“There is nothing new under the sun.” It’s from the Book of Ecclesiastes and who are we to disagree? So even when innovative products enter the market – for example, new platforms offering financial services – fundamental consumer protection principles remain constant. And as the FTC’s $3.85 million settlement with Avant, LLC, demonstrates, that includes representations and practices related to online lending.
Blog Posts Tagged with FinTech
Imagine a baseball scout is taking a look at a prospect. On paper, the slugger’s batting average seems impressive. But now imagine that, unbeknownst to the scout, those stats left out all the times the batter struck out. It’s an unrealistic hypothetical, of course, but it illustrates the principle that in compiling averages, removing certain categories of data can skew the results.
It’s a given that companies shouldn’t charge consumers hidden fees. But it raises a particular concern when an online lender makes “No Hidden Fees” claims a centerpiece of its marketing – and then deducts from those loans hundreds or even thousands of dollars in hidden up-front fees.
Advances in payment methods could end those open-wallet debates about who owes what for the pizza. But as innovative technologies change how people pay for things, established consumer protection principles apply. An FTC complaint against peer-to-peer payment service Venmo – now operated by PayPal – alleges that the company failed to disclose material information about the availability of consumers’ funds.
So you’ve received a Civil Investigative Demand (CID) from the Federal Trade Commission related to a consumer protection matter. Now what? We appreciate that it can be daunting for any company – especially a small business – and we want to be as transparent as possible about the process.
When you make a pact, you must keep your promises . . . or else there are consequences. That’s the premise of Pact, Inc.’s app, which lets you pledge to perform certain healthy activities each week. That’s also the lesson from Pact’s settlement with the FTC over its own broken promises.
There’s been a lot of talk about “ping trees” and other activities associated with the lead generation industry. The FTC’s concern is that consumers don’t get ponged in the process. A proposed settlement gives a glimpse into how one lead generation company operated and offers insights for businesses about compliance considerations when the “product” in question is consumers’ personal data.
The FTC’s law enforcement action against Amazon for unauthorized billing recently settled, leaving two key takeaways: 1) Consumers are eligible for more than $70 million in refunds; and 2) Businesses need to get customers’ express consent before placing charges on their credit or debit cards.
In promotional materials to attract prospective drivers, ride-hailing company Uber Technologies touted how much money drivers would earn and the favorable terms they could get by financing a car through Uber’s Vehicle Solutions Program. But according to an FTC complaint, Uber exaggerated those earnings claims and misrepresented the terms of its Vehicle Solutions Program.
“For many years, Western Union’s money transfer system has been used by fraudsters around the world to obtain money from their victims.” That’s how the FTC’s complaint against Western Union opens – and it tells a compelling story of a corporation the FTC says knew that massive fraud was afoot and had the ability to address it, but chose to look the other way.
Chances are that you or someone you know will be among 2.7 million AT&T Mobility customers who will be getting a refund soon. The FTC is returning a total of $88 million to people who were billed for premium text message services they didn’t authorize.
From the perspective of consumers, the whole purpose of prepaid debit cards – their reason for living, if you will – is to give consumers immediate access to their money. Those cards are an especially important financial lifeline for people who don’t have traditional bank accounts.
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.
The FTC keeps its finger on the pulse of markets, channeling its resources to protect consumers from deceptive and unfair practices involving new technologies. A few years ago, we created the Mobile Technology Unit to help bring consumer protection into the mobile era. Staffers assist the Bureau of Consumer Protection and FTC regions with law enforcement investigations and lend their expertise to the development of consumer protection policy.
Flashes at a railroad crossing. That chirp from a smoke detector. The “check engine” light on the dashboard. Those are just a few warnings that merit your attention. The FTC’s proposed settlement with T-Mobile – which imposes at least $90 million in financial remedies, including full consumer refunds – highlights another warning that businesses should heed: clear indications that consumers are getting billed without consent.
We’re not saying it’s the most important phone message since “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.” But the FTC hopes a $105 million settlement with AT&T Mobility stemming from unauthorized charges on consumers’ mobile phone bills will motivate industry members to listen up.
The polar bears and penguins sold within kids’ apps offered in the Google Play Store may have been virtual, but the unauthorized charges Moms and Dads got stuck with were all too real. A proposed FTC settlement will refund at least $19 million to parents whose accounts were charged illegally, according to the complaint, and will implement enforceable changes in how Google handles in-app purchases. Of course, the order applies just to Google, but the case of
Whether by click, tap, swipe, or scan, apps now offer a variety of beneficial services that can enhance consumers’ shopping experience. These services help consumers compare prices in-store, load the latest deals, and make purchases – all from the convenience of their phone. To better understand the consumer protection implications of this ever-changing environment, FTC staff recently issued a report, What’s the Deal?
In the story of Aladdin, something as small as a lantern housed a mighty force. Aladdin got his three wishes, but he also unleashed the genie's mercurial power. Like Aladdin's lamp, mobile devices offer incalculable benefits, but certain forms of billing create the risk that consumers will get zapped with unauthorized charges.
If there’s one theme that runs through decades of FTC law, it’s that companies need consumers’ informed consent to bill their accounts. That was true in the early days of mail order. It carried through to online shopping. And it remains the law for mobile devices, including in-app purchases. The FTC’s lawsuit against Amazon alleges the company didn’t honor that elementary principle.