One Direction had a hit with a song called “18,” but the FTC’s recent law enforcement and policy initiatives suggest that the agency will continue to pursue many directions in its efforts to protect consumers in ‘18. (Sorry. We’re expecting a fresh shipment of pop culture references in January.) In case you missed them – and in no particular order – here are ten FTC consumer protection topics of note from 2017.
Blog Posts Tagged with Credit and Finance
When it comes to using online negative options to sell unmentionables (or anything else), there are some material terms and conditions that marketers need to clearly mention. That’s the brief but foundational lesson of the FTC’s $1.3 million settlement with online lingerie seller AdoreMe.
The “before” photo showed a silver-haired lady in a wheelchair with a hand on her furrowed brow. “24 hours after” and she’s smiling and knitting on the sofa, thanks to a dietary supplement proven in a 1200-person clinical study to reduce or eliminate the symptoms of joint pain, hypertension, diabetes, and depression. And how’s this for a bonus? Users can “easily lose between 8-13 lbs. per week.”
We’ve all heard about counterfeit money and counterfeit handbags. But counterfeit debt? It’s the subject of a $4.1 million judgment entered last month by a federal court in Kansas – and it illustrates yet another example of the injury inflicted by debt collection deception.
Online news reports appeared to feature the miraculous results celebrities like Will Ferrell and Paula Deen achieved from muscle-building supplements, weight loss products, and other merchandise. But according to the FTC, those “news reports” were deceptively formatted ads and the claims about “miraculous” results were false or misleading. And those weren’t the only secrets hidden within the promotions.
Everyone knows that The stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas. But did you know that The AG’s team is a partner’s dream, deep in the heart of Texas?
That’s the tune we’re humming to honor our colleagues at the Consumer Protection Division of the Office of the Texas Attorney General – recipients of the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection’s Partner Award. The Award recognizes their extraordinary contribution to our shared mission to fight fraud and deception in the marketplace.
If you think the feuds among the Great Houses of Westeros get intense, consider the dinner table discussions about student loan debt. It’s not just taking a toll on the home front. Experts report that the $1.4 trillion debt burden carried by 42 million Americans is affecting workplace productivity, too. But at a time when consumers need accurate information, opportunistic outfits fly in like Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons with false promises of debt reduction or forgiveness.
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.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?
It’s illegal under fed’ral law to collect debts you’re not assigned.
Many historians acknowledge it as the oldest federal law enforcement agency, tracing back to 1772. Benjamin Franklin was integral to its establishment. And the FTC’s Criminal Liaison Unit (CLU) is proud to present one of its employees with the Consumer Shield Award, which recognizes outstanding work by a law enforcement officer in fighting consumer fraud.
Consumer scams need four things to survive: food, water, air – and access to the credit card system. Credit card networks build protections into the system to engage lawful businesses while keeping an eye out for fraud. When people use tactics to try to work around those protections, law enforcers take notice.
Here’s a riddle. What five-letter word can mean a try-out, a source of vexation, and a legal proceeding?
Our job at the Bureau of Consumer Protection is to protect consumers by enforcing the FTC Act’s prohibition on deceptive and unfair practices. It’s important that we carry out that mission effectively and efficiently.
Of course, phantom debt collection – the practice of pressuring people to pay “debts” they don’t owe – harms consumers. But as an FTC complaint demonstrates, when phantom debt collectors strike, they could affect your company, too. According to the FTC, a Florida-based outfit engaged in a scheme to defraud consumers through the collection of debts people didn’t actually owe or the company didn’t have the authority to collect.
Pork Chop Hill Road, Screaming Eagle Boulevard, Hell on Wheels Avenue, or my former home on Patton Drive. If those street names sound familiar, chances are you’re a servicemember, a veteran, or part of a military family. July is the Month of the Military Consumer and the FTC has resources to help keep members of the military fiscally fit and scam savvy – and a tip for businesses that do business with military consumers.
When something negative keeps reappearing, the old saying goes that it “turns up like a bad penny.” According to an FTC lawsuit against a North Carolina outfit, those “bad pennies” – in this case, phantom debts the FTC says people didn’t owe – cost consumers way more than pennies.
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.
First came the companies claiming they could reduce consumers’ credit card debt. Next were the outfits saying they could renegotiate mortgages or save homes from foreclosure. Now that people are struggling with the trillion-dollar burden of student loan debt, some marketers are making dramatic promises about reduced payments and loan forgiveness – representations the FTC alleges are false or misleading.
On the first day of law school, students learn the Latin maxim Res ipsa loquitor – “The thing speaks for itself.” Pardon the inaccurate translation, but in the case of the FTC’s Annual Highlights, we think Tabula crustum ipsa loquitor – “The pie chart speaks for itself.” In other words, the statistical recap of the past year tells an important story about what the FTC is doing to protect consumers and promote competition.