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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As a recent FTC action against three companies and their owner proves, ads promising quick and easy relief from credit card debt are likely to attract law enforcement attention. But this case featured an interesting twist because what the company really was up to was generating leads it turned around and sold to other companies.
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).
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?
To most people, Plano is a pleasant city north of Dallas. But if you have clients in the optical industry — or hang out in goth circles on the weekend — "plano" refers to a contact lens worn for cosmetic effect, not vision correction. Even if you just wear contacts yourself, you should know about the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act, the FTC's
Just finishing your review of the preliminary FTC staff report, Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change: A Proposed Framework for Business and Policymakers? There’s good news. The FTC has extended the deadline for comments to Friday, February 18th.
Humorist Harold Coffin is credited with saying that "A consumer is a shopper who is sore about something." Whether or not that’s true, savvy marketers appreciate the value of keeping their finger on the pulse of consumer protection. What questionable practices have attracted law enforcement attention? What consumer cases are people talking about? What sales tactics have your prospective customers been warned to avoid?
For many people, environmental considerations play an important role in what they put in their shopping carts. But it's tough to know when green claims are credible. Seals and certifications can be a useful tool to help shoppers decide where to place their trust and how to spend their money — but only if they're backed by solid proof.
The packages have been opened and the ribbons have been collected by that one relative who claims to recycle them. The good news is that early reports suggest that 2010 was a robust holiday shopping season. But now retailers are starting to hear that the sweater didn’t fit, the electronic gadget is on the fritz, and Great Aunt Gladys didn’t really want hang gliding gear after all.
When visiting an unfamiliar city, it helps to have a tour guide – a knowledgeable local to walk alongside you to point out the notable sights.
Should manufacturers have more time to incorporate new light bulb labeling on their packaging? And should the new light bulb rule exempt certain bulbs that soon will be obsolete? The FTC is asking for public comment on those two questions.
The new labels, which were announced in July 2010, will help buyers choose among the different types of bulbs on store shelves — traditional incandescent bulbs, and newer high-efficiency compact fluorescent (CFL) and light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs.
You've just opened an invoice for office supplies you didn't order or for a listing in a business directory. It’s the same invoice you got last week – but this one is stamped "Past Due." Perhaps one of your colleagues says there's someone hounding her on the phone, demanding payment for Internet services your business didn’t request. You refuse to pay, and the next thing you know, they're threatening to take you to court, or turn the bill over to a collection agency and ruin your credit.
If you or your clients make health claims in advertising, the FTC’s settlement with Dannon Corporation for allegedly false and deceptive representations about Activia Yogurt and DanActive is a must-read. The FTC worked closely with 39 state Attorneys General, who announced a simultaneous $21 million settlement with the company.