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For the FTC’s Paper, “Data Brokers: A Call for Transparency and Accontability”, May 2014, just click on Data Brokers

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Federal Trade Commission - Protecting America's Consumers

Funds for these payments come from the FTC’s settlements with Reckitt Benckiser Group and Indivior, Inc. who took advantage of their unique market position to scare consumers away from generic Suboxone tablets

The Federal Trade Commission is sending 51,875 payments totaling more than $59 million to consumers who were victims of an allegedly deceptive scheme by Reckitt Benckiser Group and Indivior, Inc. to thwart lower-priced generic competition with the branded drug Suboxone. The average payment amount is $1,139. The payments will be mailed today.

Suboxone is a prescription oral medication used to minimize withdrawal symptoms in patients recovering from opioid addiction. The FTC alleged that Reckitt Benckiser and Indivior sought to deny consumers a lower-cost generic alternative to maintain their lucrative monopoly on the branded drug.   

“The FTC does not tolerate the kind of deceptive practices that make it harder or more expensive to get prescription medication. The Suboxone Film scheme put Americans’ health and safety at risk by using a unique market position to scare consumers,” said FTC Acting Chairwoman Slaughter. “Today the check is in the mail for over 50,000 people suffering from opioid addition – a pandemic in its own right still ravaging our communities – who were misled by these parties. While we trust the settlement has sent a strong warning to copycat companies, the FTC remains diligent in its work to promote a safe and competitive marketplace.”

According to the complaints, before the generic versions of Suboxone tablets became available, Reckitt and its former subsidiary Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals, now known as Indivior, Inc., developed a dissolvable oral film version of Suboxone and worked to shift prescriptions to this patent-protected film. Worried that doctors and patients would not want to switch to Suboxone Film, Reckitt and Indivior allegedly employed a “product hopping” scheme in which they misrepresented that the film version of Suboxone was safer than Suboxone tablets because children are less likely to be accidentally exposed to the film product. The complaints also alleged that, to buy more time to move patients to the film version of Suboxone, Indivior filed a meritless citizen petition with the FDA reciting the same unsupported safety claims and requesting that the agency reject any generic tablet application.

The FTC is mailing 37,212 checks totaling more than $42 million and 14,663 prepaid debit cards totaling more than $16 million. The checks will expire on Aug. 8, 2021, and the prepaid cards will expire on May 10, 2022.

In settlements reached with Reckitt and Indivior, the FTC required the companies to disgorge the money for these payments under Section 13(b) of the FTC Act. In 2020, FTC actions led to more than $482 million in refunds to consumers across the country, but recently the United States Supreme Court ruled the FTC lacks authority under Section 13(b) to seek monetary relief in federal court going forward. The Commission has urged Congress to restore the FTC’s ability to get money back for consumers.

The deadline to file a claim has passed. Recipients who have questions about these payments should contact the refund administrator, JND Legal Administration, at 1-877-545-0238.

The FTC’s interactive dashboards for refund data provide a state-by-state breakdown of FTC refunds. FTC actions led to more than $483 million in refunds to consumers across the country in 2020.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about how competition benefits consumers or file an antitrust complaint. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Contact For Consumers:
Refund Administrator
JND Legal Administration
877-545-0238

Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-3707

Author: bjames@ftc.gov
Posted: May 10, 2021, 12:00 pm

The Federal Trade Commission finalized a settlement with the developer of a photo app that allegedly deceived consumers about its use of facial recognition technology and its retention of the photos and videos of users who deactivated their accounts.

In a complaint first announced in January 2021, the FTC alleged that Everalbum, Inc. misled users of its Ever mobile app that it would not apply facial recognition technology to users’ content unless they affirmatively chose to activate the feature. The company, however, automatically activated its face recognition feature—which could not be turned off—for all mobile app users except those who lived in three U.S. states and the European Union, according to the FTC’s complaint. The FTC alleged that the company also failed to keep its promises to delete the photos and videos of Ever users who deactivated their accounts and instead retained them indefinitely.

As part of the settlement with the FTC, Everalbum, Inc. must obtain consumers’ express consent before using facial recognition technology on their photos and videos. The proposed order also requires the company to delete the photos and videos of Ever app users who deactivated their accounts and the models and algorithms it developed by using the photos and videos uploaded by its users. In addition, if the company markets software to U.S. consumers for personal use, it must obtain users’ express consent before using biometric information it collected from them.

After receiving two comments that address the proposed settlement, the Commission voted 4-0 to finalize the settlement and send responses to the commenters.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION


Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2924

Author: jhenderson2
Posted: May 7, 2021, 12:00 pm

In a new report to Congress, the Federal Trade Commission identifies numerous types of repair restrictions, such as using adhesives that make parts difficult to replace, limiting the availability of spare parts, and making diagnostic software unavailable.

The report’s findings, including that “there is scant evidence to support manufacturers’ justifications for repair restrictions,” are primarily based on responses to the Commission’s requests for public comments and empirical research issued in connection with its July 2019 workshop, “Nixing the Fix: A Workshop on Repair Restrictions.”  

The report explores means of expanding consumers’ repair options and how the Commission could assist in that expansion, consistent with its statutory authority. In addition, the Commission notes that it stands ready to work with lawmakers, either at the state or federal level, to ensure that consumers have choices when they need to repair products that they purchase and own.

Congress directed the FTC to issue the report, noting that it “is aware of the FTC’s ongoing review of how manufacturers—in particular mobile phone and car manufacturers—may limit repairs by consumers and repair shops, and how those limitations may increase costs, limit choice, and impact consumers’ rights under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.” Congress specifically directed the FTC to include recommendations on how to best address these problems.

The Commission voted 4-0 to authorize staff to send the report to Congress.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION


Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2924

Staff Contacts:
Christine Todaro
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3711

Daniel R. Salsburg
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3402
Author: jhenderson2
Posted: May 6, 2021, 12:00 pm

Names Austin King Associate General Counsel for New Rulemaking Group

Hires Gaurav Laroia as Attorney-Advisor for Consumer Protection

Federal Trade Commission Acting Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter announced that she has selected Austin King to be the Associate General Counsel for Rulemaking. Replacing Mr. King, who previously served as one of the Acting Chairwoman’s attorney-advisors for consumer protection, will be Gaurav Laroia.

Last month, Acting Chairwoman Slaughter announced the formation of a new rulemaking group within the FTC’s Office of the General Counsel to allow the FTC to take a strategic and harmonized approach to rulemaking across its different authorities and mission areas. Mr. King will lead this group in its work to strengthen existing rules and to explore new rulemakings to prohibit unfair or deceptive practices and unfair methods of competition.

“Protecting America’s consumers from unfair and deceptive practices is more challenging than ever, so we need to harness all the tools at the FTC’s disposal, including rulemaking,” said Acting Chairwoman Slaughter. “I’m pleased to announce that Austin King will be moving to the Office of the General Counsel as Associate General Counsel to lead our new rulemaking group. In my office, I am equally pleased to welcome Gaurav Laroia as attorney-advisor for consumer protection.”

Mr. King has served as one of Acting Chairwoman Slaughter’s attorney-advisors for consumer protection since 2018. He joined the FTC from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where he served as Counsel in the Legal Division’s Office of Law and Policy. He previously clerked for Judge Jed S. Rakoff of the Southern District of New York and for Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. He holds a J.D., summa cum laude, from New York University School of Law, an M.P.A. from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and a B.S. from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Mr. Laroia will replace Mr. King as an attorney-advisor to the Acting Chairwoman on consumer protection matters and joins the FTC from Free Press, where he served as senior policy counsel. His work there focused on civil rights and technology issues, including privacy, algorithmic accountability, intermediary liability, and antitrust enforcement. Prior to his time at Free Press, he advocated for whistleblower rights on behalf of the Government Accountability Project and on national security surveillance oversight legislation as a legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union. He has also worked for the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee. He earned both his J.D. and B.A. from George Washington University.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION


Media Contact:
Lindsay Kryzak
Office of Public Affairs
202-677-0998

Author: bacree
Posted: May 5, 2021, 12:00 pm

The Federal Trade Commission is sending more than $273,500 in refunds to people who lost money to a student loan debt relief scheme that charged them illegal upfront fees and tricked them into believing their student loan payments would be permanently lowered or eliminated.Explore Data with the FTC: Learn more about FTC refunds to consumers

According to an FTC complaint filed in September 2019, Manhattan Beach Venture deceptively marketed payment relief and loan forgiveness programs to people looking for help with their student loans. MBV charged consumers up to $1,400 in upfront fees and led them to believe it went toward their student loans. MBV then funneled consumers into financing this fee through a high-interest loan with third-party financier Equitable Acceptance Corporation, another defendant in the scheme.

