Blog Posts Tagged with Advertising and Marketing

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First FTC case filed under new COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act

Congress passed a law in December 2020 – the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act – that imposes monetary penalties on violators. The Department of Justice and the FTC just brought their first action under the statute, alleging that a Missouri chiropractor and his company violated both the new law and the FTC Act by deceptively marketing vitamin D and zinc products to treat or prevent COVID-19.

Asking for your insights into digital dark patterns

Have you marked your calendar for April 29, 2021, to attend Bringing Dark Patterns to Light: An FTC Workshop? The virtual event will examine digital “dark patterns,” potentially deceptive or unfair user interfaces on websites and mobile apps. In addition to your participation, the FTC is asking for research and public comments on topics related to the workshop.

A look back at post hoc analysis

People who claim that hindsight is 20/20 probably weren’t talking about the post hoc evaluation of clinical testing. That’s an alleged flaw the FTC challenged in purported substantiation submitted by the marketers of Hepaxa and Hepaxa PD, fish oil products advertised as clinically proven to treat liver disease in adults and children. In addition to injunctive provisions, the proposed settlement includes a financial remedy of $416,914.

In hindsight: 2020

This time last year, we all were adjusting to a new normal. As the pandemic took hold, the FTC kicked into high gear on COVID-19-related issues, while continuing its work on other fronts, too. The just-announced 2020 Annual Highlights reflect important enforcement actions, policy initiatives, and outreach efforts undertaken in the past year.

Avoid mixed signals when advertising antennas

Many consumers experience sticker shock when they total up what they pay each month for television, add-on channels, satellite programming, streaming services, and the vast array of other content they buy. So it’s no surprise that people thinking about cutting the cord were drawn to claims by New York-based Wellco, Inc., and CEO George Moscone that the company’s TV antennas would let users cancel their cable service and still get all of their favorite channels for free.

FTC and Florida allege magazine subscription company deceived inmates’ families

Misleading tactics in the sale of magazine subscriptions is an illegal practice the FTC has challenged in numerous cases. But an action just filed by the FTC and the State of Florida focuses on a new audience allegedly targeted for deception: the families of people who are incarcerated and inmates themselves. The pending case also suggests compliance reminders that apply to companies in just about any industry.

Community Advocate Center: Listening to what consumers have to say

Wondering what you can do to help protect consumers in your area? The FTC just launched an initiative aimed at partnering with legal aid organizations to expand outreach to lower-income members of the community. The goal: to connect people who have experienced fraud and other consumer problems with an easy way to report it and with advice to help them recover.

Bringing Dark Patterns to Light

It’s like a scene from an Indiana Jones movie. Our hero enters a cave in search of treasure and every labyrinthine turn poses another unexpected hazard – trip-wired blades, runaway boulders, and snakes (“I hate snakes”). But we’re not talking about a rollicking adventure flick. We’re describing the experience of many online shoppers as they navigate some companies’ websites to avoid digital danger – for example, extra items showing up in a consumer’s cart, unauthorized charges, or the unintended disclosure of personal information.

Amazon to pay $61 million for tapping into tips promised to drivers

A lot has been said about changes to the marketplace spurred by the gig economy, but some things remain constant, including established truth-in-advertising principles. Amazon told delivery drivers in its Amazon Flex program – as well as customers who placed orders through services like Prime Now and AmazonFresh – that 100% of tips would go directly to the drivers. But according to an FTC lawsuit, for a period of more than two years, Amazon secretly pocketed over $61 million of those tips.

Multi-party liability

Today we are announcing another enforcement action seeking to hold companies responsible for consumer injury caused by others or in which they directly participated in the misconduct. In this action against Seed Consulting, we allege, among other things, that Seed assisted and facilitated several deceptive schemes that cheated consumers out of thousands of dollars.

How a “funding” company and business coaching outfits joined forces to deceive consumers

For people who were looking to run their own businesses, the lesson of the FTC’s proposed $2.1 million proposed settlement with Las Vegas-based Seed Consulting, LLC, is that neither their future nor their fortune was in the cards – credit cards, that is. The defendants’ modus operandi was to file falsified credit card applications in consumers’ names – a service for which they charged a hefty fee – so that consumers could use those lines of credit to pay for “business seminars” offered by third-party outfits with whom Seed Consulting was in cahoots.

FTC’s first BOTS Act cases: Just the ticket to help protect consumers from ticket bots

Remember live music? Remember the thrill of enjoying a performance or sporting event with a packed house of fans? As we look forward to a return to in-person entertainment, it’s easy to forget the frustration of trying to buy tickets as soon as online sales opened only to be shut out by companies that used tricks to grab them up and sell them at much higher prices. That’s the conduct Congress intended to stop with the passage of the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act.

Health app broke its privacy promises by disclosing intimate details about users

Flo Health pitched its Flo Period & Ovulation Tracker as a way for millions of women to “take full control of [their] health.” But according to the FTC, despite express privacy claims, the company took control of users’ sensitive fertility data and shared it with third parties – a broken promise that left consumers feeling “outraged,” “victimized,” and “violated.” Read on for details, including a notable feature in the proposed settlement.

New toolkit for retailers to help stop gift card scams

In many ways, gift cards ushered in a win-win era. Better gift-giving (and getting) for consumers and increased sales for retailers. But leave it to scammers to try to mess up a good thing. According to an FTC Data Spotlight, gift cards are now the top method of payment favored by many fraudsters. For years, the FTC has warned consumers about gift card grifters.

One thing marketers of CBD products need to know right now

“It’s the Wild West out there!” How often have you heard that statement made about health claims for products containing CBD? But here’s the thing: It’s not the Wild West. In fact, health-related representations for CBD products are subject to the same established requirements of scientific substantiation the FTC has applied for decades to any advertised health claim.

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