Break out the bubbly and raise a toast: It's National Consumer Protection Week. NCPW is an annual campaign sponsored by the FTC and nearly 30 other federal agencies, consumer groups, and advocacy organizations, in conjunction with state, county, and local government offices that are sponsoring events nationwide. The goal? To encourage consumers to take full advantage of their rights and make better-informed decisions.
When the economic climate is uncertain, people tend to evaluate their options: Is a career move in the cards? Can a home-based business supplement my salary? Is now the time to be my own boss?
But if there's one lesson from Operation Empty Promises — a federal-state sweep involving more than 90 law enforcement actions — it's that entrepreneurs should take their time and resist high-pressure tactics when operators claim to have the inside track on enhanced income.
Especially in a tough economic climate, it’s an attractive claim. But as demonstrated by Operation Empty Promises — a multi-agency law enforcement initiative announced today — many companies promoting online opportunities, steady employment, or home business success promise the golden goose, but deliver a goose egg.
As businesses know, prospective customers have gone mobile. That’s why the FTC’s Do Not Call Registry services are now even more accessible to consumers.
It’s awards season for the entertainment industry. There’s no red carpet in front of the FTC and no one’s likely to ask “Who are you wearing?” — except to ascertain that the manufacturer complied with the Care Labeling Rule. But consumer protection is a common theme in movies nonetheless. With acknowledgments to Steve Baker, director of the FTC’s Midwest Region who first started the list, here are some of our favorite consumer protection-themed films:
The FTC has gone to court in an effort to shut down an operation that allegedly blasted consumers with more than five million illegal spam text messages, including many pitching loan modification help, debt relief, and other services. The agency also has charged that the defendant marketed his text message services with email that violated the CAN-SPAM Act.
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.