Under the settlement order, the defendants are banned from selling any kind of debt relief products or services, from making unsubstantiated claims about financial products and services, and from making material misrepresentations about any other kind of product or service.

The FTC is sending checks to 2,889 people, averaging about $95 each. Consumers who receive checks should cash them within 90 days, as indicated on the check. The FTC never requires people to pay money or provide account information to cash a refund check. Recipients who have questions about this refund program should contact the refund administrator, Analytics, at 833-689-2046.

The FTC’s interactive dashboards for refund data provide a state-by-state breakdown of these refunds, as well as refund programs from other FTC cases. In 2020, FTC actions led to more than $482 million in refunds to consumers across the country.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Contact For Consumers:
Analytics
1-833-689-2046

Media Contacts:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2565

Ayooluwa Akintayo
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2140

Author: ndrayton
Posted: May 5, 2021, 12:00 pm

Letters remind landlords of their obligations as part of the CDC’s moratorium

The acting heads of the Federal Trade Commission and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) have sent joint notification letters to the nation’s largest apartment landlords, which collectively own more than 2 million units, reminding them of their obligations under the ongoing national eviction moratorium put in place as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The moratorium, which was recently extended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) until June 30, 2021, prohibits evictions in certain circumstances in order to keep people in their homes and prevent the spread of the disease.

“With millions of families nationwide at risk of eviction, it's vital that landlords and the debt collectors who work on their behalf understand and abide by their obligations,” said Acting FTC Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter. “We are continuing to monitor this area and will act as needed to protect renters.”

“Landlords should ensure that [Federal Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)]-covered debt collectors working on their behalf, which may include attorneys, notify tenants of their rights under federal law. Nearly nine million households are at risk of eviction due to the economic effects of COVID-19, but no one should lose their home without understanding their rights,” said CFPB Acting Director Dave Uejio. “We will hold accountable debt collectors who move forward with illegal evictions.”

In the letter, FTC Acting Chairwoman Rebeca Kelly Slaughter and CFPB Acting Director Dave Uejio urge landlords to make sure that they and their debt collectors are complying with the FTC Act and the FDCPA. The CFPB recently enacted an interim final rule requiring debt collectors to give tenants written notice of their rights under the CDC’s moratorium and prohibiting debt collectors from misrepresenting tenants’ eligibility for eviction protection. The letter outlines these requirements and provides sample language for notice to tenants facing eviction.

Acting Chairwoman Slaughter and Acting Director Uejio recently issued a joint statement making clear that the agencies are monitoring eviction practices for compliance with the law. The FTC also issued guidance about the moratorium for both landlords and tenants.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Contact For Consumers:

Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2656

Author: jmayfield
Posted: May 3, 2021, 12:00 pm

Almost 400 sellers and marketers who received FTC warning letters have pulled unsubstantiated claims in the last year

The Federal Trade Commission announced that 30 more marketers nationwide have stopped making unsubstantiated claims that their products and therapies can prevent or treat COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The marketers removed these claims after receiving FTC warning letters citing the agency’s new civil penalty authority under the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act.

This is the tenth set of warning letters the FTC has announced as part of its ongoing efforts to protect consumers from health-related COVID-19 scams. In all, the Commission has sent similar letters to almost 400 companies and individuals.

Some of the actions involved products and “treatments” the FTC warned companies about previously, including intravenous (IV) Vitamin C infusions, ozone therapy, peptide therapy, and supplements. Others involved more obscure products and therapies that were promoted to prevent or treat COVID-19. For example, warning letters went to companies claiming that everything from exercise therapy, iodine, and infrared saunas can fight the disease. However, currently there is no scientific evidence that these products or services can prevent or treat the COVID-19.

In the letters, the FTC states that one or more of the efficacy claims made by the marketers are unsubstantiated because they are not supported by scientific evidence, and therefore violate the FTC Act. The letters advise the recipients to immediately stop making all claims that their products can prevent or treat COVID-19, and to notify the Commission within 48 hours about the specific actions they have taken to address the agency’s concerns.

Letters issued this year warn the recipients of the FTC’s new authority to seek civil penalties under the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act. Violators who make deceptive claims related to the treatment, cure, or prevention of COVID-19 are subject to penalties of up to $43,792 per violation.

As the FTC stated recently in Congressional testimony, the Commission is determined to pursue swift enforcement action against those who do not comply. Just this month, the FTC charged St. Louis-based chiropractor Eric Anthony Nepute and his company Quickwork LLC with violating the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act and the Federal Trade Commission Act, by deceptively marketing products containing vitamin D and zinc as scientifically proven to treat or prevent COVID-19. It was the first case the FTC has brought under the new law.

The actions announced today involved the companies and individuals listed below. Marketers are grouped based on the type of therapy, product, or service they pitched as preventing or treating COVID-19.

Ivermectin:

Chiropractic:

Exercise/Personal Training/Energy Treatments:

Peptide Therapies:

IV Vitamin Therapy/Vitamin Injections:

Infrared Sauna Therapy

Nasal and Oral Mists/Nasal Irrigation:

Ozone Therapy/Stem Cell Treatments:

Supplements, Colloidal Silver, Botanicals, and Prebiotics/Probiotics:

Other Recent COVID-related FTC Enforcement Actions

In August 2020, the FTC announced several federal court cases filed against marketers who allegedly made false promises about being able to quickly fulfill orders for facemasks and other personal protective equipment. One of those actions also included charges against the sellers of a product called “Basic Immune IGG” that claimed to treat or prevent COVID-19 and have FDA approval, according to the FTC’s complaint.

In November 2020, at the FTC’s request, a federal court in Ohio has issued a temporary restraining order against 25 counterfeit websites that allegedly have been playing on consumers’ COVID-19 pandemic fears to trick them into paying for Clorox and Lysol products that the defendants never deliver.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Contact For Consumers:
FTC’s Consumer Response Center
877-382-4357


Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2161

Staff Contact:
Richard Cleland
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3088
Author: mkatz
Posted: April 29, 2021, 12:00 pm

Credit histories of unwitting victims were used to qualify financing for prospective customers

Smart home security and monitoring company Vivint Smart Homes Inc. has agreed to pay $20 million to settle Federal Trade Commission allegations that the Utah-based firm misused credit reports to help unqualified customers obtain financing for the company’s products and services.

Under the settlement, Vivint will pay a $15 million civil penalty and an additional $5 million to compensate injured consumers.

In a complaint filed by the Department of Justice on behalf of the FTC, the Commission alleged that Vivint violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) by improperly obtaining credit reports in order to qualify potential customers for financing for its smart home monitoring and security products. The FTC also alleged that Vivint violated the FTC’s Red Flags Rule by failing to implement an identity theft prevention program, which is required of certain companies that regularly use or obtain credit reports.

“Vivint’s sales staff stole people’s personal information to approve others for loans,” said Daniel Kaufman, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “For misusing consumer credit reports and other sensitive data, and harming people’s credit, this company will pay $20 million.”

Vivint uses door-to-door sales representatives working on a commission-only basis to sell the company’s home security devices and monitoring services, according to the FTC complaint.

The FTC alleged that some Vivint sales representatives used a process known as “white paging,” which involved finding another consumer with the same or a similar name on the White Pages app and using that consumer’s credit history to qualify the prospective unqualified customer. Vivint sales representatives also sometimes asked customers to provide the name of someone they knew who had better credit, such as a relative, then added that innocent third-party as a co-signer to the account without their permission, and used their credit history to qualify the prospective customer, according to the complaint.

