Business Blog


Proposed changes to the Used Car Rule: What you auto know

The wheels are turning on proposed updates to the FTC’s Used Car Rule.  Formally known as the Used Motor Vehicle Trade Regulation Rule (although only its Mother calls it that), the Rule has been in effect since 1985.  It requires car dealers to display a window sticker, called a Buyers Guide, on used cars they offer for sale.  The Buyers Guide gives people information about the car — for example, whether it’s being sold “as is” or with a warranty, what percentage of the repair costs a dealer will pay under the warranty, and the syst

Sporting goods companies: Guard against deception

Some sports fans spend Saturdays on the field.  For the rest of us, raising a Big Foam Finger is exertion enough.  But we’ve all read stories about the dangers that head injuries pose to participants in contact sports.  That’s why the FTC is continuing to raise concerns about possibly unsubstantiated claims for products advertised to reduce the risk of sports concussions.

The last resort

When it comes to making hotel reservations, some consumers aren’t feeling very hospitable about drip pricing — the practice of advertising only part of the price and then revealing other charges later as the customer goes through the buying process.  That’s why FTC staff sent out 22 warning letters to companies raising concerns about the practice.

The Big Picture

Are you and your clients taking in The Big Picture?  That’s what the FTC is calling its December 6, 2012, workshop on comprehensive online data collection.  The event will gather consumer groups, academics, industry representatives, privacy professionals, and others to look at the current state of comprehensive data collection, its risks and potential benefits, and where it could be going in the future.

Enforceable Codes of Conduct: Protecting Consumers Across Borders

Business has gone global, but how should consumers be protected when transactions cross borders?  The FTC is hosting a forum on Thursday, November 29, 2012, to talk about the role of enforceable industry codes of conduct to protect consumers in cross-border commerce.  What’s on the agenda?  Systems where government entities, businesses, consumer groups, and others develop and administer voluntary procedures that govern areas outside of traditional government oversight.

Down in the dumps(ter)

Every business generates paper destined for the circular file.  But if documents contain sensitive information, don’t toss them out in a way that could invite unauthorized access.  According to the FTC’s lawsuit against PLS Financial Services, PLS Group, and The Payday Loan Store of Illinois, loan applications, credit reports, and other confidential paperwork found their way into dumpsters near the defendants’ locations.  The settlement applies just to the entities specified in the order.  But is it a good time to take a look at

Cracking down on contrepreneurs

Call them contrepreneurs — marketers who use hyped-up promises to sell business opportunities to people eager to be their own boss.  As part of a federal-state blitz on bogus bizopps, the FTC announced seven law enforcement actions and developments in five other cases against outfits the agency says used illegal tactics to take more than half a billion dollars from two million Americans trying to make ends meet in a challenging economy.

Trash Talking

Some things you’d expect to find in a trash can:  last night’s potato peelings, the casserole that looked so promising in the cookbook photo, and Oscar the Grouch.  But if you run a business, the one thing you don’t want in the dumpster behind your office is paperwork containing sensitive information about your customers.  Just ask PLS Financial Services, PLS Group, and the Payday Loan Store of Illinois.

Calling for back-up

Everybody needs a wingman — somebody there just in case you need back-up.  When it comes to explaining the consumer protection basics of mobile apps to client and colleagues, you’ve got a wingman at the ready.

It’s called Marketing Your Mobile App: Get It Right From the Start.  It’s a to-the-point brochure from the FTC outlining fundamental truth-in-advertising and privacy principles for app developers.  The brochures focuses on time-tested tips like:

Facing Facts

Say facial recognition and it’s easy for people to get all Minority Report-ish.  But it’s no longer science fiction.  If you’ve uploaded a photo to try on a pair of glasses or check yourself out with a different hairstyle, you’ve used a form of the technology.  Marketers are taking advantage, too, using facial characteristics like gender or age to serve up targeted ads in retail spots.

A piece of advice

You’ve heard the truisms.  Never eat at a place called Mom’s.  Never play cards with a guy named Doc.  We’ve got another one for you:  Think twice before doing business with a company called Legitimate Debt Settlement.

Painting the town green

The biggest decision facing a DIYer in the paint store used to be whether Dusting of Snow or Wistful Beige was right for the dining room.  But nowadays more businesses are making express claims about their products, including purported environmental benefits.  Two of the nation’s leading paint companies — The Sherwin-Williams Company and PPG Architectural Finishes, Inc. — advertised that some of their paints were free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Do you do B2B?

Old Blue Eyes wasn’t in the tech biz, but before giving the ring-a-ding-ding to a B2B transaction that allows partners to share customer data through software one company licenses to the other, we’re guessing he would have agreed with some basic principles derived from the FTC’s proposed settlement with web analytics company Compete, Inc.

Be clear about what you collect

Twenty years ago nobody told their third grade classmates they wanted to go into web analytics when they grew up.  But unlike cowboys and dinosaur wranglers, the analytics business is booming.  Information about consumer behavior can offer companies helpful insights to boost web traffic and sales.  But as a recent FTC settlement suggests, it’s wise to be transparent about your practices and take reasonable and appropriate measures to keep sensitive information secure.

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.