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Federal Trade Commission - Protecting America's Consumers

Bad actors who prey on older Americans should be stopped in their tracks, and today, the Federal Trade Commission is testifying before the Senate Special Committee on Aging on our work to protect older adults and ensure that these predators face consequences.

Testifying on behalf of the Commission, the Director of the FTC’s Division of Marketing Practices, Lois C. Greisman, said that during 2020 older consumers filed 334,411 fraud reports in the Consumer Sentinel database, with reported losses of more than $600 million. Because the vast majority of frauds are not reported to the government, these numbers represent only a fraction of the older adults harmed by fraud.

Romance scams; prize, sweepstakes and lottery scams; and business impersonator scams caused the highest aggregate reported losses to older adults, according to the testimony. Older adults submitted over 26,518 fraud reports related to COVID-19 in 2020 with $104 million in reported losses.

The testimony reiterated the FTC’s call to restore its ability to recover money from those that violate the law, which it has used in the past to provide refunds to people harmed by deceptive, unfair, or anticompetitive conduct. A Supreme Court decision earlier this year, in the case AMG Capital Management LLC v. FTC, has impeded the Commission’s ability obtain monetary relief from violators. The testimony noted that restoring the ability to obtain monetary relief is critical to fully protect older Americans.

The FTC has brought actions halting a variety of scams, including those identified through the agency’s data analysis as scams harming older adults, such as impersonation and romance scams, the testimony notes. In the past year the FTC brought at least thirteen new law enforcement actions that had a notable impact on older adults.

Through the years the Commission also has sued providers who facilitate or play a role in such schemes, such as Voice over Internet Protocol (“VoIP”) providers that facilitate illegal calls and wire transfer providers, according to the testimony.

The FTC also conducts an ongoing fraud prevention education campaign for older adults called Pass It On, which supplies them with resources to read and pass on to family and friends, the testimony notes. Since the campaign began in 2014, the agency has distributed 15.6 million Pass It On items, including more than 920,000 items in Fiscal Year 2021. To share its consumer education messages and inform the public, the agency collaborates with many organizations across the country.

The Commission vote to approve the testimony was 5-0.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

CONTACT INFORMATION


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

Author: jwolf
Posted: September 23, 2021, 12:00 pm

The Federal Trade Commission is sending refund checks totaling nearly $5 million to people who lost money to a cramming scheme that added charges to their home phone bills without their permission.

The refunds stem from money the FTC collected from a group of defendants who admitted that they violated a 1999 FTC settlement order that prohibited them from unauthorized billing. For years, the defendants, Billing Services Group (BSG), operated as a phone billing aggregator, passing charges from third parties to telephone companies so that those charges could be placed on consumers’ landline telephone bills. The defendants admitted that they did not vet the charges before processing them and did not investigate consumer complaints about unauthorized charges.

Explore Data with the FTC: Learn more about FTC refunds to consumersThe FTC will be sending 86,752 checks averaging about $56 each. People who receive checks should deposit or cash them within 90 days, as indicated on the check. Recipients who have questions about their checks can call the refund administrator, Epiq, at 800-591-4238. The FTC never requires people to pay money or provide account information to cash a refund check.

The FTC’s interactive dashboards for refund data provide a state-by-state breakdown of FTC refunds. In 2020, FTC actions led to more than $483 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 Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Contact For Consumers:
Epiq
Refund Administrator
1-800-591-4238

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

Author: jhenderson2
Posted: September 22, 2021, 12:00 pm

Two individuals who worked with Florida-based Grand Bahama Cruise Line LLC (GBCL) and others in making millions of illegal robocalls to consumers settled a Federal Trade Commission complaint and are permanently banned from making telemarketing robocalls.

The defendants, Johnathan Blake Curtis and Anthony DiGiacomo, who controlled four corporations involved in the massive operation, also will each pay a $50,000 civil penalty to the U.S. Treasury. The proposed order settling the FTC’s complaint resolves the agency’s charges against the final group of GBCL defendants.

According to the FTC’s complaint, the defendants involved in the GBCL operation made or facilitated millions of illegal calls to consumers nationwide, pitching free cruise vacations between Florida and the Bahamas. Starting in 2013, the defendants operated their own in-house call center, employing telemarketers to call consumers.

The FTC alleged that, through 2017, the GBCL operation also hired outside call centers, including several other defendants, which marketed the cruise vacation packages. GBCL’s telemarketing operation allegedly bought call lists from lead generators that conducted illegal survey robocalls to identify potential customers.