If customers qualified using these deceptive tactics later defaulted on their loans, Vivint referred the innocent third party to its debt buyer, potentially harming that consumer’s credit and subjecting them to debt collectors, the FTC alleged. Many consumers whose credit reports were misused by Vivint sales representatives complained to the FTC that they were victims of identity theft after being contacted by Vivint’s debt collectors.

The FTC alleged that Vivint was aware of the problem, and in fact terminated many sales representatives for misconduct only to rehire some of them shortly thereafter.

In addition to the monetary judgment—the largest to date for an FTC FCRA case—the settlement requires Vivint to implement an employee monitoring and training program, as well as an identity theft prevention program. The company must also establish a customer service task force to verify that accounts belong to the right customer before referring any account to a debt collector, and must assist consumers who were improperly referred to debt collectors.

In addition, Vivint must obtain biennial assessments by an independent third party to ensure the company is complying with the FCRA. Vivint is also prohibited from engaging in the types of improper conduct detailed in the complaint.

People who did not sign up for Vivint’s services but were contacted by debt collectors or found Vivint accounts improperly listed on their credit reports may be eligible for compensation from this settlement and can sign up for email updates here.

The Commission vote to authorize the staff to refer the complaint to the Department of Justice and to approve the stipulated final order was 4-0, with Commissioner Rohit Chopra issuing a separate statement. The DOJ filed the complaint and stipulated final order on behalf of the Commission in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah.

NOTE: The Commission authorizes the filing of a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the named defendants are violating or are about to violate the law and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. Stipulated final orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION


Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2924

Staff Contacts:
Gorana Neskovic
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2322

Kevin Moriarty
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2949
Author: jhenderson2
Posted: April 29, 2021, 12:00 pm

Funds for payments come from FTC’s case against payment processor First Data Merchant Services

The Federal Trade Commission is sending full refunds totaling more than $11 million to consumers who lost money to a bogus credit card interest rate reduction scheme operated by E.M. Systems & Services.

The FTC and the State of Florida alleged that the company’s owners, Steven D. Short and Karissa L. Dyar, used a variety of phony business names with associated websites, cold-called consumers with credit card debt and falsely promised to save them thousands of dollars by reducing their credit card interest rates. The FTC says that the defendants charged an up-front fee between $695 and $1,495, and falsely promised to provide refunds to consumers if they failed to reduce the interest rates.

According to the complaint, the telemarketers identified themselves as “card services,” “credit services,” and “card member services,” or used one of the defendants’ phony business names. To win consumers’ trust, they said they knew the amount of consumers’ credit card debt, provided the caller’s license or badge number, mentioned the Internet domain name of the phony business, and falsely claimed they had a business relationship with consumers’ lenders.

More than 11,000 consumers are receiving full refunds, averaging $995 each. Consumers who receive checks should deposit or cash their checks within 90 days, as indicated on the check. The FTC never requires people to pay money or provide account information to cash a refund check.

Recipients who have questions about the redress payments, or who did not receive a payment but believe they are eligible should contact the refund administrator, Epiq, at 800-239-6082.

The funds for this refund program come from the FTC’s case against First Data Merchant Services, the company that processed credit card payments for the defendants in this case. According to the FTC, First Data allegedly ignored repeated warnings from employees, banks, and others that they were processing payments for companies that were breaking the law. First Data agreed to pay $40 million to settle the FTC’s charges. The FTC plans to use the remaining money to provide additional refunds to consumers in two other related cases.

The FTC’s interactive dashboards for refund data provide a state-by-state breakdown of FTC refunds. FTC actions led to more than $483 million in refunds to consumers across the country in 2020.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Contact For Consumers:
Refund Administrator
Epiq
800-239-6082

Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2656

Author: jmayfield
Posted: April 28, 2021, 12:00 pm
WHAT: The Federal Trade Commission will host a virtual workshop to examine digital “dark patterns,” a range of potentially deceptive or unfair user interface designs used on websites and mobile apps.
WHEN: Thursday, April 29, 2021, 10:30 a.m. ET – 4:30 p.m. ET
WHERE: The workshop will be held online. A link to view the workshop will be posted the morning of the event to ftc.gov and the event page.
WHO: The workshop will feature opening remarks by FTC Acting Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., as well as five panel discussions.
TWITTER: The event will be tweeted live from the FTC’s Twitter page (@FTC) using the hashtag #DarkPatternsFTC.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION


Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2924

Author: jhenderson2
Posted: April 28, 2021, 12:00 pm

In testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce, the Federal Trade Commission asked Congress to pass legislation that would revive the FTC’s ability to return money to their constituents who were harmed by law violations and to stop that illegal conduct from reoccurring.

Testifying on behalf of the Commission, Acting FTC Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter told the Subcommittee that legislation such as H.R. 2668, introduced last week, is urgently needed in light of an April 22 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that eliminated the FTC’s longstanding authority under Section 13(b) of the FTC Act to recover money for harmed consumers, as well as other recent court rulings that have jeopardized the FTC’s ability to enjoin illegal conduct in federal court.

“These recent decisions have significantly limited the Commission’s primary and most effective tool for providing refunds to harmed consumers, and, if Congress does not act promptly, the FTC will be far less effective in its ability to protect consumers and execute its law enforcement mission,” the testimony states.

Over the past four decades, the Commission has relied on Section 13(b) to secure billions of dollars in relief for consumers in a wide variety of cases, including telemarketing fraud, anticompetitive pharmaceutical practices, data security and privacy, scams that target seniors and veterans, and deceptive business practices, among many others, according to the testimony.

More recently, in the wake of the pandemic, the FTC has used Section 13(b) to take action against entities operating COVID-related scams, the testimony notes. Section 13(b) enforcement cases have resulted in the return of billions of dollars to consumers targeted by a wide variety of illegal scams and anticompetitive practices, including $11.2 billion in refunds to consumers during just the past five years.

Beginning in the 1980s, seven of the twelve courts of appeals, relying on longstanding Supreme Court precedent, interpreted the language in Section 13(b) to authorize district courts to award the full panoply of equitable remedies necessary to provide complete relief for consumers, including disgorgement and restitution of money, according to the testimony. For decades, no court held to the contrary. In 1994, Congress ratified its intent to enable the FTC to obtain monetary remedies when it expanded the venues available for FTC enforcement cases, strengthening the Commission’s ability to bring redress cases. Nevertheless, a drastic shift in judicial decisions over recent years culminated in last week’s Supreme Court ruling that section 13(b) does not authorize returning money to harmed consumers.

The testimony also notes two other recent decisions in Third Circuit that have hampered the Commission’s longstanding ability to protect consumers by enjoining defendants from resuming their unlawful activities when the conduct has stopped but there is a reasonable likelihood that the defendants will resume their unlawful activities in the future. In one case, the Third Circuit held that the FTC can bring enforcement actions under Section 13(b) only when a violation is either ongoing or “impending” at the time the suit is filed. In another ruling, the court held that the FTC cannot sue under Section 13(b) unless conduct is imminent or ongoing.

The testimony notes that Facebook, Inc. has cited these decisions in its motion to dismiss the FTC’s current antitrust complaint against the company, arguing that Section 13(b) bars the federal court suit.

These decisions also limit the FTC’s ability to settle cases efficiently, the testimony states. Targets of FTC investigations now routinely argue that they are immune from suit in federal court because they are no longer violating the law, despite a likelihood of re-occurrence, and they make these arguments even when they stopped violating the law only after learning that the FTC was investigating them.

The Commission vote to approve the testimony was 4-0.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION


Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-468-7684

Author: bacree
Posted: April 27, 2021, 12:00 pm

Testimony follows agency’s first complaint filed under COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act

In testimony today before the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security, the Federal Trade Commission provided an update on its work to protect consumers from scams and frauds related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The testimony noted that since the crisis began, the agency has filed more than a dozen law enforcement actions, directed the removal of deceptive claims made by more than 350 companies, and issued more than 100 alerts to educate consumers and businesses about recognizing and avoiding these schemes.

