Last week saw FTC announcements involving allegations of foreclosure rescue fraud, deception aimed at people trying to resell their timeshares, complaints against payday lenders, and lawsuits against outfits claiming to help consumers behind on their car payments. Is there a theme here? You bet. But the message isn't just for companies engaged in practices targeting consumers struggling to stay afloat. There are words to the wise for businesses of any size and every stripe.
Tough federal and state law enforcement has turned up the heat on mortgage foreclosure rescue scams. So some operators are turning to auto loan modifications to make a fast buck on consumers in financial distress. In the first cases of their kind filed by the FTC, the agency is alleging that two unrelated California outfits charged hundreds of dollars in upfront fees, based on bogus claims they could reduce consumers’ monthly car notes and help them avoid The Repo Man.
Take the case of one person who borrowed money from a payday loan operation the FTC has taken to court for allegedly illegal practices. According to the FTC, the consumer was told that a $500 loan would cost him $650 to repay. But by slicing and dicing repayments in a way that generated undisclosed fees, the defendants allegedly tried to charge him $1,925 to pay off the $500 loan — and threatened him with arrest when he balked.
There are lots of good reasons for businesses to comply with the National Do Not Call Registry: It ensures your marketing message will be heard by a more receptive audience and it protects your company from the ire of consumers who don’t want to be disturbed. But in a case involving calls pitching "free" government grants, a federal judge in Rochester, New York, just added 30 million more reasons not to call people on the list.
The FTC has filed another action against defendants who allegedly attempted to squeeze the last drop from homeowners already under water. This case, however, involves a disturbing new variation on foreclosure "rescue" operations.
Are there hotter topics these days than data security and kids’ privacy? An FTC law enforcement settlement with the social networking site RockYou ticks both of those topical boxes and challenges a course of conduct the FTC says made it easier for hackers to access the personal information of 32 million users. The complaint also alleges the company collected info from kids in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
In a world of smart phones and smart grids, the smart money is on companies that play it smart with consumers’ information. Consistent with its 40 years’ experience protecting consumer privacy, the FTC’s just-released Report — Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change: Recommendations for Businesses and Policymakers — underscores that message and outlines a new privacy framework designed for the
Through a series of recent law enforcement actions, the FTC has articulated what should be apparent: that truth-in-advertising principles apply to affiliate marketers and to the companies that use them to promote their products. A settlement announced today by the FTC makes a similarly obvious point: The law applies to affiliate marketing networks, too.
If you or your clients work in the multi-level marketing (MLM) arena, a decision by a federal judge in the FTC's lawsuit against BurnLounge, Inc., merits your attention. The defendants — the company, the CEO, and top salesmen — used claims of hefty profits to sell opportunities to run online digital music stores. According to the FTC, the outfit masqueraded as a legitimate MLM program, but really was an illegal pyramid scheme.
If you have clients in the auto industry, you’ve seen the ads: “We’ll pay off your trade no matter what you owe . . . even if you’re upside down.” It’s an attractive claim to people struggling with their finances. But law enforcement settlements announced by the FTC with five dealers from around the country demonstrate the importance of giving people the straight story when making promises about trade-ins where negative equity is involved.
South Dakota can be lovely this time of year, but consumers struggling financially shouldn’t have to travel there to respond to actions filed against them in a tribal court that doesn’t have jurisdiction over their case. That’s what the FTC has alleged in its amended complaint against Payday Financial, LLC, a company that pitches its short-term, high-fee loans in TV ads and online.
It’s helpful when advertisers can get a window into the FTC’s thinking about certain ad claims — and five recent settlements with companies that sell replacement windows offer just that.
According to the FTC, the businesses made exaggerated and unsupported representations about the energy efficiency of their windows, and about how much money people could save on their heating and cooling bills by having them installed. What did the ads say? Things like:
Dot Com Disclosures — the FTC’s staff publication about online advertising — was published 12 years ago. Of course, the same basic consumer protection principles apply online, in mobile marketing, and in other media, but a lot has happened since then. In light of technological changes, is it time for revised guidance about making disclosures required by FTC law?
For some, a discussion of childhood and technology brings back fond memories of Easy Bake Ovens and Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots. But like their parents, these kids today (Didn’t we swear we’d never use the phrase "these kids today"?) are embracing the opportunities presented by smartphones, tablets, and the burgeoning app market. But what about the privacy considerations when children and teens use apps?
OK, OK. We can hear your groans through the speakers. But if you’re in the textile or apparel industry, you’ll want to know that the FTC is asking for public comment on the future of the Wool Products Labeling Rules.
When the FTC conducts an investigation to see if a company has violated the law, it’s important that the process is efficient and not unduly burdensome on those involved. The FTC’s Rules of Practice lay out the procedures the Commission follows.
It may look like just another legal document, but for American consumers, one of the most powerful tools for protecting their interests is within the four corners of an FTC settlement order.
In the market for a $430 case of shower caps or some “dolphin shaped craft embellishments”? Have they got a deal for you! But for people who thought they were paying $99 up front and $19 a month for a credit card, all they got was access to the defendants’ online store, which sold bulk quantities of off-brand, overpriced items.
To our knowledge, there’s no app yet that tells people when the FTC staff has sent warning letters discussing how the Fair Credit Reporting Act operates in the world of mobile applications. But the way the app market is growing, some savvy developer will have one out by the time you finish this. In the meantime, read on.
Six online marketers have settled FTC charges stemming from their use of fake news websites to market acai berry supplements and other weight loss products. If you’re an affiliate marketer or you’re thinking about building an affiliate program into your business plan, the cases merit your attention.