People are going mobile — so transactions are, too. Today the FTC is hosting a national workshop, Paper, Plastic . . . Mobile, to consider the consumer protection implications of mobile payments. How can you get involved?
Blog Posts Tagged with Finance
Imagine for a moment your ideal customer. They consider their choices carefully before buying. They keep their accounts current. When service is top-notch, they spread the word to friends and family. If there’s a glitch, they give you a chance to correct the problem before posting thumbs-down reviews. Now imagine you could “create” your own cadre of contented customers. Fantasy Land? It’s more real than you might imagine.
Last week saw FTC announcements involving allegations of foreclosure rescue fraud, deception aimed at people trying to resell their timeshares, complaints against payday lenders, and lawsuits against outfits claiming to help consumers behind on their car payments. Is there a theme here? You bet. But the message isn't just for companies engaged in practices targeting consumers struggling to stay afloat. There are words to the wise for businesses of any size and every stripe.
Tough federal and state law enforcement has turned up the heat on mortgage foreclosure rescue scams. So some operators are turning to auto loan modifications to make a fast buck on consumers in financial distress. In the first cases of their kind filed by the FTC, the agency is alleging that two unrelated California outfits charged hundreds of dollars in upfront fees, based on bogus claims they could reduce consumers’ monthly car notes and help them avoid The Repo Man.
Take the case of one person who borrowed money from a payday loan operation the FTC has taken to court for allegedly illegal practices. According to the FTC, the consumer was told that a $500 loan would cost him $650 to repay. But by slicing and dicing repayments in a way that generated undisclosed fees, the defendants allegedly tried to charge him $1,925 to pay off the $500 loan — and threatened him with arrest when he balked.
If you have clients in the auto industry, you’ve seen the ads: “We’ll pay off your trade no matter what you owe . . . even if you’re upside down.” It’s an attractive claim to people struggling with their finances. But law enforcement settlements announced by the FTC with five dealers from around the country demonstrate the importance of giving people the straight story when making promises about trade-ins where negative equity is involved.
South Dakota can be lovely this time of year, but consumers struggling financially shouldn’t have to travel there to respond to actions filed against them in a tribal court that doesn’t have jurisdiction over their case. That’s what the FTC has alleged in its amended complaint against Payday Financial, LLC, a company that pitches its short-term, high-fee loans in TV ads and online.
The BCP Business Center is here to help you comply with applicable laws. But we’re also committed to protecting business owners from deception. That’s why it’s important you have accurate information if you’re thinking about investing in precious metals. An ongoing FTC law enforcement action suggests that potential investors should step on the brakes if salespeople tout big money and low risks.
How consumers pay for things is changing. Pretty soon exasperated parents may start reminding kids that “mobile payments don’t grow on trees.” And if there’s a remake of “Jerry McGuire,” the sports agent may yell to his client “Show me the mobile payment!”
Last Friday, the FTC and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau signed a memorandum of understanding outlining how the agencies will work together. The CFPB — born out of the recent financial system overhaul — and the FTC now share responsibility for protecting consumers in the non-bank financial sector.
It may be tempting for a payment processor to look the other way about a client’s business practices, figuring it’s the merchant’s job to get proper consumer authorization for charges submitted for processing. But donning blinders can lead to regrettable results, as an FTC action against a payment processor shows.
In celebration of Halloween — and with apologies to Edgar Allen Poe — here’s our take on what companies can do to make sure spooky business practices don’t come back to haunt them.
Once upon a midnight lawful
Pondering practices, good and awful,
Reading through the U.S. Code
For dos and don’ts I parse and claw.
I came upon the Trade Commission’s
Section 5 with all revisions.
If you’re one of the businesses nationwide deceived by Oregon-based outfits that peddled questionable debit and credit card processing services, a refund check could be in the mail ranging from $100 to as much as $25,000 — depending on what you paid.
If you or your clients accept payment by credit or debit card, mark October 1st on your calendar. That’s the day new rules go into effect that could help lower your costs. The rules, part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, cover four areas that could affect the day-to-day operation of your business.
Two announcements today underscore a key FTC enforcement priority: getting money back for people deceived by companies’ illegal practices.
More than 110,000 refund checks totaling about $1.9 million are in the mail to loan applicants who were tricked into paying for a separate debit card through a misleading pre-checked box on an online form. According to the FTC, Swish Marketing, Inc., and VirtualWorks LLC came up with the promotion. Both companies — and five of their corporate officers — were held liable.
The FTC just announced more settlements with companies that falsely promised to help homeowners facing foreclosure. “Not relevant to our business,” you say? Think again.
OK, now that it’s just us, here’s a reminder that most resources in the BCP Business Center are in the public domain. Thus, according to 17 U.S.C. § 105, they’re not subject to copyright restrictions. (Sorry for the citation. Sometimes we just can’t help ourselves.) So you’re free to download, link, paste, tweet, like, dislike, and otherwise use FTC materials.
These days many shoppers wouldn’t think of buying a product without checking if it comes with a written warranty. And companies in it for the long haul understand the importance of living up to their promises if something goes kablooey. But that wasn’t always the case. It wasn’t until 1975 — when Congress passed the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act — that federal teeth were added to consumer warranty protections.
Savvy executives like to stay in the loop on FTC activities that could affect their industry. They make it a habit to scan the headlines or check for relevant workshops or reports. But there’s a third category of information a bit less understood: closing letters from BCP staff.
In the spirit of transparency, the agency posts them online. Here in the BCP Business Center, recent letters appear in the Compliance Documents section of each topic area.
It’s called the MAP Rule — and it will help chart the course for people in the market for a mortgage by banning deceptive claims about mortgages in advertising and other commercial communications. If you’re in the mortgage business, it’s worth your time to find out more about the rules of the road.