The Federal Trade Commission and Victory Media, Inc. have reached a proposed administrative consent agreement resolving allegations that Victory Media violated Section 5 of the FTC Act in connection with its promotion of post-secondary schools to military consumers.
Victory Media reaches servicemembers through its magazines G.I. Jobs, the Guide to Military Friendly Schools, and Military Spouse, its websites, including militaryfriendly.com, militaryspouse.com, and gijobs.com, and on social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. According to the FTC’s complaint, some of the company’s advice and tools deceptively promoted schools that paid the company for those promotions, including some schools the company had deemed not “military friendly.”
“Servicemembers and their families put themselves on the line every day to protect our nation,” said Acting FTC Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen. “We owe it to them to make sure that when they look to further their education, they get straight talk instead of advertising in disguise.”
Among other offerings, Victory Media helps servicemembers find the right educational choice through an online Matchmaker tool that purports to search schools it deems “military friendly,” a designation Victory Media created based on publicly available data and a voluntary survey related to the educational needs and interests of military students. According to the complaint, beginning in mid-2015, the company has included schools as possible search results for its Matchmaker tool only if the schools paid it to be included, regardless of whether the company has designated them as “military friendly” under its criteria. Victory Media also has endorsed individual schools in certain articles, emails, and social media posts it creates discussing educational opportunities without disclosing that, in many cases, the schools paid the company to be endorsed in those specific materials.
The Commission vote to issue the administrative complaint and to accept the consent agreement was 2-0. The FTC will publish a description of the consent agreement package in the Federal Register shortly. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through November 20, 2017, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final. Interested parties can submit comments electronically by following the instructions in the “Invitation To Comment” part of the “Supplementary Information” section.
NOTE: The Commission issues an administrative complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $40,654.
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