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.
Blog Posts Tagged with Payments and Billing
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.
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.
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.
“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.
Online subscription services can be a convenience for consumers and a boon for business – especially now that so many people are shopping from home. But under the law, companies have an obligation to explain the details of the deal up front, clearly disclose any automatic renewal terms, get consumers’ express consent before billing, and offer simple ways to cancel.
As adage-writers go, whoever penned, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” should have looked for another line of work. And, the writer should have hoped that prospective employers wouldn’t spot a promotion for MyLife.com, saying they could see the writer’s criminal and sexual offender records by subscribing to MyLife’s background reports.
Ostriches get a bad rap. The popular perception is that the species Struthio camelus bury their heads in the sand. But, in fact, they flee from perceived danger at speeds that top 60 miles per hour. An FTC proposed settlement with a payment processor that ignored signs that certain clients were engaged in fraud suggests that more companies should follow the real-life example of the ostrich and hightail it away from any association with illegal conduct.
Companies that deceive consumers often don’t act alone. Pull back the curtain and you may find behind-the-scenes businesses that lend a hand. The FTC alleges that Atlanta-based First Data Merchant Services and its former vice president, Chi “Vincent” Ko, engaged in conduct that helped scammers rake in megabucks at consumers’ expense.
Small businesses and nonprofits should never be on the receiving end of another company’s deceptive practices. An FTC action challenges the methods of companies that allegedly pitch offers for “no risk” business publications and then follow up with hefty bills for unauthorized orders. But it doesn’t stop there.
Some things have changed in the rent-to-own business, but a $175 million proposed settlement with Progressive Leasing reminds companies that bedrock consumer protection principles apply, especially the fundamental proposition that deceiving people about cost strikes at the heart of the FTC Act. Not in the rent-to-own industry? Not so fast. The case offers compliance pointers for your company, too.
For small businesses, there’s never been a time when “business as usual” has been so unusual. With many companies facing coronavirus-related challenges, the FTC has tips for business owners – and for those offering small business financing – about navigating today’s uncharted financial waters.
Everyone wants to save money at the pump. And no one wants to cut fuel costs more than companies – including many small businesses – that are in the trucking industry or have company cars. The FTC just filed a complaint alleging that Georgia-based FleetCor Technologies has made misleading representations in pitching its “Fuelman” and co-branded fuel cards to businesses around the country.
“He just emailed you! You caught his eye and now he’s expressed interest in you... Could he be the one?”
The first rule of credit repair is that no credit repair company can remove accurate and timely negative information from someone’s credit report. For credit repair companies that would claim otherwise, there’s CROA – the Credit Repair Organizations Act. It makes it illegal for credit repair companies to lie about what they can do to clear up a clouded credit report, or charge upfront fees before they do the job they promised to do.
“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.
Is there anything you can’t get delivered to your front door? (And yes, home renovators will attest you can even get a front door delivered to your front door.) The burgeoning subscription model can offer convenience to customers, but only if companies honor established consumer protection principles.
From the FTC’s perspective, a certain pattern of online business has become a recipe for consumer injury.
A recent ruling by a Florida Bankruptcy Judge sheds light on a tenacious team within the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. But first, let’s set the time machine to 2008 when the FTC entered into a settlement with BlueHippo, a computer financing company that pitched electronics to consumers with “less than perfect credit, bad credit, no credit.”
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the FTC staff released a Data Spotlight highlighting the category of scam with the highest amount of reported financial loss among complaint categories the FTC uses to track fraud. The category may surprise, but here’s a hint. In the words of Bon Jovi, these con artists “give love a bad name.”