It typically started with a schmoozy call to an unsuspecting small business or nonprofit. Sometimes the caller claimed to be “confirming” an existing order, “verifying” an address, or offering a “free” catalog or sample. Then came the supplies surprise – unordered merchandise arriving at the company’s doorstep followed by high-pressure demands to pay up.
Blog Posts Tagged with Advertising and Marketing Basics
If marketing claims are any indication, “green” paint is popular with consumers, but not just in the sense of emerald, mint, or avocado. Companies are advertising that their paints are emission-free, VOC-free, and without chemicals that could harm consumers, including pregnant women, babies, and people with asthma. Some brands even feature seals and certifications touting purported environmental benefits.
If your business has taken steps to protect your intellectual property with patents or trademarks, you’ve probably had correspondence or communications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). But some businesses report receiving letters or emails that look to be from the USPTO, but really aren’t.
Rockne, Lombardi, Landry, Shula. Behind every sports dynasty, there’s a legendary coach. But according to the FTC, marketers of “business coaching” services took consumers for millions by using offside sales tactics that will likely disqualify them from the Truth-in-Advertising Hall of Fame.
As any golfer will tell you, consistent follow-through is essential. And when the FTC files a lawsuit to protect consumers, the agency is in it for 18 holes – and a play-off, if necessary. Filed as part of Operation TELE-PHONEY, a nationwide crackdown on deceptive telemarketing, the FTC sued Publishers Business Services in 2008.
There are oldies but goodies. Then there are oldies and baddies. The FTC warns people looking for business opportunities to watch out for trendy tech scams and retro rip-offs. A New Jersey-based outfit cranked the Wayback Machine into overdrive by putting a contemporary spin on what may be one of the granddaddies of all bogus bizopps.
Silence may be golden, but not when it comes to contract clauses that would muzzle consumer complaints. That’s one message from an FTC settlement with the makers of NutriMost weight-loss products. Here’s another: don’t make weight-loss claims without scientific evidence to back them.
If Instagram is the home of Throwback Thursday and Flashback Friday, #IGers should think of today as Word to the Wise Wednesday.
It used to be a rite of passage: spending the night in a line outside the box office to score tickets to the Stones, Springsteen, or [insert your favorite group here]. The convenience of internet ticket sales ended the sleeping-on-the-sidewalk ritual. But online ticket sales raised another concern: Were prospective buyers losing out to computer programs that scooped up the best seats only to resell them at inflated prices?
When websites prominently advertised “FREE!” golf balls and other gear, duffers and low-handicappers alike swung for the deal. But according to the FTC, 10 related defendants drove consumers into the rough with poorly disclosed terms and conditions, deceptive negative options, and misleading upsells, in violation of the FTC Act and the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act.
Today kicks off National Consumer Protection Week, but what the FTC does to protect consumers is only part of the story. We also work hard to help small business get down to business. Here are just a few examples of what we’re doing to protect your business from deceptive practices.
Congress unanimously passed the Consumer Review Fairness Act to protect people’s ability to share in any forum their honest opinions about a business’ products, services, or conduct. Some companies had been using contract provisions – including their online terms and conditions – to threaten to sue consumers or penalize them financially for posting negative reviews or complaints. The new law makes that illegal.
An ongoing FTC case is a reminder to businesses — If you make product claims based on scientific testing, you must have valid proof to back up those claims.
Case in point: Last fall, the FTC filed a lawsuit against Innovative Designs, Inc. (IDI) over allegations that the company violated the FTC Act by making false and unsubstantiated claims about its house wrap products.
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.
When thinking about buying a used car, some people hit a speed bump when they get to the “used” part. It’s one thing to spot a dinged fender or smudged floor mat, but it’s tougher to evaluate a used car’s essential systems. In separate complaints, the FTC charged that CarMax and two large dealership groups touted how rigorously they inspect their used cars and yet failed to clearly disclose to prospective buyers that some were subject to unrepaired safety recalls.
Promoting a “Young People’s Revolution,” multi-level marketer Vemma pitched its business opportunity to college students and other young adults as a big-money, fast-lane alternative to “the traditional 9-to-5.” In 2015, the FTC sued Vemma and related parties, alleging that its smoke-and-mirrors earnings claims were obscuring the true nature of what Vemma was up to. As a result of an FTC settlement, there’s a revolution underway all right.
Claims about employment prospects and income levels are like any other objective advertising representation – and Job #1 for advertisers is to support those promises with solid evidence. DeVry University and its parent company have entered into a $100 million settlement to resolve the FTC’s allegations that the defendants’ claims didn’t make the grade.
The military community makes many of the same consumer decisions as their civilian counterparts. We all need to manage our money – and avoid rip-offs. But servicemembers and their families also face unique challenges, like frequent relocations and deployment. When a permanent change of station is on the horizon, a military family needs to rent or buy a new place to live, manage money while on the move, and be vigilant about dealing with businesses in an unfamiliar locale. A servicemember’s regular paycheck from Uncle Sam can make them a target for scammers.
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.