Testifying on behalf of the Commission, Acting Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection Daniel Kaufman said that the FTC filed its first action under the newly enacted COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act, seeking monetary penalties against a company that deceptively marketed vitamin D and zinc products as scientifically proven to treat or prevent COVID-19. He also noted that the FTC recently released a report describing the major challenges consumers face from the pandemic, emphasizing the agency’s commitment to protecting consumers from COVID-19 related scams.

The testimony detailed several ways the Commission is working to protect consumers from pandemic-related harms, including bringing law enforcement actions against companies engaged in COVID-19 related fraud, consumer education and outreach, and data collection and evaluation.

According to the testimony, the Commission has acted quickly to identify and stop schemes that have proliferated during the pandemic in response to the demand for scarce goods, to peddle potential treatments and cures, and to exploit consumers’ and businesses’ financial hardship during the crisis.

 The FTC filed its first court action just one month after the March 2020 declaration of a national emergency, and since then law enforcement actions by the Commission have focused on scams pitching unproven treatments or supposed cures for COVID-19, companies that have broken their promises to quickly ship much-needed goods, including personal protective equipment, and imposters falsely claiming to be affiliated with government relief programs. The testimony states that the FTC also has issued more than 350 warning letters to companies and individuals, some jointly with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, challenging their deceptive COVID-19 claims. The Commission monitored the responses to these letters closely, and in the vast majority of cases, the companies removed the problematic claims quickly. The testimony noted that the Commission is determined to pursue swift enforcement action against those who do not comply.

The FTC also has taken enforcement actions that protect consumers’ privacy and data from digital harms exacerbated by the pandemic and partnered with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to ensure that renters are not subjected to unlawful practices in light of the eviction crisis caused by COVID-19.

Next, the testimony described the Commission’s work in the areas of consumer outreach and education, which includes consumer and business alerts on COVID-19 related topics, a multimedia campaign, substantive business guidance, and outreach coordinated with its law enforcement partners.

Finally, the testimony described the FTC’s work to collect data, including fraud-related complaints, from consumers and incorporate this information into online public dashboards showing aggregate complaint data, with subsets broken down by age, type of fraud, and geographic location. Between January 2020 and early April 2021, the FTC has received more than 436,000 reports from consumers, reflecting $399 million lost to COVID-19 related fraud.

While much has been accomplished, the testimony concludes, combatting scams related to the pandemic “will remain a top priority for the Commission, and we will use every tool we have to stop this predatory behavior, including seeking civil penalties under the newly enacted COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act, where appropriate.”

The Commission vote to approve the testimony before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation was 4-0.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION


Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2161

Author: mkatz
Posted: April 27, 2021, 12:00 pm

Federal Trade Commission Acting Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter issued the following statement regarding today’s decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in the matter of AMG Capital Management LLC v. FTC:

“In AMG Capital, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of scam artists and dishonest corporations, leaving average Americans to pay for illegal behavior,” Acting Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter said. “With this ruling, the Court has deprived the FTC of the strongest tool we had to help consumers when they need it most. We urge Congress to act swiftly to restore and strengthen the powers of the agency so we can make wronged consumers whole.”

Over the past four decades, the Commission has relied on Section 13(b) of the Federal Trade Commission Act to secure billions of dollars in relief for consumers in a wide variety of cases, including telemarketing fraud, anticompetitive pharmaceutical practices, data security and privacy, scams that target seniors and veterans, and deceptive business practices, among many others. More recently, in the wake of the pandemic, the FTC has used Section 13(b) to take action against entities operating COVID-related scams. Section 13(b) enforcement cases have resulted in the return of billions of dollars to consumers targeted by a wide variety of illegal scams and anticompetitive practices, including $11.2 billion in refunds to consumers during just the past five years.

Today the Supreme Court ruled in favor of AMG Services, Inc. and Scott Tucker who stole more than $1.3 billion from consumers through a deceptive payday lending scheme. By misrepresenting loan terms, the defendant caused borrowers to pay more than seven times the interest they were told they would pay.

On Tuesday, the full Commission testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and submitted testimony on the need for 13(b) legislation.

The Acting Chairwoman will appear before the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce to advocate on behalf of consumers for Congress to act quickly and advance legislation to protect and strengthen the FTC’s powers.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION


Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-468-7684

Author: jwolf
Posted: April 22, 2021, 12:00 pm

Yellowstone Capital made unauthorized bank withdrawals and misled business owners, FTC alleged

Yellowstone Capital, a provider of merchant cash advances, will pay more than $9.8 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it took money from businesses’ bank accounts without permission and deceived them about the amount of financing business owners would receive and other features of its financing products.

Merchant cash advances are a form of financing in which a company provides money to a small business up front in exchange for a larger amount repaid through daily automatic payments. In this case, the FTC alleged that Yellowstone and its owners continued withdrawing money from businesses’ bank accounts for days after their balance had been repaid. The complaint alleged that these unauthorized withdrawals left businesses without needed cash and that any refunds from the company could take weeks or months.

The complaint also alleged that, in many cases, Yellowstone misled businesses about the amount of funding they would actually receive, and defendants’ requirements that consumers pledge collateral and make personal guarantees.

Under the terms of the settlement, Yellowstone, Fundry Inc., Yitzhak (Isaac) Stern, and Jeffrey Reece will be required to surrender $9,837,000 to the FTC to be used in providing refunds to affected businesses.

In addition, the settlement permanently prohibits the defendants from misleading consumers about the terms of their financing, including the amount and timing of any fees and whether business owners are required to be personally liable for the financing. The defendants will also be prohibited from making withdrawals from consumers’ bank accounts without their express informed consent.

In connection with other claims they make to consumers, the defendants will be required to clearly and conspicuously disclose any fees that will be paid by consumers for the financing, as well as the actual amount of money that a consumer will receive after the fees are charged. They will also be required to monitor any marketers or funding companies that work on their behalf, to investigate complaints against them, and to terminate their relationship with any such company that fails to abide by the settlement’s requirements.

The Commission vote approving the stipulated final order was 4-0. The FTC filed the proposed order signed by the Commission and the defendants on April 21, 2021 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

NOTE: Stipulated final orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Contact For Consumers:

Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2656

Staff Contacts:
Evan Zullow
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2914

Christopher Leach
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2394
Author: jmayfield
Posted: April 22, 2021, 12:00 pm

The Federal Trade Commission released the final agenda for its workshop on April 29, 2021 that will examine digital “dark patterns,” a range of potentially deceptive or unfair user interface designs used on websites and mobile apps.

FTC Acting Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter will kick off the event, “Bringing Dark Patterns to Light: An FTC Workshop,” and will be followed by remarks from Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del.

The workshop will feature five panel discussions examining: what dark patterns are and why they are employed; how dark patterns affect consumers; how dark patterns affect communities of color; how dark patterns target children and teens; and potential strategies for dealing with dark patterns. In addition, Lior Strahilevitz, Sidley Austin Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School, will give a presentation on his paper with Jamie Luguri, “Shining a Light on Dark Patterns.”

The workshop, which will begin at 10:30 a.m. ET, will be held virtually and webcast on the FTC’s website at FTC.gov. A link to the webcast will be posted to FTC.gov and the event page shortly before the workshop begins. Registration is not required to watch the workshop.

The event will be tweeted live from the FTC’s Twitter page (@FTC) using the hashtag #DarkPatternsFTC.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION


Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2924

Staff Contacts:
Sam Jacobson
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3251

Min Hee Kim
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3703

Katharine Roller
FTC Midwest Region
312-960-5605
Author: jhenderson2
Posted: April 21, 2021, 12:00 pm

Recipients will be refunded the full amount lost to scheme that threatened arrest

Explore Data RefundsThe Federal Trade Commission and the Office of the Illinois Attorney General are sending payments totaling more than $4 million to more than 10,000 consumers who lost money to the Stark Law phantom debt collection scheme.

According a suit filed by the FTC and the Illinois Attorney General, Stark Law used a host of business names to target consumers who obtained or applied for payday or other short-term loans, pressuring them into paying debts they either did not owe or that the defendants had no authority to collect. The defendants allegedly called consumers and demanded immediate payment for supposedly delinquent loans, at times threatening consumers with lawsuits or arrest, falsely claiming they would be charged with “defrauding a financial institution” or “passing a bad check.”

