In celebration of the FTC’s 100th anniversary, we’ve been examining the leaves on our family tree. The FTC’s founding is often associated with turn-of-the-century trust busting, but a closer look – including a study of the very first case published in Volume 1 of Federal Trade Commission Decisions – proves that the intertwined roots of consumer protection and competition run deep. That’s one of the themes of the FTC@100 Symposium on Friday, November 7, 2014.
Patent assertion entities have been the subject of much debate in antitrust and intellectual property circles. But there’s one proposition we hope that parties on all sides of the issue can agree on: It’s illegal to falsely threaten patent suits against small businesses or make unfounded claims that other companies have paid for patent licenses.
This is a special week for the Federal Trade Commission. On Thursday evening, November 6, along with the Antitrust Section of the ABA, the FTC will host our 100th Anniversary Dinner, a public event for FTC staff, alumni, friends, and supporters. Information about the event and tickets can be found on the event’s registration page.
Parents want to make the best choices for their babies’ health. But between diaper changes and 2 AM feedings, they aren’t in a position to spend much time surveying the scientific literature for ways to reduce the chance their kid will develop the allergies they suffer from. So when Gerber (also doing business as Nestle Nutrition) advertised Good Start Gentle baby formula as a way to “reduce the risk of developing allergies” – and featured a gold seal on products suggesting FDA approval – it’s understandable that parents would take note.
How’s this for a profile on a dating site? “Enjoys travel, long walks on the beach, fake potential dates that really are subscription solicitations, and illegal negative option programs, in violation of the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act (ROSCA).” If that’s your idea of a dream date, have we got a site for you!
A rental car company prominently advertises “unlimited mileage.” You rent from them and everything is going fine until you’ve done a few hours of highway driving. That’s when the company tells you it’s changed its unlimited mileage policy. Since you’ve traveled more than 100 miles, they've restricted it so the car you contracted for won't accelerate over 30.
Paying with plastic is a convenience for consumers, but a cost for companies. So small businesses are always looking for a penny to pinch in what they pay to process credit and debit cards. Enter unscrupulous pitch people who resort to impersonation, erasures, fine print, half-truths, and flat-out lies to get a business owner’s signature on a contract. When you're pricing processing, the FTC has advice on protecting yourself from a B2B bamboozle.
When you think about places lacking in oxygen, outer space might come to mind. But there’s another location right here on Planet Earth. And it’s the subject of 15 warning letters just sent by the FTC staff to companies making certain environmental marketing claims for plastic bags.
It’s called ROSCA – the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act – and it prohibits marketers from charging consumers for an online transaction unless the marketer has clearly disclosed all material terms of the deal and received the consumer’s express informed consent. Your e-commerce clients will want to know about the FTC’s first ROSCA case, filed recently in Nevada.
The FTC has been taking a 360° look at debt collection and credit reporting lately – workshops, reports, education, and law enforcement. On October 23, 2014, we're hosting a roundtable in Long Beach, California, with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to get perspectives on how these issues affect Latino consumers, especially those who have limited English proficiency.
At the FTC, we consider policy developments or proposed rule changes one rung at a time. An integral step in that process is the public comment period. If you have clients interested in two matters pending at the FTC, they have more time to put pen to paper.
A. This company just settled a case with the FTC for Do Not Call violations and deceptive promises that its purported educational products would improve kids’ grades and standardized test scores.
Q. What is WordSmart?
We’re not saying it’s the most important phone message since “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.” But the FTC hopes a $105 million settlement with AT&T Mobility stemming from unauthorized charges on consumers’ mobile phone bills will motivate industry members to listen up.
A box of light bulbs. A case of cleaner. Another box of light bulbs. Ordinary supplies that businesses and nonprofits of all sizes use every day. If these things arrive at your office doorstep, someone in your company or organization must have ordered them, right? And when the bill comes, you have to pay it, right? Well, not necessarily.
We can’t vouch for the accuracy of Shakira’s representation that “Hips Don’t Lie.” But the FTC says anti-cellulite and slimming claims for caffeine-embedded underwear sold by lingerie company Wacoal and catalog retailer Norm Thompson were deceptive. As for Norm Thompson's statement that Dr. Oz endorsed its products, the complaint challenges that as false.
One hundred years ago today, the New York Times’ news pages were filled with coverage of the outbreak of World War I in Europe. There were stories about the newly opened Panama Canal and the growing movement for women’s suffrage. For $200, an ad in the paper offered readers the chance to purchase a Victrola phonograph.
If the disclosure of information is necessary to prevent an ad from being deceptive, the disclosure has to be clear and conspicuous. That shouldn’t be news to any advertiser and certainly not to the 60+ companies – including 20 of the 100 biggest advertisers in the U.S. – that received warning letters as a part of the FTC’s Operation Full Disclosure.
History buffs – and fans of the series “Deadwood” – know that promises of riches lured many prospectors west. Now imagine if the general store in Deadwood advertised state-of-the-art shovels, pans, and pick axes necessary for mining, but never delivered the gear or delivered it long after others had mined the prime parcels. That’s pretty much what the FTC says Kansas City-based Butterfly Labs is up to, except that what today’s prospectors are mining are bitcoins.
An online high school that bypasses the pep rallies, proms, and the principal’s office? Under the right circumstances, that might be an innovation in education. But what if it skips the classes and coursework while falsely promising a valid sheepskin from an accredited institution?