Business Blog

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.

Life in the (Medi)fast lane

If you use consumer testimonials in your ads or have clients  who do, check out the FTC’s settlement with Jason Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of the diet company, Medifast, Inc.  But to really explore what the case is about, we’ll need to take a trip back to 1992.  (Sorry -- we should have asked our UK consumer protection counterparts to let us borrow the TARDIS for this.)

New FTC publication for mobile app developers

Are you in the mobile app business?  If so, you’re probably considering some important questions, like what to tell users about your app, what information to collect from users, and what to do with any information you collect.  Whether you work for a tech giant or are striking out on your own with that gotta-have-it app, the same truth-in-advertising standards and basic privacy principles apply.

Out of the mouths of babes

Tell people your baby is adorable and no doubt you have the photos to back it up.  But market a product called “Your Baby Can Read!” and you better have real proof.  According to a lawsuit filed by the FTC, ads for the “Your Baby Can Read!” program made false and deceptive claims that the product could teach infants and toddlers to read.

Phenomenal abdominals? Not so fast, Ab Circle Pro.

If you haven’t heard of the Ab Circle Pro, you need to spend more time in your recliner.  Between the infomercial blitz, the online presence, and a retail campaign that promoted the product with a prominent “As Seen on TV” logo, ads were everywhere.  The marketers claimed that using the device for just three minutes a day would lead to a 10-pound weight loss in two weeks and inches off the stomach, hips, and thighs — benefits equal to or better than longer workouts at the gym.

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