Affected consumers are receiving full refunds, averaging $375 each. Those who receive checks should deposit or cash their checks within 90 days, as indicated on the check. The FTC never requires people to pay money or provide account information to cash a refund check

Recipients who have questions about the redress payments, or who did not receive a payment but believe they are eligible should contact the refund administrator, Epiq, at 800-858-3430.

The FTC’s interactive dashboards for refund data provide a state-by-state breakdown of FTC refunds. FTC actions led to more than $483 million in refunds to consumers across the country in 2020.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Contact For Consumers:
Refund Administrator
Epiq
800-858-3430

Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2656

Author: jmayfield
Posted: April 21, 2021, 12:00 pm

In testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee, the Federal Trade Commission updated lawmakers on its efforts to combat scams and address other consumer issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, while urging lawmakers to ensure the agency has the authority it needs to prohibit illegal conduct and return money to consumers who have been victims of illegal conduct.

Testifying on behalf of the Commission, Acting FTC Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter along with Commissioners Noah Joshua Phillips, Rohit Chopra, and Christine S. Wilson detailed the FTC’s work to protect consumers through law enforcement actions and consumer and business education aimed at dispelling misinformation and warning about the latest COVID-19-related scams. The testimony noted that the FTC has brought law enforcement actions against those who have allegedly broken promises to quickly ship personal protective equipment and cleaning products, tricked consumers into paying for sanitizing products that were never delivered, falsely claimed that their products could treat and/or prevent COVID-19, and made deceptive claims regarding stimulus benefits. Most recently, the FTC deployed its new authority under the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act to charge that a chiropractor and his company deceptively marketed products containing vitamin D and zinc as scientifically proven to treat or prevent COVID-19.

The testimony also noted that the FTC has issued hundreds of warning letters, many with other federal agencies, to sellers or marketers of products that claim to treat or prevent COVID-19; to those making misleading claims about pandemic relief loans; and to Voice over Internet Protocol service providers and others related to illegal telemarketing calls. The overwhelming majority of those who have received warning letters removed problematic claims, but the FTC reiterated its promise to take swift enforcement action against those recipients who fail to comply, according to the testimony.

In response to the eviction crisis, the testimony also detailed the FTC’s work with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to ensure renters are not subjected to unlawful practices. In addition, the FTC will continue its work to ensure that background screening companies comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act and do not engage in actions that could unfairly deny housing to potential renters.

Many of the FTC’s efforts to help consumers during the pandemic are detailed in a new report released Monday describing the major challenges consumers face and the Commission’s efforts to help. These efforts include using reports from consumers to identify and respond to emerging unlawful practices in real time; filing more than a dozen law enforcement cases and directing the removal of deceptive claims related to COVID-19 made by more than 350 companies; and educating consumers and businesses through a multi-media campaign, including more than 100 alerts on COVID-related topics.

In its testimony, the Commission also reiterated its call for Congress to pass legislation reaffirming that the agency has authority to prohibit unlawful conduct and seek monetary relief for consumers who have lost money from illegal conduct. The FTC’s 13(b) authority to secure relief for consumers, including those harmed by scammers seeking to exploit the pandemic, has been put at risk by recent federal court rulings. While the issue is currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, the testimony noted that the uncertainty created by the recent court rulings has affected some pending enforcement cases. The FTC has used its authority under Section 13(b) of the FTC Act to return billions of dollars to consumers targeted by a wide variety of scams and anticompetitive practices.

The Commission vote to approve the testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee was 4-0.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION


Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2924

Author: jhenderson2
Posted: April 20, 2021, 12:00 pm

206,814 consumers are receiving refunds, most via PayPal

The Federal Trade Commission is sending refund payments totaling more than $9.7 million to consumers who were automatically billed for ABCmouse renewals and consumers who were prevented from canceling their memberships.

According to an FTC complaint filed in September 2020, Age of Learning, Inc., the company that operates ABCmouse, failed to adequately disclose key membership terms when marketing ABCmouse to consumers from 2015 until at least 2018. ABCmouse advertised “Special Offer” 6- or 12-month memberships, but it did not tell consumers that the plans would automatically renew and consumers would be charged indefinitely until they canceled. The FTC also alleged that ABCmouse made it difficult for consumers to cancel their memberships, which led them to incur additional, unwanted charges. 

The settlement order required the company to pay $10 million to provide refunds to consumers harmed by its policies. The order also bars the company from making any misrepresentations related to negative option plans, requires the company to disclose important information to consumers when it offers negative option plans, and requires the company to provide easy cancellation mechanisms.

More than 200,000 consumers are receiving payments, averaging $47 each. Payment recipients have already been notified by email. Most consumers are receiving payments via PayPal and will have 30 days to accept their payments. Some consumers requested paper checks, instead, and will have 90 days to cash their checks. Consumers who have questions about their refunds should call Rust Consulting Inc., the administrator for this case, at 1-800-351-7154.

The FTC’s interactive dashboards for refund data provide a state-by-state breakdown of these refunds, as well as refund programs from other FTC cases. In 2020, FTC actions led to more than $482 million in refunds to consumers across the country.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Contact For Consumers:
Refund Administrator, Rust Consulting, Inc.
1-800-351-7154


Mitchell J. Katz
Office of Public Affairs

Author: mkatz
Posted: April 19, 2021, 12:00 pm

The Federal Trade Commission staff issued a report highlighting the agency’s ongoing efforts to protect consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The report addresses challenges consumers face during the pandemic and details the Commission’s strategy to combat COVID-related fraud and other consumer issues using sophisticated targeting, aggressive law enforcement, and ongoing partnership and outreach.

The report notes that the agency developed a public dashboard to track and alert the public to shifts in COVID-related reports from consumers, identify and respond to emerging threats, and identify law enforcement targets. Staff highlights the agency’s work in addressing deceptive claims through law enforcement actions and warning letters, designed to get deceptive claims removed quickly.

The report also highlights the FTC’s efforts through consumer and business education, noting the agency has sent out alerts informing consumers about COVID-19 scams, reminding businesses about their responsibilities regarding honest advertising, and alerting companies about scams targeting them. The agency will continue to use this strategy in harnessing data, halting fraud in its tracks, educating consumers and businesses, and partnering with stakeholders to efficiently and effectively protect consumers, including communities already hardest hit by the pandemic.

Specifically, the report notes that in the first year of the pandemic the agency:

  • Filed 13 enforcement actions against companies that, among other things, failed to deliver personal protective equipment or made deceptive health or earnings claims, including its first action under the new COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act.
  • Directed more than 350 companies to remove deceptive claims related to COVID-19 treatments, potential earnings, financial relief for small business and students, and warned companies that it is illegal to assist and facilitate deceptive COVID-19 calls.  
  • Prioritized privacy enforcement actions addressing the types of conduct that have been exacerbated in the transformation to digital work and schooling, including videoconferencing, ed-tech and health-tech.
  • Collected and tracked more than 436,000 reports associated with COVID-19 between January 2020 and April 7, 2021, in which consumers reported $399 million in fraud losses.
  • Issued more than 100 consumer and business alerts on COVID-related topics.

The report emphasizes that the FTC will remain vigilant in protecting the public from harms that stem directly and indirectly from the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic fallout and the technological shift in how people live, learn and work.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION


Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2565

Author: ndrayton
Posted: April 19, 2021, 12:00 pm

Agency charges chiropractor with violating new COVID-19 consumer protection law by deceptively marketing Vitamin D and Zinc products to treat or prevent COVID-19

The Federal Trade Commission charged St. Louis-based chiropractor Eric Anthony Nepute and his company Quickwork LLC with violating the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act and the Federal Trade Commission Act, by deceptively marketing products containing vitamin D and zinc as scientifically proven to treat or prevent COVID-19. This is the first case the FTC has brought under the new law.

In a federal complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Justice on the FTC’s behalf, the Commission is asking the court to exercise a provision of the new law to impose monetary penalties on Nepute and Quickwork, and to grant a preliminary injunction against the defendants. According to the complaint, the defendants marketed the vitamin D and zinc products under the brand name “Wellness Warrior,” and claimed that they were as, or more, effective than vaccines that are currently available.

