Whether by click, tap, swipe, or scan, apps now offer a variety of beneficial services that can enhance consumers’ shopping experience. These services help consumers compare prices in-store, load the latest deals, and make purchases – all from the convenience of their phone. To better understand the consumer protection implications of this ever-changing environment, FTC staff recently issued a report, What’s the Deal?
No one has ever described us as the rugged, mountaineering type, but this much we know: It’s unwise to set off an avalanche.
In 1995, the FTC built the Telemarketing Sales Rule from the ground up. Since then, we’ve done some remodeling – for example, including the provision to outlaw most robocalls.
We’ll confess a certain fondness for the Hobby Protection Act. Based on the name, we were hoping it safeguards our right to watch reality TV while eating ice cream – our favorite hobby – but the real purpose is much different.
Acc-cen-tuate the positive.
Eliminate the negative.
Latch on to the affirmative.
And don't mess with Mr. In-Between.
That's how the catchy Bing Crosby-Andrews Sisters number went in the 40s. When it comes to negative options now, the message for marketers is to explain things positively.
In the story of Aladdin, something as small as a lantern housed a mighty force. Aladdin got his three wishes, but he also unleashed the genie's mercurial power. Like Aladdin's lamp, mobile devices offer incalculable benefits, but certain forms of billing create the risk that consumers will get zapped with unauthorized charges.
In the movie The Matrix, Morpheus offers Neo two capsules: “You take the blue pill and the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill and you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.
According to the Lennon-McCartney song, “She's got a ticket to ride, but she don’t care.” According to a settlement announced by the FTC and Connecticut AG, consumers doing business with TicketNetwork through two of its top partners – Ryadd and SecureBoxOffice – were misled into thinking they were buying tickets at face value from the event venue.
Sci-fi fans will remember the 1996 movie "Mars Attacks!" where Americans banded together to fight off Martian invaders.
There sure are a lot of seals out there. The British singer. The Navy special ops unit. The aquatic mammal. But the seals that matter to the FTC are certifications that convey representations consumers might not be able to evaluate for themselves. If your company makes Made in the USA claims, you’ll want to “Get Closer.” (And yes, that was a hit by 70s folk rockers, Seals and Crofts.)
Wily deception. Masters of impersonation. International intrigue. We could be describing PBS’ re-imagining of Sherlock Holmes, but we’re not. We’re talking about a scam that’s been around almost as long as the famous resident of 221B Baker Street – and still leaves small businesses barking like the Hound of the Baskervilles.
When we started posting the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule FAQs, we told you we’d update them periodically – and we’re doing our best to make good on that promise.
Ask most people to name the streets in the neighborhood where they grew up and they’ll tell you Maple Lane or Sycamore Drive. Ask a military kid – ask this military kid – and she’ll mention Tank Destroyer Boulevard and Hell on Wheels Avenue. Years ago, if you drove down Tank Destroyer and exited the East Gate of Fort Hood, the neon signs advertising “zero down,” “E-Z credit,” or “low monthly payments” lit up the Central Texas sky like a discount aurora borealis.
There are certain questions we ask ourselves when investigating companies’ health claims. Did they have appropriate substantiation? Did they tell the truth when they said their claims were supported by scientific studies? Did they clearly disclose that product endorsers were getting a piece of the pie?
If there’s one theme that runs through decades of FTC law, it’s that companies need consumers’ informed consent to bill their accounts. That was true in the early days of mail order. It carried through to online shopping. And it remains the law for mobile devices, including in-app purchases. The FTC’s lawsuit against Amazon alleges the company didn’t honor that elementary principle.
It was an all-too-common occurrence. People’s mobile phone bills included unexplained – and unauthorized – monthly charges. It’s called cramming and the FTC has brought a series of cases against companies that had fees for ringtones, horoscopes, “love tips,” etc., placed on cell phone bills without consumers’ consent. The crammers took a chunk of the cash, but you might be surprised to learn who the FTC says pocketed a 35-40% piece of the action. A just-filed lawsuit pulls back the curtain on
When ads for beauty products convey subjective claims – for example, L’Oréal’s long-standing “Because I’m worth it” tagline – it’s unlikely consumers would think statements like that are supported by science. (It’s hard to imagine a testing protocol that could establish whether or not we’re worth it.) But flip through a magazine and it’s apparent that test tubes are overtaking powder puffs in how some cosmetics are marketed. When companies tout the scientific research behind their advertising or say their products have been “clinically proven,” those claims – like any other objective re
Ahab hunts big fish.
Captain and whaling boat sink.
Sometimes you want to read all 209,117 words of Moby Dick. Other times a haiku will do. Sometimes you want an in-depth analysis of the FTC’s enforcement, rulemaking, research, education, and international efforts related to privacy and data security. Other times a summary will suffice.
Hey, Rachel the Robocaller. Every month we get 150,000 complaints about you and your robocalling besties. We’ve sued dozens of them. We’ve sponsored a national challenge to make your life harder. But this time, Rach, the gloves are off. We’re going DEF CON on you and we’re launching a particularly powerful surface-to-robocall missile with your name on it.
When comparing products made of plastic lumber – picnic tables, benches, trash bins, and the like – many consumers and businesses factor in environmental considerations. So when California-based American Plastic Lumber suggested its products were made virtually entirely out of post-consumer recycled content like milk jugs and detergent bottles, it’s understandable that shoppers would take note. But according to the FTC, buyers didn’t get the benefit they bargai