Business Blog

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

Gone with the wind?

A mobile app that lets users send photo and video messages that recipients can look at for a moment before the content is, in effect, gone with the wind?  Scarlett O’Hara could have declared her love for Rhett Butler (or Ashley Wilkes), confident that the message was ephemeral.  Of course, residents of Tara didn’t have access to the popular app Snapchat, which claimed to do just that.  But according to an FTC settlement, the company’s promise that Snapchat m

New text on textiles

If your business involves textiles, you’re familiar with the requirements of the Textile Fiber Products Identification Act and the FTC’s accompanying Rules.  But are you in the loop on changes that take effect today – May 5, 2014 – that could give you more flexibility with compliance?  In addition to reviewing the revised Rules, you’ll want to read the FTC’s updated publication, Threading Your Way Through the Labeling Requirements Under the Textile and Wool Acts, t

Time for a gut check?

Like the swallows returning to Capistrano and the umpire yelling “Play ball!” on Opening Day, there’s another inevitable harbinger of spring:  ads for bogus products promising easy weight loss just in time for bathing suit season.  But this year, media outlets have a new tool for spotting false claims before they’re published or aired – and before consumers risk their money (and maybe even their health) on a worthless pill, potion, belt, cream, or whatever.  If you or your clients run ads for weight loss products, it’s time for a gut check.

New COPPA FAQs can help schools make the grade

In a lot of schools, kids are more likely to be looking at screens than at blackboards.  One advantage:  fewer annoying chalk squeaks.  Of course, the benefits of the connected classroom go far beyond that.  But educators, administrators, and parents have been asking an important question:  How do the protections of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the accompanying FTC rule apply in the school setting?

Checking up on consumer generated health information

Whether it’s a website where people diagnosed with the same medical condition can share their stories or an app to find out how long it will take in the gym to burn off a Macadamia Mania Ripple sundae, consumers are taking their health in their own hands – and generating a massive amount of digital data in the process.  If you or your clients have jumped into this burgeoning market, here’s a development you’ll want to follow.

What would your employees do?

The Business Blog reflects sources some might describe as, well, eclectic – everything from Supreme Court jurisprudence to 80s TV.  But today’s post comes from a message on a neighborhood listerv in Washington, D.C.  It starts with a scam, but ends on a note that should be of interest to retailers.

Cram doesn't pay

Cramming unauthorized charges onto phone bills violates the FTC Act, of course.  But depending on the circumstances, cases like that also can result in criminal prosecution.  Two brothers who bilked consumers out of millions as part of a cramming scam are now behind bars – giving a whole new meaning to the term “cell phone.”  And the prosecutors who brought the case, Assistant United States Attorneys Hallie Mitchell Hoffman and Kyle F.

Heartbleed May Cause You Some Heartache

If you’re thinking “Heartbleed” sounds serious, you’re right. But it’s not a health condition. It’s a critical flaw in OpenSSL, a popular software program that’s used to secure websites and other services (like VPN and email). If your company relies on OpenSSL to encrypt data, take steps to fix the problem and limit the damage. Otherwise, your sensitive business documents and your customers’ personal information could be at risk.

Big day to talk big data

It’s funny how kids sometimes mishear famous phrases – for example, “And lead us not into Penn Station” or the confused Elton John lyric “Hold me closer, Tony Danza.”  We once heard first graders end the Pledge of Allegiance by saying “One nation, individual, with liberty and justice for all.”  On second thought, maybe they were on to something.  Analytics techniques are out there that categorize consumers and make predictions about individual behavior.  For sure, it can offer insights to advance medical research, transportation, manufacturing, etc.  But to what extent can big dat

FTC staff to Facebook and WhatsApp: Privacy promises prevail

When one company acquires another, there’s usually a lot of discussion about how to harmonize divergent procedures – everything from personnel policies to buying paper clips.  But a letter to executives at Facebook and WhatsApp from Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, should remind businesses there's one thing that doesn’t change: privacy promises made to customers.

They’re baa-ack

That was the catchphrase from the “Poltergeist” movie series, but we want to warn you about something more dangerous than ghostly apparitions emanating from your TV.

Corporate officers: Don’t assume you’re Inc.-ognito

That “Inc.” after a company’s name can offer certain legal protections, but immunity from liability under the FTC Act isn’t necessarily one of them.  If you’re a corporate officer or number them among your clients, a recent settlement with two people involved in a debt collection operation should underscore that message.

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