Business Blog

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.

Business execs: 7 things to consider before using that app

Every tech publication seems to have a list of best apps for business.  Whether the goal is to analyze corporate cash flow or avoid the dreaded middle seat that doesn’t recline, there’s an app for the task.  But have you considered the kind of sensitive customer or employee information some apps let you transmit?  Developers may claim to take steps to secure the data, but as the FTC’s proposed settlements with Fandango and Credit Karma demonstrate,

Default lines: How the FTC says Credit Karma and Fandango SSLighted security settings

Imagine a burly doorman at an exclusive party.  When someone claims to be a guest, the doorman checks their invitation and runs it against the names on the list.  If it doesn’t match up, the person won’t make it through the velvet rope.  But what happens if the doorman isn’t doing his job?  His lapse could allow a ringer into the party to scarf up the hors d’oeuvres and steal the valuables. 

Zero sum game?

For people in the market for a car, an ad on YouTube for Massachusetts-based Courtesy Auto Group featured some eye-catching numbers:  “Get behind the wheel of the new 2013 Kia Sorento, now lease priced for $239 a month with zero down, or sale priced at $20,980.”  To emphasize the point, the visual on the screen highlighted in bold letters:

$239/mo
with $0 down

Alcohol advertising, ad placement, and self-regulation

If you’re a stats fan – the kind that can recalculate a pitcher’s ERA before the runner slides across the plate – the release of the FTC’s fourth major study on the alcohol industry offers a wealth of empirical data for your consideration.  Based on information submitted by 14 companies in response to FTC Special Orders, the study focuses on alcohol advertising and industry efforts to reduce marketing to underage audiences.  Even if you don’t have clients in tha

Judge rules on reach of FTC Act

When the FTC sued payday lender AMG Services in 2012, the complaint charged the defendants with a host of deceptive and unfair practices aimed at consumers already struggling to make ends meet.  Undisclosed fees and debt collection calls that threatened arrest were just a few of the allegations.  The defendants countered with an interesting defense:  that their affiliation with American Indian tribes rendered them beyond the reach of the FTC Act.  A U.S.

Needle and threats

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act lays out some pretty clear dos and don’ts for debt collectors.  Do identify yourself as a debt collector.  Do follow up within five days of your initial communication with a written notice setting out the amount of the debt, the creditor's name, and details about how consumers can proceed if they dispute the debt.  Now for some don’ts:  Don’t imply a government affiliation.  Don’t accuse people of a crime or threaten them with arrest.

Generation gap?

There’s not much talk anymore about the Generation Gap – at least not in terms of crazy teens and their rock ‘n’ roll music.  But there’s another kind of Generation Gap that has the FTC concerned:  the compliance gap between the established standards of the National Do Not Call Registry and the way some companies are using lists from lead generators without careful consideration of how those lists were compiled.  An FTC settlement with Versatile Marketing Soluti

What’s a predictive score?

Most consumers know that creditors use information about them and their credit experiences – like the number and type of accounts they have, their bill paying history, and whether they pay their bills on time – to create a credit score, which helps predict how creditworthy they are.

FTC, EEOC offer FCRA 411

When someone mentions the FTC, the EEOC, and the FCRA in the same sentence, it may sound like a ladle of alphabet soup.  What’s really being served up is a new joint publication by the Federal Trade Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that talks about how the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the mandate to comply with anti-discrimination laws intersect when employers use background checks in personnel decisions.

Do you sell health products? Court opinion offers truth-in-advertising recap

Advertisers that sell health products should know the legal standards by now, but to those resistant to the message, a federal judge in California spelled them out again in a $2.2 million judgment against the marketers of two diabetes products – Diabetic Pack and Insulin Resistance Pack.

FTC settlement with ADT sounds alarm about deceptive use of paid endorsers

Consumers who tuned in to programs like the Today Show, Daybreak USA, and local newscasts may have caught interviews with guests billed as “The Safety Mom,” a home security expert, or a tech expert.  Among the products they reviewed was ADT’s Pulse Home Monitoring System.  Describing it as “amazing” or “incredible,” they offered glowing details about its capabilities, safety benefits, and cost.  But according to the FTC, here's one material fact that wasn’t discussed:  ADT had paid the three spokespersons a total of more than $300,000 and provided two of them with free systems valued at $4

Pages