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Tales From the Unencrypted

Does your business have a wireless network?  Do you or your employees ever use wifi to catch up on work from home?  Think about all the data that could be transmitted over your wireless network – credit card numbers, bank account information, business secrets.  You probably don’t want to share that information with everyone who passes through your neighborhood.  But that’s what you’re doing if you don’t use strong encryption and take other steps to secure your home network.  Someone nearby could “piggyback” on your network, or even access the information on your computer.

"Liability? Shmiability. We're just processing payments."

Short-sighted thinking like that has landed a lot of businesses in hot water with law enforcers.  They forget that the reach of federal and state consumer protection statutes can be expansive.  Under appropriate circumstances, payment processors – as well businesses handling ad copy, telemarketing, fulfillment, and a host of other functions – may be liable for the role they play in another company’s deceptive or unfair practices.

FTC Staff Recommends Changes to Business Opportunity Rule

The FTC's Biz Opp Cops have recommended that the Business Opportunity Rule be expanded to include work-at-home opportunities like envelope stuffing, medical billing, and product assembly, many of which have not been covered before. An FTC staff report outlines other suggested changes, including streamlining the disclosures required by the Rule so that people buying business opportunities get important info in a simple, easy-to-re

The Business of Doing Business

Our mythic business executive is having a busy day.  She’s got a breakfast meeting with Marketing to review an email promotion.  Then it’s on to HR to talk about steps to keep personnel records secure.  She’ll grab coffee with the Web Team to go over an online product launch and then rush to lunch with the local business club, where the topic is truth-in-advertising standards.

Free Delivery, No Purchase Required

In my family, we're big fans of home delivery.  Whether its dinner, clothes, books, or electronics, if it can be delivered to our door, we like it -- and I know we're not alone.

That's one reason I'm telling people about Penn Corner, the FTC's new monthly e-newsletter. It gets delivered to subscribers' inboxes each month. And unlike the jazzy new phone I just ordered, it's absolutely free.

U.S. Court of Appeals Upholds $48 Million Judgment

For people with an ailment, Direct Marketing Concepts and ITV Direct had the answer: Coral Calcium or Supreme Greens. But according to a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, the companies, their corporate officers, and related entities lacked scientific proof for claims that their products could cure or prevent diseases like cancer, arthritis, lupus, Parkinson’s, and MS. The upshot?

New Compliance Resources for the Debt Relief Industry

The last thing people struggling to keep their heads above perilous financial waters need is an anchor weighing them down. That's why, as of today, businesses must comply with all provisions of new amendments to the Telemarketing Sales Rule designed to curb deception in the sale of debt relief services.

Most importantly, companies that use outbound telemarketing -- or have customers call them in response to ads or other solicitations -- can’t collect fees from customers until:


• they successfully settle or change the terms of at least one of their debts;

On the Road Again

This is National Chemistry Week. It’s also National School Bus Week. And be sure to wish members of Team Jacob a happy National Wolf Awareness Week. But for most business travelers, the annual observance that really hits home – or the road – is National Protect Your Identity Week, October 17th through 23rd.

The Dos and Don'ts of Debt Relief

Next Wednesday is a banner day for America’s consumers – and a critical deadline for companies in the debt relief services industry to conduct a head-to-toe compliance check-up on their operations. As of October 27th, businesses that call prospective customers to sell debt relief services – or have customers call them in response to ads or other solicitations – have to comply with new amendments to the Telemarketing Sales Rule that make it illegal to charge fees before settling or reducing a customer’s debts.

Deep in the Heart of Taxes

Owners of small businesses wrestling with tax obligations are sure to have seen the ads.  American Tax Relief LLC promised to settle customers’ delinquent federal and state taxes for a fraction of what they owe, as well as put a stop to tax liens, bank levies, and property seizures.  But according to a lawsuit filed by the FTC, the company charged up-front fees ranging from about $3,200 to $25,000 and offered little in return.

Ever Green

Today, the FTC is releasing proposed changes to its Green Guides.  For years, the Green Guides have offered practical steps businesses can take to make sure that claims for a product’s environmental qualities aren’t misleading.

Miracle on 36th Street

In the holiday classic "Miracle on 34th Street," optimists and skeptics debated the existence of Kris Kringle. Nobody would liken effective advertising self-regulation to Santa Claus, but the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (NAD) – located on 36th Street in New York – has made believers out of a lot of people. Kicking off its annual conference today, the NAD is a forum for monitoring and evaluating truth and accuracy in national advertising.

Raising the Roof on Mortgage Ad Truth

Many homeowners are struggling to keep the financial roof from caving in – and questionable claims in mortgage ads make it even tougher to do. Continuing its fight against deception in mortgage advertising, the FTC has proposed a rule that would ban misrepresentations and would allow the FTC and the states to seek financial penalties against businesses that violate the rule.

Lock Mess

There’s lots of public information out there about people. So it’s no surprise there’s a booming business in the sale of data – and in the sale of services that promise to protect personal information. The FTC’s recent settlement with data broker US Search demonstrates that like any other advertising claims, representations about privacy and security must be substantiated.

UN-surance

Many smaller companies want to extend health benefits to employees, but are concerned about keeping the price affordable.  For people who own their own business or are looking for work, cost-effective coverage can be tough to find.  If you’re in the market for health insurance, make sure that’s what you’re buying.  Some programs pitched to small businesses, the self-employed, and the uninsured sound like affordable health insurance, but actually are medical discount plans.  Although some plans may offer legitimate savings, others take people’s money and provide very little in return.

Admongo

You fought off a hostile takeover and went toe to toe with the most aggressive competitor in the business. But now you’re facing the toughest crowd of all: a classroom of fifth graders at the local elementary school’s Career Day.  No need to be frozen with fear when Admongo – an online videogame that educates kids about advertising – is just a click away.

The Dupe of URL

No, not the doowop song by Gene Chandler, but a form of fraud aimed at small businesses and non-profits. Here’s how the scam works: Con artists send fake invoices to businesses, listing the domain name or URL of the company’s website or a slight variation – like substituting ".org" for ".com." The bills, designed to look like they come from a domain name registrar, say the company owes money for its annual "website address listing" and "search optimization" service. Busy entrepreneurs are led to believe they have to pay to keep the company URL up and running.

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