Business Blog


The Role of the Bureau of Economics in Consumer Protection: A Conversation with Bureau Directors

Most practitioners are familiar with the work of the FTC’s two primary law enforcement bureaus. The role of the third bureau – the Bureau of Economics – may be less familiar to readers of this blog, but it’s just as essential to the agency’s mission. How do the Bureau of Consumer Protection and the Bureau of Economics work together? We posed that question to BE Director Francine Lafontaine and BCP Director Jessica Rich.


If there were a Debt Collection Decathlon – and we’re glad there isn’t – National Check Registry would have been a contender. According to the FTC and New York AG, the Buffalo-based debt collector “excelled” in a number of events: the Bogus Lawsuit Vault, the Disclosure of Debt Dash, and the Unauthorized Fee High Jump, to name just a few.

Operation Collection Protection puts the heat on illegal debt collection tactics

For debt collectors who resort to illegal tactics, it must feel like 110 in the shade because 115 law enforcement actions announced this year by the FTC and local, state, federal, and international partners – including 30 just-filed cases – have turned up the heat on law violators. From Buffalo to San Diego and dozens of jurisdictions in between, companies that flout debt collection standards are feeling the burn.

Across the tracks? FTC explores cross-device tracking

Quick:  How many connected devices do your customers have within arm’s reach right now? For a lot of them, the answer is (at minimum) a desktop computer, a laptop, a smartphone, a tablet, a connected TV, and a wearable gadget. What are the consumer protection implications when companies collect data through – and across – those devices for the purpose of advertising and marketing?

Made in USA claims: Three cheers for the said right and true

Two products sit side by side on the store shelf, but only one says “Made in USA.” For many consumers, that’s an important consideration in deciding what to buy. That’s why the FTC wants to make sure companies’ Made in USA claims – like all objective product representations – are true and backed by appropriate evidence. We asked FTC attorney Julia Ensor some of the questions we’ve heard from businesses about Made in USA claims.

Does my company have to disclose U.S. content on products we sell in the United States?

Following Follow the Lead

If you couldn’t make it to Washington to attend the FTC workshop Follow the Lead, watching the webcast is the next best thing – and it starts at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time on Friday, October 30, 2015. We’re bringing together industry members, consumer advocates, researchers, law enforcers – and you – to discuss the consumer protection implications of online lead generation.

Order compliance: A behind-the-scenes look

If the Commission is to attain the objectives Congress envisioned, it cannot be required to confine its road block to the narrow lane the transgressor has traveled; it must be allowed effectively to close all roads to the prohibited goal, so that its order may not be bypassed with impunity.

That’s from the Supreme Court’s 1952 decision in FTC v. Ruberoid, but it also outlines part of the job description of the Bureau of Consumer Protection’s Enforcement Division. 

FTC calls Sprint on $2.9 million risk-based pricing violation

Two people walk into a deli and both order a pastrami on rye. When the check arrives, one is charged $8. The other is surprised to get a bill for $15.99. That’s not the start of an old Henny Youngman joke. It’s an analogy that raises some of the issues in the FTC’s proposed $2.95 million settlement with Sprint for allegedly charging customers with lower credit scores a monthly fee without giving them the proper up-front notice required by law.

Matchmaker, matchmaker?

What do lead generators do? They typically identify consumers interested in a particular product or service, collect information from them, and then sell it to third parties. The idea is to match interested buyers and available sellers. But in the meantime, that information – which sometimes includes sensitive personal or financial data – may travel through a long marketing pipeline before reaching the desired business. What are the consumer protection implications?

Start with Security goes on the road again

Austin used to be known for Armadillo World Headquarters and the Stallion Drive-In on North Lamar that served a $4.99 chicken fried steak the size of a manhole cover. But the talk now is tech with a burgeoning industry that manages to keep the city both weird and wired. That’s why the FTC’s Start with Security program is on the road again on November 5th – this time to Austin.

Plans for tonight?

If you have new research you’d like to present at PrivacyCon – the FTC’s January 14, 2016, national conference to explore trends in data security and consumer privacy – we need to hear from you by midnight tonight.

Gagging rights? FTC case challenges diet claims and company’s use of consumer gag clauses

The FTC has gone to court hundreds of times to stop allegedly misleading weight loss claims and Roca Labs’ “gastric bypass alternative” promises are no exception. But other parts of the complaint – including a count challenging the defendants’ use of consumer gag clauses as an unfair practice – warrant a careful reading.

No runs, no hits, three errors

Baseball lore has it that Hall of Famer Ted Williams’ eyesight was so acute he could see the seams on a fastball. Developers of an app called Ultimeyes claimed that using their product “gives baseball players superhuman vision.” For some of us though, a daily task like reading a menu in a dimly lit restaurant is a swing and a miss. No problem, said the company. “25 minutes on this app will improve your vision by 31%” – results supposedly verified by a published university study.

Are you OK with the F-C-R-A?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act isn’t just about credit. If your company uses background checks in making personnel decisions, the FTC reminds you of your obligations under the FCRA. In honor of Throwback Thursday, here’s an unconventional old-school summary of key requirements under federal law. Spin the mirrored disco ball and join us on the dance floor for “F-C-R-A.”