Explore Data with the FTC: Learn more about Do Not Call robocall complaintsIn addition to delivering millions of illegal robocalls through 2018, the defendants failed to scrub their lists against the agency’s Do Not Call (DNC) Registry, and called phone numbers on the Registry, the FTC alleged. The defendants also illegally called consumers who asked not to be called, and transmitted false caller ID information, in violation of the agency’s Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR).

The proposed settlement order announced today resolves the FTC’s charges against the remaining defendants in this case: 1) Johnathan Blake Curtis; 2) Anthony DiGiacomo; 3) Grand Bahama Cruise Line, LLC; 4) Ultimate Vacation Group, also doing business as (d/b/a) Royal Bahamas Cruise Line, LLC; 5) Tropical Accommodations, LLC, also d/b/a Grand Celebration Cruise Line; 6) VSC, LLC; and 7) Florida V.S.C. Inc.

Under the proposed order, the defendants are permanently banned from engaging in, or assisting others in engaging in, making robocalls to consumers. The order also bars them from: abusive telemarketing, including calling phone numbers on the FTC’s Do Not Call Registry (unless they have previously obtained express consent in writing from a consumer to call them or met other specific conditions), blocking or misrepresenting Caller ID information, and violating the TSR.

Finally, the order imposes a $6.4 million civil penalty jointly and severally against the individual and corporate defendants, which will be partially suspended once Curtis and DiGiacomo both pay $50,000 to the U.S. Treasury.

The Commission vote approving the complaint and proposed final order was 5-0. The FTC filed the complaint and proposed orders in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division. In January 2020, the FTC announced that four other defendants in this case, Christopher A. Cotroneo, call center Cabb Group, LLC, and Christina and Robert J. Peterson II, agreed to orders settling the Commission’s claims against them.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

CONTACT INFORMATION


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

Staff Contact:
Christopher E. Brown
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2825
Author: mkatz
Posted: September 20, 2021, 12:00 pm

Policy statement affirms that covered companies that hold fertility, heart health, glucose levels and other health data must notify consumers in the event of a breach

The Federal Trade Commission today issued a policy statement affirming that health apps and connected devices that collect or use consumers’ health information must comply with the Health Breach Notification Rule, which requires that they notify consumers and others when their health data is breached.

In a policy statement adopted during an open meeting, the Commission noted that health apps, which can track everything from glucose levels for those with diabetes to heart health to fertility to sleep, increasingly collect sensitive and personal data from consumers These apps have a responsibility to ensure they secure the data they collect, which includes preventing unauthorized access to such information.

As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Congress included specific provisions to strengthen privacy and security protections for web-based businesses. The law directed the FTC to ensure that companies contact customers in the event of a security breach. Shortly after, the FTC issued the Health Breach Notification Rule, which requires vendors of personal health records and related entities to notify consumers, the FTC, and, in some cases, the media when that data is disclosed or acquired without the consumers’ authorization. Over a decade later, health apps and other connected devices that collect personal health data are not only mainstream—and have increased in use during the pandemic—but are targets ripe for scammers and other cyber hacks. Yet, there are still too few privacy protections for these apps.

“While this Rule imposes some measure of accountability on tech firms that abuse our personal information, a more fundamental problem is the commodification of sensitive health information, where companies can use this data to feed behavioral ads or power user analytics,” said FTC Chair Lina M. Khan. “Given the growing prevalence of surveillance-based advertising, the Commission should be scrutinizing what data is being collected in the first place and whether particular types of business models create incentives that necessarily place users at risk.”

The Rule ensures that entities not covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) face accountability when consumers’ sensitive health information is breached.

The Commission policy statement notes that apps and connected devices such as wearable fitness tracking devices that collect consumers’ health information are covered by the Health Breach Notification Rule if they can draw data from multiple sources, and are not covered by a similar rule issued by the Department of Health and Human Services. For example, a health app would be covered under the FTC’s rule if it collects health information from a consumer and has the technical capacity to draw information through an API that enables synching with a consumer’s fitness tracker. Companies that fail to comply with the rule could be subject to monetary penalties of up to $43,792 per violation per day.

The Commission voted 3-2 to approve the policy statement during the open virtual meeting. Chair Khan and Commissioners Rohit Chopra and Rebecca Kelly Slaughter issued separate statements. Commissioners Noah Joshua Phillips and Christine S. Wilson both voted no and each issued dissenting statements.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

CONTACT INFORMATION


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

Staff Contacts:
Elisa Jillson
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3001

Ryan Mehm
Bureau of Consumer Protection
Ryan Mehm
Author: jhenderson2
Posted: September 15, 2021, 12:00 pm

2020 guidance withdrawn to prevent industry and judicial reliance on unsound economic theories; FTC to work with DOJ to update merger guidance

The Federal Trade Commission voted to withdraw its approval of the Vertical Merger Guidelines, issued jointly with the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the FTC’s Vertical Merger Commentary. The guidance documents, which were published in 2020, include unsound economic theories that are unsupported by the law or market realities. The FTC is withdrawing its approval in order to prevent industry or judicial reliance on a flawed approach. In voting to withdraw, the FTC reaffirmed its commitment to working closely with the DOJ to review and update the agencies’ merger guidance.

