The FTC has charged the LendingClub Corporation, a peer-to-peer online marketplace lender, with falsely promising consumers they would receive a loan with “no hidden fees” while actually deducting hundreds or even thousands of dollars in hidden up-front fees from the loans. According to the complaint, the online lender also allegedly deducted payments automatically from consumers’ bank accounts even after they had paid off their loans or had canceled automatic payments, and even double-charged some consumers. Lending Club runs a website where consumers can apply for unsecured loans that are funded by individual investors or by institutions such as banks.
The FTC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) jointly issued 13 warning letters to manufacturers, distributors, and retailers for selling e-liquids used in e-cigarettes with labeling and/or advertising that resemble kid-friendly food products, such as juice boxes, candies, or cookies, some of them with cartoon-like imagery. Several of the companies also were cited for illegally selling the products to minors.
Mobile phone manufacturer BLU Products, Inc. has reached a settlement with the FTC over deceptive privacy and data security claims. The company allegedly allowed a China-based third-party service provider to collect detailed personal information about consumers, such as text message contents and real-time location information, without their knowledge or consent. BLU had promised to keep such information secure and private. The settlement requires the company to implement a comprehensive data security program.
FTC staff sent letters to two foreign companies that market electronic devices and apps that appear to collect geolocation data from children, warning that the companies may be in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule. The Rule requires companies collecting personal information from children under the age of 13 to post clear privacy policies and to notify parents and get their consent before collecting, using, or sharing personal information from a child. Foreign companies are required to comply with COPPA when they direct services to children in the United States or knowingly collect information from U.S.-based children.
FTC Holds Workshop with ASEAN Consumer Protection Partners
The FTC hosted an e-commerce workshop for members of ASEAN’s Committee on Consumer Protection to explore self-regulatory compliance frameworks, consumer education campaigns, and effective responses to cross-border consumer complaints on May 9-10 in Manila. The workshop, which delegates from consumer authorities of all ten ASEAN member states attended, included interactive large and small group discussions about the CCP’s goals for each topic.
The FTC is requiring generic drug marketers Amneal Pharmaceuticals LLC and Impax Laboratories Inc. to divest Impax’s rights and assets for 10 products to three companies. The divestitures are part of a settlement of FTC charges that Amneal’s $1.45 billion acquisition of an equity share in Impax likely would harm future competition in markets for seven generic products and current competition in markets for three generic products.
The FTC and DOJ’s Antitrust Division released the agencies’ 40th Annual Hart-Scott-Rodino Report. As the Report explains, companies notified the agencies of 2,052 HSR reportable transactions during fiscal year 2017, a 12 percent increase over FY 2016. The Report also summarizes the agencies’ merger enforcement activities for fiscal year 2017, highlighting 39 merger challenges undertaken by both agencies, twenty-one of which were brought by the FTC.
Acting Bureau of Competition Director Speaks on Competition Policy and the Tech Industry
Acting Bureau of Competition Director Bruce Hoffman gave a speech on competition policy and the tech industry at the Computer & Communications Industry Association.
Joseph Simons was sworn in as Chairman of the FTC. Simons was a partner and co-chair of the Antitrust Group at the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. Simons has previously held positions at the Commission, including Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition from 2001 to 2003 and, in the 1980s, Associate Director for Mergers and Assistant Director for Evaluation. Noah Joshua Phillips, Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, and Rohit Chopra join Maureen Ohlhausen as FTC Commissioners.
The FTC warned consumers about Chinese consulate impersonation scams targeting Chinese nationals in the United States. Fraudsters impersonate Chinese government officials and demand information or money on some pretext. The FTC is working with consulates to warn consumers. For an FTC blog post with details and consumer guidance, click on the headline above.
FTC and econsumer.gov Members Launch econsumer.gov Consumer Education Video in French, Korean, and Turkish (Subtitled)
A consumer education video on reporting international scams to econsumer.gov, a joint project of consumer protection agencies around the world to report international scams online, is now available in French, Korean, and Turkish (subtitled). The video is also available in English and Spanish. Help share the video to ensure it reaches as many consumers as possible. Through econsumer.gov, agencies work together to combat consumer fraud. To learn how your organization can participate in and promote this project, please contact Hui Ling Goh of the FTC’s Office of International Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The FTC will host a workshop in Chicago on June 25 to examine scams involving cryptocurrencies. The workshop will bring together consumer groups, law enforcement, research organizations, and the private sector to explore how scammers are exploiting public interest in cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and Litecoin and to discuss ways to empower and protect consumers.