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Keeping Up with the Online Advertising Industry

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.

Cents and centsibility

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.

5 reasons why the price should always be right

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:

Deceptive “safe” indoor tanning claims burn consumers

“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.

Are your “all natural” claims all accurate?

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.

Developing a health app? Book an appointment with two new compliance resources

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.

Announcing the next PrivacyCon

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.

A stark lesson about buying and selling debts

A complaint filed by the FTC and the Illinois Attorney General against an operation that used names like Stark Law, Stark Recovery, and Capital Harris Miller & Associates alleges a veritable smorgasbord of debt collection violations. But the Stark Law lawsuit includes an additional allegation that should send a stark warning to those in the debt buying business.

FTC alleges defeat device rendered VW ad claims deceptive: A closer look at the lawsuit

Volkswagen Group of America spent multi-millions positioning its “clean diesel” technology as an environmentally conscious choice for car buyers – and sales of more than 550,000 so-called clean diesel vehicles suggest it was a persuasive pitch. But as a just-filed FTC lawsuit alleges, VW scored impressive green numbers by installing each car with a “defeat device” that cheated on emissions testing.

Debt collectors: You may “like” social media and texts, but are you complying with the law?

We get this question a lot: “Is it OK to use text messages or social media to collect debts?” Do you want the short answer or the more detailed one? The short answer is that the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act doesn’t prohibit collectors from using texts or social media. But – and this is a major caveat – recent FTC law enforcement actions suggest that using them can present particular compliance challenges. That’s the short answer. If you collect debts as part of your business, read on to find out more.

FTC and CRTC: Standing on guard for consumers

Whether it’s mowing that extra patch of grass or alerting each other to an iffy-looking lurker, there’s a sense of security when next-door neighbors enjoy a cooperative relationship. The same holds true for international neighbors, as a new Memorandum of Understanding between the FTC and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) demonstrates.

Do not buy, sell, or collect on these debts

We’ve learned that portfolios of alleged payday loan debts serviced by AMG Services are circulating in the debt collection marketplace. The alleged lenders are USFastCash, 500FastCash, OneClickCash, Ameriloan, United Cash Loans, AdvantageCashServices, and StarCashProcessing. But these alleged debts are bogus. The consumers do not owe the alleged debts, and the lenders have never authorized, assigned, or sold any of their loans for third-party collection. 

Letters to app developers caution against info surprises

There could be exceptions to the rule – maybe an unexpected bonus or an out-of-the-blue call from a friend – but as a general proposition, people don’t like surprises. As letters the FTC staff just sent to mobile app developers suggest, people really don’t like surprises about the information their apps gather. And the kind of data those apps had the capacity to collect may come as a surprise even to savvy industry members.

Vacation Station, lead generation, and your Do Not Call obligation

Of course, robocalls are a major annoyance for consumers. But anyone who works from home knows how illegal robocalls can cut into productivity, too. An FTC settlement with an outfit doing business as USA Vacation Station offers insights into the economics of robocalling and how the FTC’s concerns dovetail ongoing issues involving lead generation.

Weeding out deceptive and unfair data practices

Ask any gardener and they’ll tell you it’s a fool’s errand to lop weeds off at the surface. You also have to target the root system that allows them to propagate in the first place. That’s one of the messages to take from a judgment in the FTC’s case against Ideal Financial Solutions, Inc., and previous actions against data brokers and others who lent their green thumbs to Ideal’s large-scale consumer scam.

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