According to the ads, if you “carry on with your normal lifestyle” while wearing the Bio-Slim Patch, “repulsive, excess ugly fatty tissue will disappear at a spectacular rate.” (And by you, we don’t mean you, of course.) Promotions for Chinese Diet Tea promised similar miracles: “eliminates an amazing 91% of absorbed sugars,” “prevents 83% of fat absorption,” and “doubles your metabolic rate to burn calories faster.”
It used to be that the biggest issues at back-to-school time were finding everything on the school supplies list and remembering who likes the crusts cut off the brown bag PB&J. But nowadays, responsible adults need to consider the risks if children’s personal information — like a Social Security number on a registration form, permission slip, or health document — winds up in the wrong hands. When kids are victims of identity theft, the crime may go undetected for years. But by the time they’re old enough to get a job or apply for a student loan, the damage has been done.
That email claiming to be from the FTC saying your business has complaints against it? It’s not from us. It’s a malicious hoax that may install malware on your computer if you click on it.
What should you do?
Delete it. Don’t open it. Don’t click the links.
Two announcements today underscore a key FTC enforcement priority: getting money back for people deceived by companies’ illegal practices.
More than 110,000 refund checks totaling about $1.9 million are in the mail to loan applicants who were tricked into paying for a separate debit card through a misleading pre-checked box on an online form. According to the FTC, Swish Marketing, Inc., and VirtualWorks LLC came up with the promotion. Both companies — and five of their corporate officers — were held liable.
The FTC just announced more settlements with companies that falsely promised to help homeowners facing foreclosure. “Not relevant to our business,” you say? Think again.
No, not the Sergio Leone classic western, but the latest word from the FTC about the fee for telemarketers for complying with Do Not Call. It’s only right to tell people upfront what something’s going to cost.
“You can settle your credit card debt for pennies on the dollar without filing for bankruptcy.”
For people struggling to stay afloat, Debt Relief USA’s national TV ads must have seemed like a lifeline. When consumers called the company, representatives assured them that low monthly payments to Debt Relief USA would cover both the settlement of their reduced debts and the company’s fees. For the service to work, said the reps, people had to stop making payments to their creditors — and stop talking to them at all.
OK, now that it’s just us, here’s a reminder that most resources in the BCP Business Center are in the public domain. Thus, according to 17 U.S.C. § 105, they’re not subject to copyright restrictions. (Sorry for the citation. Sometimes we just can’t help ourselves.) So you’re free to download, link, paste, tweet, like, dislike, and otherwise use FTC materials.
These days many shoppers wouldn’t think of buying a product without checking if it comes with a written warranty. And companies in it for the long haul understand the importance of living up to their promises if something goes kablooey. But that wasn’t always the case. It wasn’t until 1975 — when Congress passed the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act — that federal teeth were added to consumer warranty protections.
You or your clients are in the grocery business and customers are lined up to take advantage of an advertised special. Great news — as long as the stock on hand meets their demand. But if it doesn’t, the FTC’s Retail Food Store Advertising and Marketing Practices Rule — known to its friends as the Unavailability Rule — kicks in.
There are some combinations that raise immediate compliance issues for responsible businesses — and kids’ privacy and mobile applications are among them. A settlement announced by the FTC — the agency’s first involving a mobile app — sends the important message that consumer protection laws and rules apply with full force in the mobile marketplace.
Maybe your IT staff has sold you on the benefits of new computers. Or perhaps you plan to replace the clunker in the rumpus room in anticipation of the upcoming school year — and it includes your “homework” from the office or personal data like financial information or family Social Security numbers.
Of course, you’ll do your research before investing in a new system. But have you thought about how to securely dispose of your old computer? Before you log off for the last time, make sure your tech trash doesn’t become a fraudster’s treasure.
Even people unfamiliar with the FTC carry with them virtually ever hour of the day a little reminder from America’s consumer protection agency. It’s the care label included on most things they wear — and the FTC is asking for feedback on its future from consumers, members of the apparel and textile industry, people in the cleaning business, and others.
Savvy executives like to stay in the loop on FTC activities that could affect their industry. They make it a habit to scan the headlines or check for relevant workshops or reports. But there’s a third category of information a bit less understood: closing letters from BCP staff.
In the spirit of transparency, the agency posts them online. Here in the BCP Business Center, recent letters appear in the Compliance Documents section of each topic area.
A fax comes through at the office looking like it’s a form to re-up your existing phone directory listing. It includes information about your business, a “Yellow Page ID number,” and a familiar “walking fingers” logo. The fax, not addressed to any particular person or department in your company, instructs the recipient to sign and send the form back by an impending deadline. Buried in fine print is the only indication the fax is really a solicitation for new business.
If there were a master list of topics that need to be addressed gingerly, death and debt would rank at the top. For debt collectors attempting to collect the debts of a deceased consumer, a recent policy statement issued by the FTC addresses changes in state probate procedures and emphasizes debt collectors’ obligation to make sure they’re acting within the law.
As big wheels in the automotive industry know, the FTC is sponsoring a series of workshops across the country to discuss consumer protection issues related to the sale, financing, and leasing of cars, SUVs, and trucks. The next pit stop for The Road Ahead: Selling and Financing Motor Vehicles is San Antonio, Texas, on August 2-3, 2011.
Thinking about using a pre-checked box to obligate buyers in an online transaction? Maybe you’re considering a negative option arrangement without clearly and conspicuously disclosing the details of the deal. Or perhaps you’re an affiliate marketer who’s concluded that legal compliance is somebody else’s responsibility. A $4.8 million judgment entered by a federal court in California suggests you might want to reconsider those strategies.
It’s called the MAP Rule — and it will help chart the course for people in the market for a mortgage by banning deceptive claims about mortgages in advertising and other commercial communications. If you’re in the mortgage business, it’s worth your time to find out more about the rules of the road.