In addition to monetary penalties, the complaint seeks to bar the defendants from making such health claims unless they are true and can be substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence. The Commission also seeks to bar the defendants from falsely claiming to have scientific evidence about the effects of vitamin D and zinc on COVID-19.

“The defendants’ claims that their products can stand in for approved COVID-19 vaccines are particularly troubling: we need to be doing everything we can to stop bogus health claims that endanger consumers,” said Acting Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter. “With this case, the Commission has quickly put to use its new authority to stop false marketing claims related to the pandemic.”

According to the FTC's complaint, in May 2020, the FTC sent a letter to Nepute warning him about unsubstantiated COVID-19 efficacy claims that he was making for other products. The letter advised him to review all other claims for products he was selling and to stop making claims not supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. Despite receiving the warning letter, Nepute continued marketing vitamins and mineral products – specifically Wellness Warrior vitamin D and zinc – as proven immunity boosters that effectively treat or prevent COVID-19 and offer equal or better protection from the disease than currently available vaccines.

According to the complaint, Nepute and Quickwork baselessly claimed that “COVID-19 Patients who get enough vitamin D are 52% less likely to die,” that people who get enough vitamin D are 77 percent less likely to get the disease, and that Wellness Warrior Vita D is more effective at preventing the disease than approved vaccines. The FTC also alleged that defendants claimed, without substantiation, that Wellness Warrior Zinc treats or prevents COVID-19 and it is scientifically proven to work. The complaint alleges that the defendants falsely claimed that they had evidence that zinc is equally or more effective than currently available vaccines at preventing COVID-19.

Congress passed the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act in 2020, making it illegal under the FTC Act to engage in deceptive marketing related to the treatment, cure, prevention, mitigation, or diagnosis of COVID–19, or any government benefit related to COVID-19. The law also authorizes the FTC to seek civil monetary penalties for first-time violations, a remedy not normally available under the FTC Act.

The Commission vote to refer the civil penalty complaint to the DOJ for filing was 3-1, with Commissioner Christine S. Wilson voting no. The DOJ filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Eastern Division.

NOTE: The Commission refers a complaint for civil penalties to the DOJ for filing when it has “reason to believe” that the named defendants are violating or are about to violate the law and that a proceeding is in the public interest. The case will be decided by the court.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION


Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2161

Staff Contact:
Kristin Williams
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2619
Author: mkatz
Posted: April 15, 2021, 12:00 pm

The staff of the Federal Trade Commission has issued a note correcting previous staff guidelines on the FTC’s Trade Regulation Rule Concerning Preservation of Consumers’ Claims and Defenses—commonly known as the Holder Rule.

The Holder Rule protects consumers who enter into credit contracts by preserving their right to assert claims and defenses against any holder of certain loans and credit sales contracts, even if the loans or contracts are assigned to a third party.

The new staff note corrects an erroneous statement in a 1976 pamphlet by FTC staff that the Holder Rule did not apply to transactions larger than $25,000. Those staff guidelines stated that the Rule incorporates the transaction cap that was present in the Truth in Lending Act (TILA). In the new note, staff points out that no such incorporation exists in the Rule, which was first issued in 1975, and that the erroneous guidance contradicts a statement by the Commission that the application of the Rule does not depend on the amount of the transaction.

The note states that the text of the Holder Rule does not contain any exemption based on the size of a transaction.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION


Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2656

Author: jmayfield
Posted: April 14, 2021, 12:00 pm

Following a public comment period, the Federal Trade Commission has approved a final consent order settling charges that Gennex Media LLC and owner Akil Kurji made false, misleading, or unsupported advertising claims that their “Brandnex” products were all or virtually all made in the United States.

First announced in March 2021, the FTC’s complaint alleges that, since at least 2012, Gennex and Kurji have violated the FTC Act by claiming on their Brandnex website that the products they sell are made in the United States, when in fact in numerous instances they are wholly imported from China.

Gennex sells customizable promotional products such as wristbands, lanyards, temporary tattoos, and buttons. Gennex and Kurji also do business as Brandnex, BrandStrong, PMGOA, and Promotional Manufacturing Group of America.

Under the terms of the proposed order, Gennex and Kurji are prohibited from making unqualified U.S.-origin claims for any product, unless they can show that the product’s final assembly or processing—and all significant processing—takes place in the United States and that all or virtually all ingredients or components of the product are made and sourced in the United States. Under the order, any qualified Made in USA claims must include a clear and conspicuous disclosure about the extent to which the product contains foreign parts, ingredients or components, or processing. Finally, to claim that a product is assembled in the United States, Gennex and Kurji must ensure that it is last substantially transformed in the United States, its principal assembly takes place in the United States, and its U.S. assembly operations are substantial.

The order prohibits Gennex and Kurji from making any country-of-origin claim about a product or service unless the claim is not misleading and they have a reasonable basis that substantiates their claim. It also requires Gennex and Kurji to provide compliance reports.

The FTC’s Enforcement Policy Statement on U.S. Origin Claims provides further guidance on making non-deceptive “Made in USA” claims. The agency’s Made in USA page features cases, instructive closing letters, and the brochure Complying with the Made in USA Standard, which answers many of the questions companies ask.

The Commission voted 4-0 to approve the final order in this case.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about how competition benefits consumers or file an antitrust complaint. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION


Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-3707

Staff Contact:
Julia Solomon Ensor
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2377
Author: elordan
Posted: April 14, 2021, 12:00 pm

The Federal Trade Commission is seeking comment on topics related to the use of digital “dark patterns,” a range of potentially deceptive or unfair user interface designs used on websites and mobile apps, that will be discussed at the agency’s April 29, 2021 workshop.

The FTC is seeking comment on several topics that will be discussed at the workshop, Bringing Dark Patterns to Light: An FTC Workshop, including:

  • The definition of dark patterns;
  • The prevalence of dark patterns in the marketplace;
  • The use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to design and deliver dark patterns;
  • The effectiveness of dark patterns at influencing consumer choice, decision-making, or behavior;
  • The harms dark patterns pose to consumers or competition; and
  • Ways to prevent, mitigate, and remediate the harmful effects of dark patterns.

More information about the request for comments and how to submit a comment can be found on the event page. Comments are due May 29, 2021 and will be posted to Regulations.gov.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION


Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2924

Author: jhenderson2
Posted: April 9, 2021, 12:00 pm

BASF and DIEM will pay total of $416,914 to provide refunds to deceived consumers

Two companies, BASF SE and DIEM Labs, will pay a total of more than $416,000 to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they deceptively marketed two dietary fish oil supplements as clinically proven to reduce liver fat in adults and children with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The payment will enable the Commission to provide refunds to all consumers who bought either supplement.

The proposed settlement also bars the companies and related respondents from such misleading advertising and requires them to have competent scientific evidence to support any health claims they make for supplements and other products.

“BASF and DIEM couldn’t back up serious claims about how Hepaxa capsules would help adults and kids with liver disease,” said Daniel Kaufman, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Companies can’t cherry-pick data and need to be upfront about the science behind—or not behind—their products.”

According to the FTC’s administrative complaint, BASF SE, which developed and owns the supplements Hepaxa and Hepaxa PD acted through its North American subsidiary, BASF Corp., to retain DIEM Labs to advertise and distribute both supplements in the United States. Until mid-2020, the FTC contends, the respondents deceptively advertised Hepaxa and Hepaxa PD as clinically proven to reduce liver fat in adults and children with NAFLD.

In advertisements for both supplements, which DIEM prepared and BASF reviewed and approved, the respondents allegedly made a range of false or unsubstantiated claims, in violation of the FTC Act, such as:

  • CUT THE LIVER FAT... Most adult NAFLD patients will experience benefit [sic] after six months of daily supplementation with Hepaxa.
  • CUT THE LIVER FAT... Most pediatric NAFLD patients will experience benefits after six months of daily supplementation with Hepaxa PD.
  • NEWS RELEASE... BASF clinical trial reveals significant reduction in liver fat content in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

In reality, a clinical trial sponsored by BASF showed that Hepaxa performed no better than a placebo at cutting liver fat in persons with NAFLD, the FTC alleged.

