“What’s so funny ‘bout peace, love, and understanding?” Elvis Costello asked that musical question back in the day. The Memorandum of Understanding between the FTC and CFPB – which the two agencies just reauthorized for a three-year period – shows that when it comes to protecting consumers, ensuring a vibrant marketplace for financial products and services, and using resources efficiently, we're in harmony.
Blog Posts Tagged with Payments and Billing
Have you seen the ads where a popular celebrity touts DIRECTV on his own behalf and as the Painfully Awkward, Overly Paranoid, or Crazy Hairy version of himself? Applying that to a lawsuit just filed by the FTC, there’s DIRECTV – and then there’s Deceptively Advertised DIRECTV.
If you watch as much TV as we do, you may have been tempted to reach for the phone to order the Snuggie, that blanket with sleeves for couch potatoes; Forever Comfy, the answer to rump-sprung chairs; or a host of other items sold by New York-based Allstar Marketing Group. And if one Magic Mesh, Cat's Meow, Roto Punch, or Perfect Tortilla wasn’t enough, the ads reeled buyers in with a “double the offer” buy-one-get-one-free promotion the FTC and New York Attorney General said was misleading.
Flashes at a railroad crossing. That chirp from a smoke detector. The “check engine” light on the dashboard. Those are just a few warnings that merit your attention. The FTC’s proposed settlement with T-Mobile – which imposes at least $90 million in financial remedies, including full consumer refunds – highlights another warning that businesses should heed: clear indications that consumers are getting billed without consent.
We’ve brought law enforcement actions – dozens of ‘em. We’ve held workshops, issued reports, and sent warning letters. If it takes sky writing, tap dancing, and a float in a Thanksgiving Day parade, we’ll do that, too. But here’s what’s not going to happen. The FTC is not giving up until businesses get the message that: 1) Free means free; and 2) Key terms and conditions have to be clearly and conspicuously disclosed.
How’s this for a profile on a dating site? “Enjoys travel, long walks on the beach, fake potential dates that really are subscription solicitations, and illegal negative option programs, in violation of the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act (ROSCA).” If that’s your idea of a dream date, have we got a site for you!
Paying with plastic is a convenience for consumers, but a cost for companies. So small businesses are always looking for a penny to pinch in what they pay to process credit and debit cards. Enter unscrupulous pitch people who resort to impersonation, erasures, fine print, half-truths, and flat-out lies to get a business owner’s signature on a contract. When you're pricing processing, the FTC has advice on protecting yourself from a B2B bamboozle.
It’s called ROSCA – the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act – and it prohibits marketers from charging consumers for an online transaction unless the marketer has clearly disclosed all material terms of the deal and received the consumer’s express informed consent. Your e-commerce clients will want to know about the FTC’s first ROSCA case, filed recently in Nevada.
We’re not saying it’s the most important phone message since “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.” But the FTC hopes a $105 million settlement with AT&T Mobility stemming from unauthorized charges on consumers’ mobile phone bills will motivate industry members to listen up.
Say a consumer is thinking about buying something. They give a company information that would be necessary if they ultimately decide to make the purchase. Now suppose the company auctions off that data to the highest bidder, who completes the transaction without ever getting the consumer’s consent to the terms.
The polar bears and penguins sold within kids’ apps offered in the Google Play Store may have been virtual, but the unauthorized charges Moms and Dads got stuck with were all too real. A proposed FTC settlement will refund at least $19 million to parents whose accounts were charged illegally, according to the complaint, and will implement enforceable changes in how Google handles in-app purchases. Of course, the order applies just to Google, but the case of
Acc-cen-tuate the positive.
Eliminate the negative.
Latch on to the affirmative.
And don't mess with Mr. In-Between.
That's how the catchy Bing Crosby-Andrews Sisters number went in the 40s. When it comes to negative options now, the message for marketers is to explain things positively.
In the story of Aladdin, something as small as a lantern housed a mighty force. Aladdin got his three wishes, but he also unleashed the genie's mercurial power. Like Aladdin's lamp, mobile devices offer incalculable benefits, but certain forms of billing create the risk that consumers will get zapped with unauthorized charges.
If there’s one theme that runs through decades of FTC law, it’s that companies need consumers’ informed consent to bill their accounts. That was true in the early days of mail order. It carried through to online shopping. And it remains the law for mobile devices, including in-app purchases. The FTC’s lawsuit against Amazon alleges the company didn’t honor that elementary principle.
It was an all-too-common occurrence. People’s mobile phone bills included unexplained – and unauthorized – monthly charges. It’s called cramming and the FTC has brought a series of cases against companies that had fees for ringtones, horoscopes, “love tips,” etc., placed on cell phone bills without consumers’ consent. The crammers took a chunk of the cash, but you might be surprised to learn who the FTC says pocketed a 35-40% piece of the action. A just-filed lawsuit pulls back the curtain on
If you follow this blog, you know we try to catch readers’ eye with a turn of phrase in the title. But when one of the defendant companies is named Bullroarer – and the FTC’s complaint alleges a massive mobile cramming scam – sometimes these posts just write themselves. The settlement with Lin Miao, who ran the operation, is worth the attention of tech entrepreneurs who may not be familiar with the breadth of remedies available to protect consumers.
It’s not like us to suggest you read someone else’s mail, but the FTC has sent letters that your clients might want to know about.
Sometimes good things come in threes, like Musketeers, Bronte sisters, and Stooges. (Shemp doesn’t count.) But the FTC’s complaint against Consumer Portfolio Services charges the company with three distinct sets of violations – unlawful auto loan servicing, illegal debt collection, and violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act’s Furnisher Rule – all of which spelled triple trouble for consumers. But there’s relief on the way in the form of a
The Business Blog reflects sources some might describe as, well, eclectic – everything from Supreme Court jurisprudence to 80s TV. But today’s post comes from a message on a neighborhood listerv in Washington, D.C. It starts with a scam, but ends on a note that should be of interest to retailers.
Cramming unauthorized charges onto phone bills violates the FTC Act, of course. But depending on the circumstances, cases like that also can result in criminal prosecution. Two brothers who bilked consumers out of millions as part of a cramming scam are now behind bars – giving a whole new meaning to the term “cell phone.” And the prosecutors who brought the case, Assistant United States Attorneys Hallie Mitchell Hoffman and Kyle F.