In late 2010, we were thrilled to tell you about the Bureau of Consumer Protection’s Business Center, a new website that gives you tools to understand and comply with the law. We also debuted the Business Center blog which allowed us to engage in conversations with you. In fact, we’ve published more than 1,000 of your comments, so a big thank-you goes out to all of you.
Years ago, a TV network repackaged the summer rerun season with the brilliant tagline, “If you haven't seen it, it's new to you!” Going through this year’s Business Blog posts, we spotted the 10 most-read topics of 2014. Others in your industry are up on the latest. Are you?
Listed alphabetically, here's what business people were reading.
If you've been waiting for a substantive legal discussion that works in a reference to the B-52s’ surreal 1980 hit “Rock Lobster,” today’s your lucky day. The FTC announced a settlement with DERMAdoctor, Inc., and owner Audrey Kunin, M.D., for false and deceptive claims for Photodynamic Therapy anti-aging lotions and a body slimming lotion called Shrinking Beauty, advertised to “simulate a lobster’s ability to shrink its body.” (See? We weren’t kidding.)
On the “Evaluate your options carefully before trying this at home” list, how about adding the do-it-yourself removal of moles, skin tags, and warts, including genital warts. That's one message to take from a just-announced FTC settlement, but the case also offers insights for companies that feature consumer endorsements in their ads or use affiliate marketing programs.
“$1 gets you out of your current loan or lease!” According to Trophy Nissan in the Dallas area, consumers could end their loan or lease for a buck – less than the cost of one of those air fresheners hanging from the rearview mirror. Trophy also promised to “match your tax refund so you can use it for a down payment!” Those are just two of the claims the FTC challenged as deceptive in a proposed settlement with the dealership.
Some of the apps offered by China-based BabyBus teach kids the fundamentals of the alphabet. Correspondence just sent to BabyBus by the FTC staff focuses on five of those letters: C-O-P-P-A.
Flashes at a railroad crossing. That chirp from a smoke detector. The “check engine” light on the dashboard. Those are just a few warnings that merit your attention. The FTC’s proposed settlement with T-Mobile – which imposes at least $90 million in financial remedies, including full consumer refunds – highlights another warning that businesses should heed: clear indications that consumers are getting billed without consent.
The FTC’s status as an independent agency, secured in an early constitutional challenge to the FTC Act, was tested during the early years of the Cold War when the agency’s international work provoked a national security debate at the highest levels.
When it comes to cars, sometimes good things come in twos: double wishbone suspension, dual overhead cams, twin torsion bars, and classic 2 + 2 muscle cars. What’s not on that list? Two lawsuits charging two auto dealers with deceptive advertising in violation of two FTC orders.
It’s called human chorionic gonadotropin and it’s a hormone produced by the human placenta – which explains why marketers call it HCG when advertising it for weight loss. The FTC just settled a second case against a company that pitched homeopathic HCG drops as an easy way to drop the pounds.
“No need to be fat. No need to diet or go through unpleasant exercise.”
“Your thin friends can tell you the right way to fight fat.”
“Men avoided me. I was too fat.”
Sounds like a lot of the bogus diet promotions the FTC has gone to court to shut down. But there are two things different about this false advertising case.
First, it went to the Supreme Court. And second, the year was 1931.
From a patient’s perspective, it was one of those “It seemed like a good idea at the time” innovations: a free online portal that lets people view their billing history with a number of different healthcare providers. But according to the FTC, Atlanta-based PaymentsMD, LLC and former CEO Michael C. Hughes signed consumers up for their service and then went on a medical information scavenger hunt without their permission.
As the FTC celebrates its Centennial, we are thankful for all of the very talented folks who chose to spend part or all of their career with us protecting consumers and promoting competition. You can visit FTC Moments to read, hear, or watch as present and former FTC’ers share special moments from their time with the agency. And if you only have a moment, here are our highlights.
Looking for PlayStation tips and tricks? We can’t tell you how ISA Vekta Special Forces Team Alpha can navigate the Akmir Snowdrift in Killzone 3. But for businesses – including ad agencies and PR firms – interested in keeping their practices out of the Pyrrhus Crater, the FTC’s proposed settlements with Sony Computer Entertainment America and ad agency Deutsch LA offer practical guidance.
According to the ads, “It’s a problem as old as gaming itself. Stay home and just keep playing, or get to work on time so your coffee breath boss doesn’t ride you like a rented scooter.” For gamers who face that dilemma, Sony Computer Entertainment America marketed its PlayStation Vita as the solution. But according to a settlement announced by the FTC, Sony didn’t deliver on its promises.
If you manufacture, import or sell garments containing fur, November 19th should be circled on your calendar. That’s because today’s the day amendments to the FTC’s Fur Rule take effect. Looking for help with compliance? The FTC has published How to Comply with the Fur Products Labeling Act, updated guidance on keeping your practices within the law.
We’ve brought law enforcement actions – dozens of ‘em. We’ve held workshops, issued reports, and sent warning letters. If it takes sky writing, tap dancing, and a float in a Thanksgiving Day parade, we’ll do that, too. But here’s what’s not going to happen. The FTC is not giving up until businesses get the message that: 1) Free means free; and 2) Key terms and conditions have to be clearly and conspicuously disclosed.
(In observance of the FTC's 100th anniversary, here's the next in our FTC Milestones series.)
People who aren’t into marketing jargon might not know a “credence claim” from a Creedence Clearwater Revival, but experts tell us it’s a representation about a product that consumers aren’t in a position to evaluate for themselves. One example is what websites say about their privacy practices. Because consumers can’t test the accuracy of those claims, they often rely on third-party seals trusted for their expertise and independence.
It’s rare we get Shakespearean on you, but a letter the FTC staff just sent to Verizon Communications reminds us of the quote from Julius Caesar, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves. . . ” When it comes to the FTC’s now-closed investigation of Verizon, the staff says the fault wasn’t in the stars, but in the default.