The withdrawn Vertical Merger Guidelines set out analytical techniques and enforcement policies for non-horizontal mergers, while the associated commentary had summarized a selection of prior investigations that largely utilized that framework. The guidelines noted several ways vertical mergers can harm competition, which the statement by the FTC majority recognizes provided valuable analysis.

The statement by the FTC majority, however, notes that the 2020 Vertical Merger Guidelines had improperly contravened the Clayton Act’s language with its approach to efficiencies, which are not recognized by the statute as a defense to an unlawful merger. The majority statement explains that the guidelines adopted a particularly flawed economic theory regarding purported pro-competitive benefits of mergers, despite having no basis of support in the law or market reality. The majority noted that because the Vertical Merger Guidelines were adopted in 2020, they had yet to have a significant impact and that acting swiftly was paramount to preventing judicial reliance on this flawed discussion.

Going forward, the FTC will work with the DOJ to update merger guidance to better-reflect market realities. The FTC majority statement lays out several areas for consideration in that review.  First, the FTC intends to explore ways to provide clear guidance on the characteristics of transactions that are likely unlawful. Second, the FTC will look at ways to provide guidance on ineffective remedies, based on an evaluation of past remedy practices and any evidence that past remedies may not have fully restored competition. Finally, the agency will look to expand on the harms identified in the 2020 Vertical Merger Guidelines to consider various features of modern firms, including in digital markets, and impacts of mergers on labor markets. 

The Commission vote to rescind the policy statement was 3-2, with the majority issuing a separate statement and Commissioners Noah Joshua Phillips and Christine S. Wilson issuing a separate dissenting statement.

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.  For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blog.

CONTACT INFORMATION


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

Author: mkatz
Posted: September 15, 2021, 12:00 pm

Agency to Focus on Service Members and Veterans; Children; Algorithmic and Biometric Bias; Deceptive and Manipulative Conduct on the Internet; and Repair Restrictions; Abuse of Intellectual Property; and Monopolization

At the joint recommendation from its Bureau of Consumer Protection and Bureau of Competition, the Federal Trade Commission voted to approve and make public a series of resolutions that will enable agency staff to efficiently and expeditiously investigate conduct in core FTC priority areas over the next ten years.

The Bureaus recommended that the Commission authorize eight new compulsory process resolutions in these essential areas: (1) Acts or Practices Affecting United States Armed Forces Service Members and Veterans; (2) Acts or Practices Affecting Children; (3) Bias in Algorithms and Biometrics; (4) Deceptive and Manipulative Conduct on the Internet; and (5) Repair Restrictions. (6) Abuse of Intellectual Property; (7) Common Directors and Officers and Common Ownership; and (8) Monopolization Offenses.

“These resolutions enable the FTC to take swift action against a whole host of illegal conduct in important areas of concern to the Commission,” said Holly Vedova, Acting Director of the Bureau of Competition. She noted that, “Companies engaging in conduct implicated by these resolutions should be forewarned: the FTC looks forward to aggressively using these resolutions and will not hesitate to take action against illegal conduct to the fullest extent possible under the law.”

“Harmful practices – especially those targeting children, veterans, and marginalized communities – will not be tolerated by this Commission,” said Samuel Levine, Acting Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Today’s resolutions ensure our staff can rapidly respond to allegations of abuse and fight fraud without delay.”  

Specifically, the resolutions approved by a Commission vote of 3-2 will allow:

