International Monthly: March 2018

 
 U.S. Competition, Consumer Protection and Privacy News
 

MARCH 2018

Consumer Protection and Privacy

Sentinel data book

FTC Releases Annual Summary of Complaints Reported by Consumers

The FTC released the 2017 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, which contains complaints from 2.68 million consumers. This is a decrease from 2016, when 2.98 million consumers submitted reports about fraud, identity theft and other types of consumer concerns. Despite this, consumers reported losing a total of $905 million to fraud in 2017 ─ $63 million more than in 2016. The Consumer Sentinel Network’s secure online database is currently available to more than 2,300 individual users in civil and criminal law enforcement agencies across the country and abroad.

econsumer.gov logo

FTC to Provide Certified econsumer.gov Members Access to More Cross-Border Complaint Data

This month, the FTC will provide certified econsumer.gov members with access to approximately 240,000 additional consumer complaints about cross-border transactions. These complaints come from several organizations that share their data with the Consumer Sentinel Network joint complaint database. Currently, certified econsumer.gov members can access complaints that consumers file at econsumer.gov, and cross-border complaints that consumers file directly with the FTC. This means more intelligence on complaint trends and for use in investigations. An initiative of the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network, econsumer.gov consists of a jointly sponsored website for reporting international fraud complaints, and the sharing of those complaints using the Consumer Sentinel Network database. Please contact Hui Ling Goh of the FTC's Office of International Affairs at hgoh@ftc.gov for more information about how your agency can participate.

PayPal Settles FTC Charges that Venmo Failed to Disclose Information to Consumers on the Ability to Transfer Funds and on Privacy Settings; Violated Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act

The FTC has reached a settlement with PayPal, Inc. over allegations that the company told users of its Venmo peer-to-peer payment service that money credited to their Venmo balances could be transferred to external bank accounts without adequately disclosing that the transactions were still subject to review and that funds could be frozen or removed. In its complaint, the FTC also charges that Venmo misled consumers about the extent to which they could control the privacy of their transactions.

FTC Challenges Schemes That Target or Affect Senior Citizens in the U.S. and Abroad

The FTC has taken legal action against two deceptive schemes that affected senior citizens with phony sweepstakes offers and bogus computer technical support services that tricked consumers out of tens of millions of dollars. The FTC’s two cases were brought in conjunction with an enforcement sweep led by the U.S. Department of Justice. The sweep involved transnational fraudsters who targeted elderly and vulnerable consumers both in the United States and abroad, and benefited from the work of the International Mass-Marketing Fraud Working Group (IMMFWG), a network of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies co-chaired by the U.S. Department of Justice and FTC, and law enforcement in the United Kingdom.

Competition

wesson

FTC Challenge Results in Parties Abandonment of Proposed Merger in Cooking Oil Market

Following the FTC’s vote to file an administrative complaint and preliminary injunction in federal court, J.M.Smucker Co. announced its intention to abandon its proposed $285 million acquisition of the Wesson cooking oil brand from Conagra Brands. Smucker owns the competing Crisco brand.

FTC Closes Essilor/Luxottica Merger Investigation

The FTC issued a statement on its vote to close the investigation of the proposed merger of European eyewear makers Essilor and Luxottica Group. According to the statement, the evidence did not support a conclusion that Essilor’s proposed acquisition of Luxottica would violate federal antitrust laws. During the investigation, Commission staff cooperated closely with the European Commission and the Canadian Competition Bureau, both of which have closed their investigations, and coordinated with the competition authorities of Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, Israel, Mexico, Singapore, and South Africa.

FTC Challenges Proposed Merger of World’s Largest Suppliers of Water Treatment Chemicals and Services

The FTC issued an administrative complaint charging that Wilhelmsen Maritime Services’ proposed $400 million acquisition of Drew Marine Group would violate the antitrust laws by significantly reducing competition in an important market for marine water treatment chemicals and services used by global fleets. The FTC also authorized staff to seek in federal court a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to prevent the parties from consummating the merger pending an FTC administrative proceeding. Throughout the investigation, Commission staff cooperated with staff of the antitrust agencies in Singapore and the United Kingdom.

dental equipment and supplies

FTC Sues Dental Products Distributors for Alleged Conspiracy Not to Provide Discounts to a Customer Segment

The FTC filed a complaint against Benco Dental Supply Company, Henry Schein, Inc. and Patterson Companies, Inc, the three largest dental supply companies in the United States, alleging that they violated U.S. antitrust laws by conspiring to refuse to provide discounts to or otherwise serve buying groups representing dental practitioners.

In Other News

robocalls

FTC and FCC to Host Joint Policy Forum and Consumer Expo to Fight the Scourge of Illegal Robocalls

The FTC and the Federal Communications Commission will host two upcoming events aimed at furthering the fight against illegal robocalls and caller ID spoofing. The agencies will co-host a Policy Forum later this month and a Technology Expo in April.

mobile device security

FTC Recommends Steps to Improve Mobile Device Security Update Practices

A new FTC report based primarily on information the FTC requested from eight mobile device manufacturers offers recommendations that manufacturers should take steps to improve the security of mobile devices. They include taking additional steps to install security updates that patch vulnerabilities in a device’s operating system more quickly, providing consumers with more information about their role in the security update process, and considering adopting and disclosing minimum guaranteed support periods for their devices and notifying consumers when support is about to end.

FTC Provides Tips for Using VPN Apps

The FTC has new tips for consumers on what to look for when shopping for a virtual private network (VPN) app that can help secure information sent over a public Wi-Fi network. The FTC has long cautioned consumers about the potential risks of using free public Wi-Fi networks, which are often insecure.

FTC Staff Submits Testimony and Comments to Alaska and Washington State Legislatures

FTC staff testified in favor of repealing Alaska’s certificate-of-need laws that require healthcare providers to obtain state approval before expanding or establishing new facilities or services, or making certain large capital expenditures. FTC staff also submitted comments urging the Washington State legislature to consider effects of a proposed eye care measure, which may reduce competition, access, and consumer choice, and might also raise costs for consumers. According to the comment, the bill might require unnecessary services and limit competition by mandating a comprehensive in-person examination before prescribing corrective lenses, regardless of the patient’s visual health status, examination history, or other circumstances. This requirement could override the judgment of a vision care provider. It also would restrict the use of telehealth eye care by qualified vision care providers.

FTC Submits Annual Budget Request, Performance Plan and Performance Report to Congress

The FTC submitted to Congress its Fiscal Year 2019 budget request, which includes it's Performance Report for FY 2017, and published its new Strategic Plan for FY 2018-2022, which provides a road map of goals, objectives and strategies that will guide the agency’s work.