As a recent FTC action against three companies and their owner proves, ads promising quick and easy relief from credit card debt are likely to attract law enforcement attention. But this case featured an interesting twist because what the company really was up to was generating leads it turned around and sold to other companies.
Blog Posts Tagged with Credit and Finance
It may have happened to you. You open the monthly phone bill at your business or at home and find charges for goods or services you never ordered. It’s called cramming — and it’s illegal.
The FTC has brought numerous law enforcement actions against companies who “cram” unauthorized charges onto people’s phone bills. This $38 million judgment entered by a federal court in California is just one example, but what more can be done to prevent it?
If your company keeps sensitive data like Social Security numbers, credit reports, account numbers, health records, or business secrets, you’ve probably instituted safeguards to protect that information, whether it’s stored in computers or on paper. That’s great. But it’s time to take those safeguards a step further.
When the FTC amended the Telemarketing Sales Rule in 2003, it required telemarketers to transmit Caller ID information. That policy had three benefits. It promoted privacy by allowing people to screen out unwanted telemarketing calls. It increased industry accountability by making it harder for companies to remain anonymous. And it helped law enforcement by making it easier to identify fraudsters and companies who violated the Do Not Call Registry.
The hot present this holiday season is plastic: gift cards from popular online and brick-and-mortar retailers. But this year’s cards come wrapped in important new protections for people who buy and use them.
Today the FTC announced the new Mortgage Assistance Relief Services (MARS) Rule, putting in place sweeping changes to protect homeowners from scams that have fallen on the heels of the mortgage crisis.
The FTC’s recent settlement with Allied Interstate, one of the nation’s largest debt collectors, sends a timely reminder to industry members to comply with the law – and an important message to consumers that the FTC has their back when it comes to companies that cross the line.
Short-sighted thinking like that has landed a lot of businesses in hot water with law enforcers. They forget that the reach of federal and state consumer protection statutes can be expansive. Under appropriate circumstances, payment processors – as well businesses handling ad copy, telemarketing, fulfillment, and a host of other functions – may be liable for the role they play in another company’s deceptive or unfair practices.
The last thing people struggling to keep their heads above perilous financial waters need is an anchor weighing them down. That's why, as of today, businesses must comply with all provisions of new amendments to the Telemarketing Sales Rule designed to curb deception in the sale of debt relief services.
Most importantly, companies that use outbound telemarketing -- or have customers call them in response to ads or other solicitations -- can’t collect fees from customers until:
• they successfully settle or change the terms of at least one of their debts;
Next Wednesday is a banner day for America’s consumers – and a critical deadline for companies in the debt relief services industry to conduct a head-to-toe compliance check-up on their operations. As of October 27th, businesses that call prospective customers to sell debt relief services – or have customers call them in response to ads or other solicitations – have to comply with new amendments to the Telemarketing Sales Rule that make it illegal to charge fees before settling or reducing a customer’s debts.
Owners of small businesses wrestling with tax obligations are sure to have seen the ads. American Tax Relief LLC promised to settle customers’ delinquent federal and state taxes for a fraction of what they owe, as well as put a stop to tax liens, bank levies, and property seizures. But according to a lawsuit filed by the FTC, the company charged up-front fees ranging from about $3,200 to $25,000 and offered little in return.
Many homeowners are struggling to keep the financial roof from caving in – and questionable claims in mortgage ads make it even tougher to do. Continuing its fight against deception in mortgage advertising, the FTC has proposed a rule that would ban misrepresentations and would allow the FTC and the states to seek financial penalties against businesses that violate the rule.
Welcome to the BCP Business Center: Your Link to the Law. Explore and you’ll find practical compliance guidance on advertising, telemarketing, credit, data security, and other need-to-know topics for business owners and marketing professionals. What else will you find? The latest word on upcoming workshops, hot-off-the-presses staff reports, and new compliance videos. We’ll do our best to keep things to the point with a minimum of ho-hum, a maximum of how-to, and as little yadda yadda yadda as a legal website can manage.