FTC staff just sent 21 more warning letters to companies that have used allegedly unsubstantiated coronavirus prevention and treatment claims to promote products and services. Many of the latest letters focus on questionable representations for high doses of vitamins, intravenous treatments, ozone, and purported stem cell therapies.
In these unprecedented times, the Commission is working on all fronts to stop pandemic-related scams or deception – and to warn consumers and businesses about them. But our work in other areas continues, too. Today, we’re taking a minute to take stock of some of the highlights from 2019.
Trend-conscious buyers want the latest styles ASAP and online retailer Fashion Nova reinforced those expectations by promising “Fast Shipping,” “2-Day Shipping,” and “Expect Your Items Quick!” But according to the FTC, the California company’s shipment delays violated the Mail, Internet, or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule and left consumers haute under the collar. The $9.3 million settlement is the largest ever in a case of its kind.
For decades the FTC has been warning people about online ports, portals, and pop-ups that can be conduits for questionable claims. But companies shouldn’t think we’ve taken our eye off another potential doorway for deception: direct mail. According to an FTC lawsuit, a group of seven U.S.
Some things have changed in the rent-to-own business, but a $175 million proposed settlement with Progressive Leasing reminds companies that bedrock consumer protection principles apply, especially the fundamental proposition that deceiving people about cost strikes at the heart of the FTC Act. Not in the rent-to-own industry? Not so fast. The case offers compliance pointers for your company, too.
The COVID-19 crisis has many small businesses on the ropes, so it’s unfortunate we have to warn them about another threat. According to a lawsuit just filed by the FTC, a Rhode Island company that goes by the name “SBA Loan Program” has been soliciting applications from small businesses, but has no affiliation with the U.S. Small Business Administration and the loan programs that agency is currently running.
“Oh, my achin’ . . . .” It’s a common refrain for many older Americans and others who experience chronic pain. Some businesses respond with ads heavy on puffed-up promises, but light on the scientific evidence necessary to support serious health claims. That’s the FTC’s allegation against a company that sold a pill called Isoprex. The complaint also challenges the undisclosed use of compensated friends and family as purported consumer endorsers.
Between social distancing and COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, companies are turning to video conferencing services to get down to business. While these services help you connect, they also pose new privacy and data security risks. Here are some tips to keep in mind before hosting or joining a video conference online:
For small businesses, there’s never been a time when “business as usual” has been so unusual. With many companies facing coronavirus-related challenges, the FTC has tips for business owners – and for those offering small business financing – about navigating today’s uncharted financial waters.
It’s FTC Advertising 101: Don’t make claims about serious medical conditions unless you have solid proof in hand to substantiate what you say. It’s been the law for decades and now more than ever, it’s essential for advertisers to honor that fundamental principle. And yet companies continue to market everything from facial brushes to IV drips with promises to prevent, treat, or cure Coronavirus – claims the FTC calls into question in a new round of warning letters.
“Social distancing,” “shelter-in-place,” “virtual happy hour”— these are some of the new expressions on everyone’s lips the past few weeks. For many, add “remote learning” to the list. Because of school closures, millions of students are now using online, education technology (or “ed tech”) services to engage in remote learning from home. And while this fills a vital need, it’s important to keep in mind that many of these ed tech services collect and use student’s personal information.
Headlines tout rapid improvements in artificial intelligence technology. The use of AI technology – machines and algorithms – to make predictions, recommendations, or decisions has enormous potential to improve welfare and productivity. But it also presents risks, such as the potential for unfair or discriminatory outcomes or the perpetuation of existing socioeconomic disparities. Health AI offers a prime example of this tension.
If your business makes “smart” devices, you’ll want to read about Tapplock’s settlement with the FTC. It’s one more example of why businesses in the Internet of Things (IoT) space need to think about privacy and security when designing connected products.
Consumers hate illegal robocalls. And as the thousands of reports pouring into the FTC indicate, they also hate robocalls that exploit concerns about Coronavirus. In recent months, the FTC has taken innovative steps to take on not only illegal robocallers, but also companies that “assist and facilitate” their conduct.
As a business owner, you’ve seen the headlines about financial relief that may be available to some companies through the Small Business Administration (SBA). But you’ve also heard about scammers who extract a grain of truth from the news and distort it in an effort to cheat small businesses. Now more than ever it’s critical for small business owners to go straight to the source for accurate information about what’s happening at the SBA. And that source, of course, is the Small Business Administration’s dedicated page, sba.gov/coronavirus.
Consumers have come to expect their devices to be portable, but what about their data? The FTC just announced Data to Go, a public workshop set for September 22, 2020, to take a closer look at the potential benefits and challenges to consumers and competition raised by data portability.
If your company has made misleading Made in USA claims and represents that the inaccuracies have been corrected, it’s unwise to put ongoing compliance on the back burner. Conduct like that can move an advertiser out of the frying pan and into the fire. Case in point: the FTC’s proposed complaint alleging that kitchen and home notable Williams-Sonoma falsely represented its signature bakeware line as Made in USA.
Years ago, the Australian group Men at Work asked the musical question “Who Can It Be Now?” In the ongoing battle against Coronavirus scams, FTC staff just sent warning letters to nine companies reminding them of the potential ramifications of behind-the-scenes involvement in illegal COVID-19 promotions.
It’s an unprecedented time. But even in the midst of monumental change, the FTC’s commitment to its consumer protection mission remains constant. Here’s a statement from Chairman Simons about the ongoing work of the Bureau of Consumer Protection: