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Kvetch and release

They say “Nobody likes a complainer,” but don’t you believe it. For years, the FTC has encouraged consumers to speak up about questionable practices. We use those complaints in lots of different ways – for example, to spot emerging forms of fraud, to help set FTC priorities, and to bring law enforcement actions. Today we’re announcing a significant expansion in how we use complaint data in the ongoing fight against what some people view as Consumer Enemy #1.

Before crossing borders with online reviews and endorsements, check the rules of the road

When you travel to another country, it can be challenging to figure out the lay of the land. That’s true for driving – and for advertising and marketing. A good guidebook or map can make a world of difference.

Start with security – and stick with it


When it comes to data security, what’s reasonable will depend on the size and nature of your business and the kind of data you deal with. But certain principles apply across the board: Don’t collect sensitive information you don’t need. Protect the information you maintain. And train your staff to carry out your policies.

Innovation citation: FTC announces winners of IoT Home Inspector Challenge

Internet of Things entrepreneurs are developing products to help keep households running smoothly. But like anyone else you invite into your home, it’s important that IoT devices – appliances, fitness monitors, home security systems, etc. – behave like good houseguests. Out-of-date software can pose a particular problem. One IoT device without software updates can present its own security risks, of course, but it also can introduce vulnerabilities elsewhere on the home network.

FTC to Small Businesses: Gather Round

Legend has it that King Arthur gathered his knights at a round table. Because the table had no head, it signaled that everyone seated at it was respected, and their contributions were welcome. At the FTC, we love the concept of a round table. It's a way to bring together stakeholders for a mutually beneficial discussion.

We can’t go for that (no can do)

Of course, phantom debt collection – the practice of pressuring people to pay “debts” they don’t owe – harms consumers. But as an FTC complaint demonstrates, when phantom debt collectors strike, they could affect your company, too. According to the FTC, a Florida-based outfit engaged in a scheme to defraud consumers through the collection of debts people didn’t actually owe or the company didn’t have the authority to collect.

How is your business honoring Month of the Military Consumer?

Pork Chop Hill Road, Screaming Eagle Boulevard, Hell on Wheels Avenue, or my former home on Patton Drive. If those street names sound familiar, chances are you’re a servicemember, a veteran, or part of a military family. July is the Month of the Military Consumer and the FTC has resources to help keep members of the military fiscally fit and scam savvy – and a tip for businesses that do business with military consumers.

Billed for office supplies you didn’t order? Don’t pay!

It typically started with a schmoozy call to an unsuspecting small business or nonprofit. Sometimes the caller claimed to be “confirming” an existing order, “verifying” an address, or offering a “free” catalog or sample. Then came the supplies surprise – unordered merchandise arriving at the company’s doorstep followed by high-pressure demands to pay up.

Paint settlements suggest caution with broad-brush VOC, safety claims

If marketing claims are any indication, “green” paint is popular with consumers, but not just in the sense of emerald, mint, or avocado. Companies are advertising that their paints are emission-free, VOC-free, and without chemicals that could harm consumers, including pregnant women, babies, and people with asthma. Some brands even feature seals and certifications touting purported environmental benefits.

Lead generation: When the “product” is personal data

There’s been a lot of talk about “ping trees” and other activities associated with the lead generation industry. The FTC’s concern is that consumers don’t get ponged in the process. A proposed settlement gives a glimpse into how one lead generation company operated and offers insights for businesses about compliance considerations when the “product” in question is consumers’ personal data.

Review, rethink, reform

TVs, textiles, appliances, and spam. That may sound like an eclectic shopping list at a big box retailer, but they’re clues to an FTC development you and your clients should know about.

They’re all categories affected by four rules the FTC is putting under the regulatory microscope: the Picture Tube Rule, the Textile Rules, the Energy Labeling Rule, and the CAN-SPAM Rule.

Best practices to foil gas station skimmers

If you own or operate gas stations, chances are you know about skimmers – illegal card readers attached to payment terminals, like gas pumps, that grab data off a credit or debit card’s magnetic stripe without the customer’s knowledge. Criminals sell the stolen data or use it to buy things online. If your pumps are compromised, customers won’t know their information has been stolen until they get an account statement or overdraft notice.

Customers aren’t only victims here. Your business can suffer from the associated costs, including a damaged reputation and lost sales.

Connected cars: What’s on the agenda

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines. The FTC and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have announced the agenda for their joint workshop on the consumer privacy and security implications of connected cars. If this emerging tech issue is of interest to your clients, race to Washington (within the lawful speed limit, of course) to attend the event on Wednesday, June 28, 2017.

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