The orders cover Hepaxa, Hepaxa PD, and any other product containing one or more omega-3 fatty acids or promoted to benefit cardiac, metabolic or hepatic (liver) health or functions. They prohibit the respondents from claiming that these products reduce liver fat in adults or children with NAFLD or cures, treats, or mitigates any disease, unless the claim is true and can be substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence in the form of randomized human clinical testing.

The orders also prohibit claims about the health benefits, performance, efficacy, safety, or side effects of any covered product, unless the claims are supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence and not misleading.

The orders further prohibit the BASF and DIEM respondents from misrepresenting the results of any scientific tests or studies and requires them to preserve all underlying or supporting data and documents used to substantiate health claims made for the covered products.

Finally, the orders require the respondents to pay a total of $416,914, with the DIEM order requiring the company to provide the FTC with sufficient customer information so it can provide full refunds to consumers who bought Hepaxa and Hepaxa PD.

The Commission vote to issue the administrative complaint and to accept the proposed consent agreements was 4-0. The FTC will publish a description of the consent agreements package in the Federal Register soon. The agreements will be subject to public comment for 30 days, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent orders final. Instructions for filing comments appear in the published notice. Once processed, comments will be posted on Regulations.gov.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION


Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2161

Staff Contact:
Janet Evans
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2125
Author: mkatz
Posted: April 1, 2021, 12:00 pm

Cigarette sales declined from 2018 levels

The number of cigarettes that the largest cigarette companies in the United States sold to wholesalers and retailers nationwide declined from 216.9 billion in 2018 to 202.9 billion in 2019, according to the most recent Federal Trade Commission Cigarette Report.

The amount spent on cigarette advertising and promotion decreased from $8.40 billion in 2018 to $7.62 billion in 2019. Price discounts paid to cigarette retailers ($5.70 billion) and wholesalers ($917.4 million) were the two largest expenditure categories in 2019. Combined spending on price discounts decreased from $7.21 billion in 2018 to $6.61 billion in 2019, accounting for 86.7 percent of industry spending.

According to the 2019 Smokeless Tobacco Report, smokeless tobacco sales decreased from 128.4 million pounds in 2018 to 126.0 million pounds in 2019. The revenue from those sales rose, from $4.37 billion in 2018 to $4.53 billion in 2019.

Spending on advertising and promotion by the major manufacturers of smokeless tobacco products in the U.S. decreased from $658.5 million in 2018 to $576.1 million in 2019. As with cigarettes, price discounts made up the two largest spending categories, with $285.6 million paid to retailers and $90.4 million paid to wholesalers. Combined spending on price discounts totaled $376.0 million – or 65.3 percent of all spending in 2019, down from the $413.2 million spent in 2018.

The Commission has issued the Cigarette Report periodically since 1967 and the Smokeless Tobacco Report periodically since 1987.

The Commission vote to issue the reports was 4-0. (The staff contact is Michael Ostheimer, Bureau of Consumer Protection, 202-326-2699.)

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION


Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2161

Author: mkatz
Posted: March 30, 2021, 12:00 pm

Beam Financial operator is banned from mobile banking and must provide full refunds as part of FTC settlement

The operator of a mobile banking app will be banned from offering such services and must give full refunds to users as part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over allegations the company falsely promised users they would have “24/7” access to their funds and earn high interest rates on their accounts.

In a complaint first announced in November 2020, the FTC alleged that Beam Financial Inc. and its founder and CEO, Yinan Du, also known as Aaron Du, promised users of Beam’s free mobile banking app that they could make transfers out of their accounts and would receive their requested funds within three to five business days. In fact, some users waited weeks or months to receive their money, which was particularly difficult for users who were struggling with lost income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the FTC alleged.

“People taking a financial hit from the pandemic may need 24/7 access to their savings, which is exactly what Beam Financial promised and didn’t deliver,” said Daniel Kaufman, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The message here is simple for mobile banking apps and similar services: Don’t lie about your customers’ ability to get their money when they need it.”

Beam also failed to give users the high interest rates the company promised, the FTC alleged. Beam repeatedly claimed that users would receive at least 0.2 percent or 1.0 percent, but many new users received a much lower interest rate of 0.04 percent and stopped earning any interest after requesting that Beam return their funds, according to the complaint.

As part of the settlement, Beam is banned from operating a mobile banking app or any other product or service that can be used to deposit, store, or withdraw funds. It also is prohibited from misrepresenting the interest rates, restrictions, and other aspects of any financial product or service.

In addition, full refunds, including interest, must be provided to all of Beam’s customers, and Beam must periodically update the FTC on its refund efforts, including identifying any consumer complaints. It also is prohibited from benefitting from any personal information collected from customers.

The Commission vote approving the stipulated final order was 3-1, with Commissioner Rohit Chopra voting no. The FTC filed the proposed order in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

NOTE: Stipulated final orders have the force of law only when approved and signed by the District Court judge.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION


Media Contacts:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2924


Staff Contact:
Gregory Madden
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2426
Author: jhenderson2
Posted: March 29, 2021, 12:00 pm

Blog posts highlight key requirements of CDC moratorium and warns landlords: do not evict—or threaten to evict— tenants in violation of the CDC moratorium or any other applicable state or local measures

The Federal Trade Commission has provided guidance for consumers and businesses related to the national moratorium on evictions during the pandemic, which was extended today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A recent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) report showed that more than 8.8 million Americans are behind on rent payments. The tenants at risk of homelessness are disproportionately people of color, primarily Black and Hispanic families.

FTC Acting Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter and CFPB Acting Director Dave Uejio, issued a joint statement today that emphasized the two agencies’ focus on this issue:

“Evicting tenants in violation of the CDC, state, or local moratoria, or threatening to evict them without apprising them of their legal rights under such moratoria, may violate prohibitions against deceptive and unfair practices, including under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Federal Trade Commission Act. We will not tolerate illegal practices that displace families and expose them—and by extension all of us—to grave health risks.”
 

Guidance to Consumers

In a new blog post issued today, the FTC provides guidance for the millions of consumers who are currently behind on rent payments as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

The post highlights CDC information on the eligibility requirements for consumers seeking relief under the eviction moratorium, including a link to the written declaration for consumers to provide to their landlords.

In addition, the post states consumers can reach out to their State Attorney General’s office and points to additional rental assistance programs.

Guidance to Businesses
 

The FTC’s business blog reiterates that both the FTC and CFPB will be monitoring eviction practices – particularly by major multistate landlords, eviction management services, and private equity firms – to ensure companies are complying with the law.

The post notes that businesses should not evict—or threaten to evict—their tenants in violation of the CDC moratorium or any other applicable state or local measures. 

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about how competition benefits consumers or file an antitrust complaint. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION


Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2656

Author: bacree
Posted: March 29, 2021, 12:00 pm

Federal Trade Commission Acting Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Acting Director Dave Uejio issued the following statement today regarding the national moratorium on evictions during the pandemic:

“In the ongoing economic and public health crisis, millions of American families are at risk of losing their homes. A recent CFPB report found that renters are particularly endangered, with over 8.8 million tenants behind on rent. These tenants at risk of homelessness are disproportionately people of color, primarily Black and Hispanic families.

“Federal, state, and local governments have put in place protections against evictions to keep people in their homes and to stop the spread of COVID-19. Research has shown that eviction moratoriums save lives. Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended the federal moratorium on evictions by three months.

“Unfortunately, there are reports that major multistate landlords are forcing people out of their homes despite the government prohibitions or before tenants are aware of their rights. Depriving tenants of their rights is unacceptable. Many of the tenants at risk of eviction are older

Americans and people of color, who already experience heightened risks from COVID-19.

“Staff at both agencies will be monitoring and investigating eviction practices, particularly by major multistate landlords, eviction management services, and private equity firms, to ensure that they are complying with the law. Evicting tenants in violation of the CDC, state, or local moratoria, or evicting or threatening to evict them without apprising them of their legal rights under such moratoria, may violate prohibitions against deceptive and unfair practices, including under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Federal Trade Commission Act. We will not tolerate illegal practices that displace families and expose them—and by extension all of us—to grave health risks.”

