Business Blog

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines

Do you work in the motor vehicle industry or follow what’s going on in that sector?  Then today’s announcement from the FTC about a series of workshops on consumer protection issues related to the sale, financing, and leasing of cars, SUVs, and light trucks is right up your alley.  The first roundtable, set for April 12th at Wayne State Law School in Detroit, is free and open to the public.  And what better place to rev up a discussion about motor vehicles than in the Motor City?

NCP Double-YOU

Break out the bubbly and raise a toast:  It's National Consumer Protection Week.  NCPW is an annual campaign sponsored by the FTC and nearly 30 other federal agencies, consumer groups, and advocacy organizations, in conjunction with state, county, and local government offices that are sponsoring events nationwide.  The goal?  To encourage consumers to take full advantage of their rights and make better-informed decisions.

The Inside Scoop from the Bizopp Cops

When the economic climate is uncertain, people tend to evaluate their options:  Is a career move in the cards?  Can a home-based business supplement my salary?  Is now the time to be my own boss?

But if there's one lesson from Operation Empty Promises — a federal-state sweep involving more than 90 law enforcement actions — it's that entrepreneurs should take their time and resist high-pressure tactics when operators claim to have the inside track on enhanced income.

Be your own boss?

Especially in a tough economic climate, it’s an attractive claim.  But as demonstrated by Operation Empty Promises — a multi-agency law enforcement initiative announced today — many companies promoting online opportunities, steady employment, or home business success promise the golden goose, but deliver a goose egg.

Consumer Protection on Camera

It’s awards season for the entertainment industry. There’s no red carpet in front of the FTC and no one’s likely to ask “Who are you wearing?” — except to ascertain that the manufacturer complied with the Care Labeling Rule.  But consumer protection is a common theme in movies nonetheless.  With acknowledgments to Steve Baker, director of the FTC’s Midwest Region who first started the list, here are some of our favorite consumer protection-themed films:

Leaders Digest?

How do leaders in advertising, marketing, and law stay current on FTC developments that affect consumers?  They read Penn Corner, the agency's monthly digest of notable updates.  The February edition runs the gamut from a law enforcement crackdown on robocalls to an FTC staff comment on a North Carolina Board of Opticians' proposal that could impact how Tarheels (and Blue Devils, Demon Deacons, Eagles, and the Wolfpack) buy glasses and contacts.

Data Resellers Liable for Downstream Security Failures

Of course, no legitimate business would put out a welcome mat for crooks.  But as the FTC’s data security cases make clear, that’s the effect when companies fail to take reasonable steps to secure sensitive information in their possession — or data they allow others to access.  Three recent settlements with companies that resell credit reports illustrate that point.

Keeping it cool at WiFi hotspots

Whether you’re waiting to board an airplane or grabbing a quick cuppa at a neighborhood café, public wireless networks are a great way for busy professionals to keep connected.

Convenient?  Yes.  Secure?  Mmm, not so much.

Unfortunately, most hotspots don’t encrypt what goes over the internet.  So if you send email, manage your calendar, use social networks, or transmit financial data while using a public network, you make it easier for hackers to lift confidential info like user names, passwords, and account numbers.

A Friendly Reminder

Paying millions in refunds.
Doing business under stringent injunctive provisions.
Posting hefty bonds before selling certain products.

For most people, the potential consequences of an FTC enforcement action are enough deterrent to stay within the bounds of the law.  But some marketers just don’t seem to get the message, as two recent cases demonstrate.

Upfront fees for mortgage relief services are history

America’s homeowners just gained new protections.  While parts of the Mortgage Assistance Relief Service (MARS) Rule requiring disclosures in advertising and other communications went into effect on December 29, 2010, the ban on upfront fees kicked in on January 31st.  Now, companies that claim to help consumers avoid foreclosure or modify their loans can’t collect a penny until they get their customers what they want.

New compliance resource for health care providers and health plans

If you work in the health care or HR field or have clients who do, you’ve probably run across it. A patient complains about a bill for medical services they didn’t receive. An employee who rarely goes to the doctor gets told they’ve reached the limit on their health benefits. Someone gets denied coverage because their medical records show a condition they don’t have.

Immigration Consternation

Chances are a person you know — an employee, someone who works in your building, a neighbor perhaps — is navigating the process of getting a green card or work visa. Do them a favor and warn them about outfits that falsely claim an affiliation with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Forum on fighting phone bill ills

It may have happened to you.  You open the monthly phone bill at your business or at home and find charges for goods or services you never ordered.  It’s called cramming — and it’s illegal.

The FTC has brought numerous law enforcement actions against companies who “cram” unauthorized charges onto people’s phone bills.  This $38 million judgment entered by a federal court in California is just one example, but what more can be done to prevent it?

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