Seeing is believing. And last week, the FTC reminded eye doctors – in writing – about their legal responsibilities under the agency’s Eyeglass Rule. The rule requires you to provide a copy of the prescription to the patient at the end of the eye exam, even if the patient doesn’t request it. You should also not ask patients if they want their prescription. The prescription should be given to them automatically.
Remember the old ad, “It’s a breath mint. It’s a candy mint. It’s two, two, two mints in one”? Or maybe the Saturday Night Live takeoff, “It’s a dessert topping and a floor wax!” It’s not unusual for something to do double duty. And if you’re in the business of compiling background information for employment purposes, you’re not just a background screening company. Chances are you’re also a consumer reporting agency subject to the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
In the words of movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn, “An oral contract isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.” If your company provides information about consumers to credit bureaus, the law requires that you have written policies in place regarding the accuracy and integrity of that data. But are your policies worth the paper they’re printed on? That’s one of the issues presented in an FTC settlement with Dallas-based debt collector Credit Protection Association.
The privacy framework for transatlantic exchanges of personal data between the EU and the United States has been in the headlines lately. But are you and your clients staying on top of your obligations on the Pacific side? If your company certifies its compliance with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Cross Border Privacy Rules, a proposed FTC settlement with Very Incognito Technologies serves as a reminder to honor those promises.
In Amazon’s Appstore, many apps geared toward kids prompted them to use fictitious currency, like a “boatload of doughnuts” or a “can of stars,” as part of game play. But a federal district court recently agreed with the FTC that Amazon’s practice of charging cold, hard cash for those imaginary items and billing parents and account holders without their express informed consent violates Section 5 of the FTC Act.
Marketers have been watching the FTC’s challenge to POM Wonderful’s ad claims with interest. Last year, the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the company deceptively advertised that the products could treat, prevent, or reduce the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction. The D.C. Circuit also upheld the Commission’s finding that POM falsely claimed to have clinical proof to support those representations.
Animation fans remember the ballet-dancing pink hippos in Fantasia. In Egyptian mythology, the god of disorder was depicted as a red hippo.
Everyone has a job hunting horror story. Ours is the rejection letter we got on a Friday for a job interview scheduled for the following Monday. But a job interview that’s really just a sales pitch, often conducted by software designed to mimic a real person? A lawsuit against Gigats is the latest FTC action targeting deceptive practices in the lead generation industry.
Bears and Bulls. Brats and beer. That toddlin’ town. Lots of three-word phrases evoke Chicago. And on June 15, 2016, add Start with Security to the list. That’s when the FTC’s Start with Security roadshow breezes into the Windy City.
“Is it getting hot in here?” For companies that engage in illegal debt collection practices, the answer is a resounding yes. One reason is the unprecedented cooperative effort by federal and state law enforcers to turn up the heat on violators. There’s more to come, of course, but efforts like Operation Collection Protection prove that consumer protection agencies are stronger when we work together.
Last week, I had the pleasure of sitting down for some Q&A with members of the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI), one of the leading self-regulatory organizations for the online, interest-based advertising industry. One of the questions they posed was what additional actions industry should be taking to address online tracking as it develops ever more complex technologies. My answer? Tell people how they’re being tracked and offer them easy-to-use tools to block all of the techniques used to track them.
Please don’t tell the other entries in the Code of Federal Regulations – we wouldn’t want to stir up jealousies – but Business Blog readers have probably detected our fondness for 16 C.F.R. § 304.
We’ve all seen seething consumers – or been seething consumers – who learned that a prominently advertised offer didn’t reflect what they would actually have to pay. Playing fast and loose with price is a sure-fire way to put shoppers’ wallets in lock-down mode. That’s why savvy retailers are transparent in their practices.
Decades of FTC law enforcement offer practical guidance to help ensure your customers are clear about what something will cost:
“Slash your risk of cancer” – by using a tanning bed? That claim caught our attention, too. A settlement with Dr. Joseph Mercola and two Illinois-based companies includes $5.3 million in refunds for people who bought Mercola’s indoor tanning systems. The case also offers a reminder to advertisers to consider established science in crafting your ad claims and a compliance message if your marketing materials feature endorsements.
If companies market their products as “all natural” or “100% natural,” consumers have a right to take them at their word. That’s the message of four proposed FTC settlements and one just-issued administrative complaint challenging the allegedly deceptive use of those phrases in ads for skincare products, shampoos and styling products, and sunscreens.
Today, we’re turning the table on some healthcare professionals. Don’t worry. We’re not asking an anesthesiologist to count back from ten, or even telling an ENT to say “ah.” We’re offering an eye exam for eye doctors:
What do you call an agency that in one year can report consumer protection accomplishments as varied as:
If you’re in the process of developing a health-related mobile app, what tools are essential to your success? The answer, according to some entrepreneurs, is innovative code, a great marketing plan, and the number of a take-out that delivers until 2AM. But have you given much thought to legal compliance? A new multi-agency interactive tool may help you determine which federal laws apply to your product.
The FTC hosted its first-ever PrivacyCon event on January 14, 2016, to showcase original research in the area of privacy and security research. With over 300 in-person attendees, 1500 virtual attendees watching via webcast, and many more following PrivacyCon on Twitter, the event was a huge success. Participants presented and discussed original research on important and timely topics such as data security, online tracking, consumer perceptions of privacy, privacy disclosures, big data, and the economics of privacy.
Ransomware, Drones, and Smart TV. That’s a trio you don’t often see together. The FTC will consider the consumer protection implications of those issues at three half-day conferences later this year. We call it the Fall Technology Series, and you’ll want to mark your calendar now.