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION


Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2656

Author: bacree
Posted: March 29, 2021, 12:00 pm

FTC will reinvigorate rulemaking authority to level the playing field for consumers and businesses

New group in Office of the General Counsel will help build Commission’s rulemaking capacity and agenda for unfair or deceptive practices and unfair methods of competition

Today Acting Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter announced the creation of a new rulemaking group within the FTC’s Office of the General Counsel. The new structure will allow the FTC to take a strategic and harmonized approach to rulemaking across its different authorities and mission areas. With this new group in place, the FTC is poised to strengthen existing rules and to undertake new rulemakings to prohibit unfair or deceptive practices and unfair methods of competition. Especially given the risk that the Supreme Court substantially curtails the FTC’s ability to seek consumer redress under section 13(b), rulemaking is a critical part of the FTC’s toolbox to stop widespread consumer harm and to promote robust competition.

“I believe that we can and must use our rulemaking authority to deliver effective deterrence for the novel harms of the digital economy and persistent old scams alike. Our rulemaking power under section 18 has gotten a bad reputation for being too hard to use, but longstanding FTC rules, such as the Funeral Rule and the Eyeglass Rule, have provided significant benefits to consumers,” said Acting Chairwoman Slaughter. “It is also time for the Commission to activate its unfair methods of competition rulemaking authority in our increasingly concentrated economy, and I am excited for this new rulemaking group to explore all the possibilities.”

Clear rules provide a roadmap for honest businesses to comply with the law and better protection for consumers and workers against bad actors. They also lead to substantial market-wide deterrence due to significant civil penalties for rulebreakers. The FTC currently has dozens of active rules that protect consumers and promote competition in the markets every day, including the Funeral Rule, adopted in 1984, the Eyeglass Rule, adopted in 1978, and the Credit Practices Rule, adopted in 1984, among others.

Currently, rulemaking within the FTC is decentralized, with individual bureaus and divisions responsible for particular rules. In recent decades, most rulemaking activity has been periodic review of existing rules. The new structure will aid the planning, development, and execution of rulemaking – especially new rulemakings – in turn making the Commission’s work more efficient and potent.  

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about how competition benefits consumers or file an antitrust complaint. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION


Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-340-1202

Author: bacree
Posted: March 25, 2021, 12:00 pm

The Federal Trade Commission is sending payments totaling more than $6.5 million to more than 500,000 consumers who were affected by online retailer Fashion Nova’s violations of the FTC’s Mail, Internet, or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule.

According to the FTC, Fashion Nova promised consumers fast shipping of their orders but regularly failed to meet those promises, didn’t properly notify consumers of shipping delays, and didn’t give them the chance to cancel their orders and receive prompt refunds. The company also illegally used gift cards to compensate consumers for unshipped merchandise instead of providing refunds. Gift cards are not considered refunds under the requirements of the Mail Order Rule.

The FTC is providing more than $6.5 million in payments to 518,552 consumers, including more than 40,000 consumers who live outside the United States—in 169 different countries. Consumers receiving a refund from the FTC will get a payment of $12.60 each. The vast majority of the payments are being sent via PayPal to the email addresses of affected consumers; a few consumers will receive payments via paper check. In addition to the payments the FTC is sending today, the order required Fashion Nova to refund some consumers directly.

Consumers who are receiving payments via PayPal have already been contacted via email and will have 30 days to accept the payment; paper checks will expire in 90 days.

Recipients who have questions about the redress payments, or who did not receive a payment but believe they are eligible should contact the refund administrator, Rust Consulting, Inc. at 1-866-483-0376.

The FTC’s interactive dashboards for refund data provide a state-by-state breakdown of FTC refunds. FTC actions led to more than $483 million in refunds to consumers across the country in 2020.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Contact For Consumers:
Refund Administrator
Rust Consulting
866-483-0376

Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2656

Author: jmayfield
Posted: March 25, 2021, 12:00 pm

 

The FTC’s Blog on Privacy & Identity

Business Blog Posts

By Lesley Fair

Consumers looking to get their products repaired at independent repair shops or with some DIY often find themselves in a fix. Nixing the Fix: An FTC Report to Congress on Repair Restrictions examines restrictions some manufacturers place on repairs and what can be done to expand consumers’ options.

Read more >
Author: Lesley Fair<br />
Posted: May 7, 2021, 2:01 pm
By Lesley Fair

There’s a certain irony in the FTC’s record-setting $20 million settlement with Vivint Smart Home, a national seller of smart home technology platforms, including security devices and monitoring services. One purpose of the company’s products is to help residents ensure that people at their front door are who they say they are. But according to the FTC, Vivint engaged in some identity deception of its own.

Read more >
Author: Lesley Fair<br />
Posted: April 29, 2021, 7:46 pm
By Lesley Fair

FTC staff sent 30 warning letters to companies, raising concerns about their COVID-related advertising claims. In two notable ways, some of these letters differ from letters we’ve sent to other marketers pitching products advertised to prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19.

Read more >
Author: Lesley Fair<br />
Posted: April 29, 2021, 5:31 pm
By Lesley Fair

What’s that illumination you see just ahead? It’s the FTC’s virtual workshop Bringing Dark Patterns to Light, beginning this morning at 10:30 Eastern Time. You can watch the webcast from a link on the event page, which will go live minutes before the start.

Read more >
Author: Lesley Fair<br />
Posted: April 29, 2021, 12:58 pm
By Jared Ho

For businesses in the middle of a global pandemic, there’s no such thing as “business as usual.” The percentage of Americans working remotely has grown substantially, now reportedly up to 33% of the U.S. workforce. Accompanying that seismic shift have been increased security threats to data, with one analysis reporting that over 36 billion online records were exposed in the first half of 2020 alone. Consumers whose lives have been upended by identity theft are paying close attention to how corporations are responding.

Read more >
Author: Jared Ho<br />
Posted: April 28, 2021, 1:29 pm
By Lesley Fair

Yellowstone – the majestic national park – is known for Old Faithful, roaming bison, and vistas to take your breath away. According to a 2020 FTC complaint, Yellowstone – the merchant cash advance provider – was unfaithful to its promises, buffaloed small business owners, and made illegal withdrawals that took their cash away. A settlement will return more than $9.8 million to customers and includes injunctive provisions to change how Yellowstone does business.

Read more >
Author: Lesley Fair<br />
Posted: April 22, 2021, 4:28 pm
By Elisa Jillson

Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) technology promise to revolutionize our approach to medicine, finance, business operations, media, and more. But research has highlighted how apparently “neutral” technology can produce troubling outcomes – including discrimination by race or other legally protected classes. For example, COVID-19 prediction models can help health systems combat the virus through efficient allocation of ICU beds, ventilators, and other resources.

Read more >
Author: Elisa Jillson<br />
Posted: April 19, 2021, 1:43 pm
By Lesley Fair

Congress passed a law in December 2020 – the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act – that imposes monetary penalties on violators. The Department of Justice and the FTC just brought their first action under the statute, alleging that a Missouri chiropractor and his company violated both the new law and the FTC Act by deceptively marketing vitamin D and zinc products to treat or prevent COVID-19.

Read more >
Author: Lesley Fair<br />
Posted: April 15, 2021, 10:02 pm
By Lesley Fair

The FTC’s long-standing Holder Rule requires businesses to include a special notice in credit contracts that gives consumers certain protections. Today, a Staff Note reiterates the Commission’s determination that the Rule applies regardless of the size of the transaction – and corrects some staff guidelines published in 1976.

Read more >
Author: Lesley Fair<br />
Posted: April 14, 2021, 5:47 pm
By Lesley Fair

Have you marked your calendar for April 29, 2021, to attend Bringing Dark Patterns to Light: An FTC Workshop? The virtual event will examine digital “dark patterns,” potentially deceptive or unfair user interfaces on websites and mobile apps. In addition to your participation, the FTC is asking for research and public comments on topics related to the workshop.

Read more >
Author: Lesley Fair<br />
Posted: April 9, 2021, 4:20 pm

 


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