We get this question a lot: “Is it OK to use text messages or social media to collect debts?” Do you want the short answer or the more detailed one? The short answer is that the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act doesn’t prohibit collectors from using texts or social media. But – and this is a major caveat – recent FTC law enforcement actions suggest that using them can present particular compliance challenges. That’s the short answer. If you collect debts as part of your business, read on to find out more.
Whether it’s mowing that extra patch of grass or alerting each other to an iffy-looking lurker, there’s a sense of security when next-door neighbors enjoy a cooperative relationship. The same holds true for international neighbors, as a new Memorandum of Understanding between the FTC and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) demonstrates.
We’ve learned that portfolios of alleged payday loan debts serviced by AMG Services are circulating in the debt collection marketplace. The alleged lenders are USFastCash, 500FastCash, OneClickCash, Ameriloan, United Cash Loans, AdvantageCashServices, and StarCashProcessing. But these alleged debts are bogus. The consumers do not owe the alleged debts, and the lenders have never authorized, assigned, or sold any of their loans for third-party collection.
There could be exceptions to the rule – maybe an unexpected bonus or an out-of-the-blue call from a friend – but as a general proposition, people don’t like surprises. As letters the FTC staff just sent to mobile app developers suggest, people really don’t like surprises about the information their apps gather. And the kind of data those apps had the capacity to collect may come as a surprise even to savvy industry members.
Of course, robocalls are a major annoyance for consumers. But anyone who works from home knows how illegal robocalls can cut into productivity, too. An FTC settlement with an outfit doing business as USA Vacation Station offers insights into the economics of robocalling and how the FTC’s concerns dovetail ongoing issues involving lead generation.
It’s a fetching frock with spaghetti straps, an engineered paisley print, and an asymmetrical hemline.
On TV, they’re called crossover episodes – where fictional characters from different shows appear on the same program. A case just filed by the FTC against KFJ Marketing and related parties brings together two aspects of FTC law enforcement – illegal robocalls and questionable lead generation practices – “co-starring” in the same production.
Ask any gardener and they’ll tell you it’s a fool’s errand to lop weeds off at the surface. You also have to target the root system that allows them to propagate in the first place. That’s one of the messages to take from a judgment in the FTC’s case against Ideal Financial Solutions, Inc., and previous actions against data brokers and others who lent their green thumbs to Ideal’s large-scale consumer scam.
“Oh, if I could but live another century and see the fruition of all the work for women. There is so much yet to be done.” – Suffragist Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906)
The consumer movement, trust-busting, the women’s movement, and the work of the FTC have traveled parallel (and often intersecting) paths. Women’s History Month offers us a chance to consider the contribution women have made to the mission of the FTC and the unprecedented moment in women’s history we’re witnessing at the FTC today.
It’s a phrase you see every now and then in announcements about FTC settlements: “The order includes a $___ judgment, which has been partially suspended based on the defendants’ inability to pay.” What happens if it turns out the defendants weren’t telling the truth about their financial condition? A ruling by a federal judge in Arizona explains the consequences.
Usually a Top 10 list is something industries are delighted to find themselves on. So we’ll call this one a Flop 10 list, the FTC’s annual report about consumer complaints added in 2015 to the Consumer Sentinel database. How did your industry – and your state – rank in reported complaints?
First, the box score:
It’s Red Carpet Season. There isn’t an Academy presenting awards for Two-Minute Videos Most Likely to Help Businesses Start with Security. (The engraving wouldn’t fit on the statuette anyway.) But if there were, submitted for your consideration are our nominees in ten categories – and the debut of a new production.
Best short feature. We’re fans of Start with Security. It explains the basics of building security into the culture of your company.
The router is Grand Central Station for home technology. It manages the connections between all of the smart devices in the home, from the computer in the den and tablet on the coffee table, to the smart thermostat on the wall and internet-connected baby monitor in the nursery. Consumers expect that route to be a limited access highway with the router forwarding data securely while blocking unauthorized access.
The FTC says a distance learning company failed the truthful advertising test by marketing its high school “diploma” as equivalent to a diploma from a traditional high school and claiming it could lead to better jobs, higher pay, and acceptance at schools of higher education.
If your company is in the business of pretzels or pitchforks, what you’re selling and who you’re selling to may not be a big deal. But if your stock-in-trade is personal information – sensitive stuff like people’s Social Security and bank account numbers – what’s reasonable under the circumstances may be different. That’s the message companies can take from the FTC’s settlement of a pending complaint against data broker LeapLab.
Remember the scene in the movie “Bull Durham” where veteran Crash Davis is prepping rookie Nuke LaLoosh for a TV interview and schools him on clichés about teamwork? “I’m just happy to be here. Hope I can help.” They don’t just apply to baseball. Most enterprises rely on help from others on the team. Unfortunately for consumers, that includes questionable outfits that need another company’s help to accept credit cards.
Ever wonder what your employees are up to after hours? The answer might surprise you – and two cases filed by the FTC suggest a way you and your HR team might want to get involved.
You’ve got lots of needs as a business owner – among them, supplies you rely on from square-dealing vendors. But what if the vendor misleads your staff about the price or quantity of those supplies, hits you with a huge invoice you didn’t authorize, and then tries to pressure you into paying it? Those are just some of the sales tactics the FTC is challenging in recent law enforcement actions.
British blues rockers Ten Year After had a hit back in the day with “Hear Me Calling.” We doubt they were thinking of the FTC’s ten-year regulatory review schedule – OK, they weren’t – but it’s likely at least one of the four rules up for review this year affects your business. Can you hear us calling and are you ready to weigh in?
Pour yourself a half-caff latte with a drizzle of hazelnut and it’s the next best thing to being there – in Seattle, that is, for the FTC’s third Start with Security event. The webcast begins at 9:30 PT today (12:30 ET) and you can watch from your desk.