  • Service members and Veterans: harmful business practices directed at service members and veterans are a source of significant public concern, and, now, FTC staff will be able to expeditiously investigate any allegations in this important area. 
  • Children under 18: harmful conduct directed at children under 18 has been a source of significant public concern, now, FTC staff will similarly be able to expeditiously investigate any allegations in this important area. 
  • Algorithmic and Biometric Bias: allows staff to investigate allegations of bias in algorithms and biometrics. Algorithmic bias was the subject of a recent FTC blog
  • Deceptive and Manipulative Conduct on the Internet: this omnibus expands a previous omnibus resolution on deceptive practices, which expired on Aug. 1. The existing resolution, has enabled the FTC to develop investigations and bring cases in a variety of areas including day trading services, tech support scams,  the BOTS Act,  payment processing,  and the deceptive marketing of goods and services online, including pandemic-related goods like fake Clorox products and face masks. In addition to the areas covered by the existing resolution, this expanded version covers the “manipulation of user interfaces,” including but not limited to dark patterns, also the subject of a recent FTC workshop
  • Repair Restrictions: enhances the FTC’s ongoing investigations into restrictions on repair and builds on the FTC’s recent Policy Statement on Right to Repair.  It would cover a wide range of anti-consumer and anti-competitive abuses and facilitate staff’s impending investigation of violations of the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act’s anti-tying provisions.
  • Abuse of Intellectual Property: allows staff to investigate abuses of intellectual property rights. Conduct involving abuse of intellectual property rights has been a source of much anticompetitive and deceptive conduct in many different areas, including pharmaceuticals, technology and gasoline refining, and this omnibus will allow staff to expeditiously investigate allegations in this area. 
  • Common Director and Officers and Common Ownership: facilitates investigations of both ownership stakes in competing companies that may be anticompetitive as well as interlocking directorates that may violate Section 8 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. § 19. Interlocking directorates and common ownership continue to raise significant competitive concerns.
  • Monopolistic Practices: Market power abuses by tech companies and other large companies are rightly a source of bipartisan concern. This omnibus will allow staff to more expeditiously investigate market power abuses by dominant firms that are precluding businesses and entrepreneurs from being able to compete, particularly in digital markets.  

Compulsory process refers to the issuance of demands for documents and testimony, through the use of civil investigative demands and subpoenas. The FTC Act authorizes the Commission to use compulsory process in its investigations. Compulsory process requires the recipient to produce information, and these orders are enforceable by courts. Civil investigative demands and subpoenas are assigned to a Commissioner for review and authorization by the FTC’s Office of Secretary, typically on a rotating basis or according to availability. The Commission has routinely adopted compulsory process resolutions on a wide range of topics. The resolutions announced today will broaden the ability for FTC investigators and prosecutors to obtain evidence in critical investigations on key areas where the FTC’s work can make the most impact. Each omnibus covers investigations into competition or consumer protection conduct violations under the FTC Act. 

Streamlining and improving efficiency at the agency is vitally important given the increased volume of investigatory work created by the surge in merger filings. Having already doubled between 2010 and 2020, the number of mergers filed with the antitrust authorities this year hit a record-setting pace of 2,067 acquisitions for the first seven months alone.  With these resolutions in place, the FTC can better utilize its limited resources and move forward in earnest to quickly investigate potential misconduct. The Bureaus are now authorized to take steps to ensure that any compulsory process orders are enforceable.

Chair Khan and Commissioners Rohit Chopra and Rebecca Kelly Slaughter voted yes, and Commissioners Noah Joshua Phillips and Christine S. Wilson voted no. Chair Khan and Commissioner Slaughter issued a statement. Commissioner Chopra issued a separate statement. Commissioners Wilson and Phillips issued a dissenting statement.

The vote to make the omnibus resolutions public was 5-0.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

CONTACT INFORMATION


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

Author: bacree
Posted: September 14, 2021, 12:00 pm

The Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division today issued a joint statement detailing antitrust guidance for businesses taking part in relief efforts and those involved in rebuilding communities affected by Hurricane Ida without violating the antitrust laws.

“When a disaster like Hurricane Ida strikes, it’s unconscionable for any company to exploit the tragedy for their own financial gain,” said Holly Vedova, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition. “We’re committed to working with our partners to crack down on abusive and illegal practices and protecting the people affected by the disaster so they can focus on recovering.”

“The Antitrust Division and its law enforcement partners will not tolerate businesses and individuals who prey upon hurricane victims or seek to corrupt relief efforts,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Richard A. Powers of the Antitrust Division. “In the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, the division’s Procurement Collusion Strike Force will leverage every tool in its arsenal to root out collusion, corruption, and fraud targeting disaster relief.”

The antitrust laws accommodate procompetitive collaborations among competitors. At the same time, the agencies intend to hold accountable those who enter into anticompetitive agreements that take advantage of hurricane victims or hurricane relief efforts. Among other actions, the Department of Justice will criminally prosecute companies that fix prices, rig bids, or allocate customers, and the FTC will investigate and take action against companies and individuals who violate the consumer protection laws.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

CONTACT INFORMATION


Media Contact:

Author: bacree
Posted: September 14, 2021, 12:00 pm

The Federal Trade Commission is sending checks to 603 people who paid money they did not owe to a debt collector that used deceptive and abusive collection methods.

