Business Blog

The long and short of it

Ahab hunts big fish.
Captain and whaling boat sink.

Ishmael prevails.

Sometimes you want to read all 209,117 words of Moby Dick.  Other times a haiku will do.  Sometimes you want an in-depth analysis of the FTC’s enforcement, rulemaking, research, education, and international efforts related to privacy and data security.  Other times a summary will suffice.

Hey, Rachel. The FTC is going DEF CON.

Hey, Rachel the Robocaller.  Every month we get 150,000 complaints about you and your robocalling besties.  We’ve sued dozens of them.  We’ve sponsored a national challenge to make your life harder.  But this time, Rach, the gloves are off.  We’re going DEF CON on you and we’re launching a particularly powerful surface-to-robocall missile with your name on it.

Not-so-fantastic recycled plastic?

When comparing products made of plastic lumber – picnic tables, benches, trash bins, and the like – many consumers and businesses factor in environmental considerations.  So when California-based American Plastic Lumber suggested its products were made virtually entirely out of post-consumer recycled content like milk jugs and detergent bottles, it’s understandable that shoppers would take note.  But according to the FTC, buyers didn’t get the benefit they bargai

False statements to credit bureaus: Nothing to CROA 'bout

It’s called CROA – the Credit Repair Organizations Act – and it was put in place to protect people battling their way back from financial adversity.  Given the long history of questionable practices in this sector, CROA makes it illegal to charge people upfront before services are rendered.  It also bans misleading statements to credit bureaus about consumers’ credit records.  There’s been lots of talk about the harm posed by false negative information in credit reports.  But in an interesting twist,

It's Game Over for Gameover Zeus

The Department of Justice recently announced a multinational law enforcement effort to disrupt the Gameover Zeus Botnet.  What is it and why should your company care?

Gameover Zeus is malware designed to steal banking and other credentials from home and business computers.  Once infected, a computer becomes part of a global network of compromised computers known as a botnet.  Criminals use botnets to carry out illegal activity – like sending spam and spreading malware.  

Fighting on three fronts: FTC weighs in on weight loss ads

Why do companies sell “miracle” diet pills and potions, promising results that defy the laws of physics?  Why do consumers buy them?  And what is the FTC doing about it?  Those are just some of the topics on the agenda at a congressional hearing today.  If you have clients that sell weight loss products or if you represent media outlets that run those ads, you’ll want to

Write your own headline

If you follow this blog, you know we try to catch readers’ eye with a turn of phrase in the title.  But when one of the defendant companies is named Bullroarer – and the FTC’s complaint alleges a massive mobile cramming scam – sometimes these posts just write themselves.  The settlement with Lin Miao, who ran the operation, is worth the attention of tech entrepreneurs who may not be familiar with the breadth of remedies available to protect consumers.

Deceptive mortgage ads hit close to home

The headline read ZIP.  ZERO.  NADA.  In big print, the ads also said 0 money down* and 0 for paid closing costs*.  Heritage Homes didn’t include ZILCH, BUPKES, or (for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fans) THE BIG GOOSE EGG, but the FTC says the meaning to prospective buyers was clear.  So how much truth was in that across-the-board “zero” claim?   According to the FTC’s complaint:  Zip.  Zero.  Nada.

Where did I put those keys?

If it hasn’t happened yet, it’s only a matter of time.  You walk into a room – say, to get your sunglasses – and then can’t remember why you’re there.  So it’s no wonder that claims for BrainStrong Adult, a dietary supplement advertised on TV, online, and through an active social media presence, caught consumers’ eye.  Ads said that Brain Strong Adult “helps protect against normal cognitive decline as we age” and is “clinically shown to improve memory.”  But acc

Hat trick? FTC charges violations in auto loan servicing, debt collection, credit reporting

Sometimes good things come in threes, like Musketeers, Bronte sisters, and Stooges.  (Shemp doesn’t count.)  But the FTC’s complaint against Consumer Portfolio Services charges the company with three distinct sets of violations – unlawful auto loan servicing, illegal debt collection, and violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act’s Furnisher Rule – all of which spelled triple trouble for consumers.  But there’s relief on the way in the form of a

Who’s mining the store? 9 top takeaways, legislative recommendations, and some straight talk for industry from the FTC’s data broker report

Type “big data” into a search engine and you’ll get more than 300 million results.  Consider the amount of personal information actually in the hands of data brokers and add a string of zeroes to that.  There are lots of valid purposes for using that data – verifying identity and detecting fraud, to name just two – but let’s face it:  It’s an industry that operates primarily behind closed doors.  To shed light on what’s going on, the FTC conducted an in-depth study

What’s a 4-letter word for “FTC advice for derelict debt collectors”?

We like solving puzzles – from crosswords and anagrams to that byzantine conspiracy wall constructed by Claire Danes' character on "Homeland."  So it doesn't faze FTC staff when companies use complicated corporate structures to hide what they're up to.  Those skills came in handy in unraveling how debt collector Asset & Capital Management Group and its host of related businesses were violating Section 5 of the FTC Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.  The prize for untangling this puzzle:

Not another lawyer joke

We try to keep a sense of humor about lawyer jokes, but given the harm to consumers, it's no laughing matter when debt collectors mimic attorneys.  The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the FTC Act establish that it's illegal for debt collectors to falsely claim to be attorneys or to suggest a bogus connection to law enforcement.  An FTC settlement with an outfit called Goldman Schwartz and related companies puts the whole kit and kaboodle out of

Entrepreneurs: When it comes to pyramid schemes, don’t be in denial

Promotional materials and live presentations for Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing used a lot of organizational jargon to recruit new people.  The first step:  Shell out start-up fees and monthly charges.  Next:  Recruit enough “independent reps” so you can work your way up through the ranks to Regional Sales Manager, Executive Sales Manager, National Sales Manager, Platinum Sales Manager, and ultimately “Presidential Ambassador.”  But the FTC and the State AGs of Illinois, Kentucky and North Carolina have another term for FHTM’s convoluted system of recruiting and compensation:

Has your company taken this selfie lately?

The company name may be American Apparel, but commerce is global, especially in the fashion industry.  If a business says it abides by the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor for transferring consumer data, companies have an obligation to live up to that promise.  American Apparel, the popular clothing retailer, is the latest company to be the subject of FTC law enforcement for claiming it was in compliance with the framework, but failing to conduct the required annual self-ce

Pages