliance insights for other companies, too.

Good night. Sleep tight. Be sure to get your ad claims right.

No one is going to amend the nursery rhyme, but if you market products aimed at fighting bed bugs or head lice and are itching to keep your promotions in line with the law, two FTC lawsuits merit your attention.  Even if bugs aren’t your bag, the cases are a reminder of the need to back up your claims with solid science.

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