Quick: How many connected devices do your customers have within arm’s reach right now? For a lot of them, the answer is (at minimum) a desktop computer, a laptop, a smartphone, a tablet, a connected TV, and a wearable gadget. What are the consumer protection implications when companies collect data through – and across – those devices for the purpose of advertising and marketing?
Two products sit side by side on the store shelf, but only one says “Made in USA.” For many consumers, that’s an important consideration in deciding what to buy. That’s why the FTC wants to make sure companies’ Made in USA claims – like all objective product representations – are true and backed by appropriate evidence. We asked FTC attorney Julia Ensor some of the questions we’ve heard from businesses about Made in USA claims.
Does my company have to disclose U.S. content on products we sell in the United States?
If you couldn’t make it to Washington to attend the FTC workshop Follow the Lead, watching the webcast is the next best thing – and it starts at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time on Friday, October 30, 2015. We’re bringing together industry members, consumer advocates, researchers, law enforcers – and you – to discuss the consumer protection implications of online lead generation.
Energy-conscious – and budget-minded – consumers rely on those bright yellow EnergyGuide labels on appliances and the Lighting Facts box on light bulbs to help them comparison-shop. If your products are covered by the Energy Labeling Rule, the FTC has taken action on two fronts that you’ll want to follow.
If the Commission is to attain the objectives Congress envisioned, it cannot be required to confine its road block to the narrow lane the transgressor has traveled; it must be allowed effectively to close all roads to the prohibited goal, so that its order may not be bypassed with impunity.
That’s from the Supreme Court’s 1952 decision in FTC v. Ruberoid, but it also outlines part of the job description of the Bureau of Consumer Protection’s Enforcement Division.
Two people walk into a deli and both order a pastrami on rye. When the check arrives, one is charged $8. The other is surprised to get a bill for $15.99. That’s not the start of an old Henny Youngman joke. It’s an analogy that raises some of the issues in the FTC’s proposed $2.95 million settlement with Sprint for allegedly charging customers with lower credit scores a monthly fee without giving them the proper up-front notice required by law.
What do lead generators do? They typically identify consumers interested in a particular product or service, collect information from them, and then sell it to third parties. The idea is to match interested buyers and available sellers. But in the meantime, that information – which sometimes includes sensitive personal or financial data – may travel through a long marketing pipeline before reaching the desired business. What are the consumer protection implications?
The FTC is asking the Office of Management and Budget for clearance to study sales, marketing, and expenditures in a complex new industry whose products have attracted a lot of attention. The proposed subject: e-cigarettes.
Austin used to be known for Armadillo World Headquarters and the Stallion Drive-In on North Lamar that served a $4.99 chicken fried steak the size of a manhole cover. But the talk now is tech with a burgeoning industry that manages to keep the city both weird and wired. That’s why the FTC’s Start with Security program is on the road again on November 5th – this time to Austin.
If you have new research you’d like to present at PrivacyCon – the FTC’s January 14, 2016, national conference to explore trends in data security and consumer privacy – we need to hear from you by midnight tonight.
The FTC has gone to court hundreds of times to stop allegedly misleading weight loss claims and Roca Labs’ “gastric bypass alternative” promises are no exception. But other parts of the complaint – including a count challenging the defendants’ use of consumer gag clauses as an unfair practice – warrant a careful reading.
Baseball lore has it that Hall of Famer Ted Williams’ eyesight was so acute he could see the seams on a fastball. Developers of an app called Ultimeyes claimed that using their product “gives baseball players superhuman vision.” For some of us though, a daily task like reading a menu in a dimly lit restaurant is a swing and a miss. No problem, said the company. “25 minutes on this app will improve your vision by 31%” – results supposedly verified by a published university study.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act isn’t just about credit. If your company uses background checks in making personnel decisions, the FTC reminds you of your obligations under the FCRA. In honor of Throwback Thursday, here’s an unconventional old-school summary of key requirements under federal law. Spin the mirrored disco ball and join us on the dance floor for “F-C-R-A.”
You don’t need to go to a water park to see performing seals. You can spot them on websites where they perform the function of conveying information about the purported environmental benefits of products. But do the groups offering those seals – and the companies that display them – have appropriate proof for the claims consumers take from them? If your clients use environmental seals or certifications, you’ll want to see the latest from the FTC staff.
When the conversation turns to health, the word “homeopathy” often pops up. But what is homeopathy? What does the consumer marketplace look like? And how does the FTC’s long-standing substantiation doctrine apply to claims for OTC products advertised as homeopathic? That's the topic of an FTC workshop on Monday, September 21, 2015.
If there’s a material connection between a marketer and an endorser, disclose it. That’s been the FTC standard for decades and it didn't change when marketing moved to social media. The FTC’s proposed settlement with online entertainment network Machinima illustrates missteps that could land advertisers, ad agencies, and PR firms in testimonial turmoil. But what about endorsers, affiliates, influencers, brand ambassadors, etc.?
Does your company use background checks in evaluating job applicants? If so, are you complying with the Fair Credit Reporting Act’s notice, consent, and disclosure requirements? A closing letter the FTC staff sent to California Health & Wellness elaborates on the applicability – or, in this instance, the inapplicability – of a narrow FCRA exception.