In 2018, the FTC and State of New York alleged that Campbell Capital, LLC and its owner, Robert Heidenreich, along with a number of other related companies, collected payments on debts from consumers that exceeded theExplore Data with the FTC: Learn more about FTC refunds to consumers amounts they allegedly owed. The defendants in the case were able to collect these funds by allegedly using tactics such as threatening that consumers would be arrested or served with legal papers at work if they did not make payments immediately. In some cases, according to the suit filed by the FTC and New York, the collectors pretended to be sheriff’s office employees or process servers when making such threats in phone calls with consumers.

Heidenreich agreed to a settlement with the FTC and New York in February 2020 that permanently banned him from the debt collection industry and required him to turn over funds to be used to provide refunds to affected consumers. In total, $19,826.64 will be sent to consumers, with each receiving a check for $32.88.

People who receive checks should deposit or cash them within 90 days, as indicated on the check. Recipients who have questions about their checks can call the refund administrator, Analytics, at 866-881-1214. The FTC never requires people to pay money or provide account information to cash a refund check.

The FTC’s interactive dashboards for refund data provide a state-by-state breakdown of FTC refunds. In 2020, FTC actions led to more than $483 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 Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Contact For Consumers:
Analytics
Refund Administrator
866-881-1214

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

Author: jmayfield
Posted: September 13, 2021, 12:00 pm

In joint action, the FDA also warns the companies they may be violating the law

The Federal Trade Commission sent cease-and-desist letters to 10 companies suspected of advertising unproven treatments or cures for diabetes, ordering the companies to stop making unsubstantiated claims within 15 days or face potential legal action by the FTC.

“Out-of-control insulin prices are driving Americans to turn to questionable products rather than proven treatments,” said Samuel Levine, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The FTC and FDA are joining forces to call out 10 companies for selling supposed diabetes treatments that don’t appear to be supported by sound science.”

The FTC demands were issued jointly with U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warning letters, in which the FDA warned the companies that their diabetes products are both unapproved and misbranded, in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act).

The FTC’s cease and desist demands were issued to the following companies: 1) Ar-Rahmah Pharm, LLC; 2) Aceva, LLC; 3) Live Good Inc.; 4) Holistic Healer & Wellness Center, Inc.; 5) Lysulin, Inc.; 6) Metamune Inc.; 7) Nuturna International LLC; 8) Pharmaganics LLC; 9) Phytag Labs; and 10) Radhanite, LLC d/b/a Curalife Ltd.

The FTC Act

The letters state that the Commission is concerned that one or more of the efficacy claims in the companies’ advertisements may not be substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence, as required by the FTC Act. Further, the agency demands the companies stop making any claim that a product can prevent, treat, or cure diabetes without the required scientific evidence, or potentially face legal action by the Commission. The letters also note that marketers who make deceptive claims about the treatment, cure, prevention, or mitigation of a disease may be subject to a civil penalty of up to $43,792 per violation. They also may be required to pay refunds to consumers who purchased the deceptively marketed products under section 19(b) of the FTC Act. The letters order the companies to notify the FTC by email within 15 working days of receipt of what specific actions they have taken to address the FTC’s concerns.

The FD&C Act

Under the FD&C Act, products intended to cure, treat, mitigate, or prevent disease are drugs and are subject to the requirements that apply to drugs, even if they are labeled as dietary supplements. Unlike drugs approved by the FDA, the agency has not evaluated whether the unapproved products subject to the warning letters announced today are effective for their intended use, what the proper dosage might be, how they could interact with FDA-approved drugs or other substances, or whether they have dangerous side effects or other safety concerns.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

CONTACT INFORMATION


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

Author: mkatz
Posted: September 9, 2021, 12:00 pm

The Federal Trade Commission approved final revisions that would bring several rules that implement parts of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) in line with the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act).

In separate notices, published in the Federal Register, the FTC approved largely technical changes that would clarify that five FCRA rules enforced by the FTC apply only to motor vehicle dealers. The Dodd-Frank Act, enacted in 2010, transferred rulemaking authority related to parts of the FCRA to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, narrowing the FTC’s FCRA rulemaking authority. The final revisions do not make substantive changes to the rules. The FTC sought comment on the proposed rule changes last year.

The changes affect these rules:

  • Address Discrepancy Rule, which outlines the obligations of users of consumer reports when they receive a notice of address discrepancy from a nationwide consumer reporting agency (CRA);
  • Affiliate Marketing Rule, which gives consumers the right to restrict a person from using certain information obtained from an affiliate to make solicitations to the consumer;
  • Furnisher Rule, which requires entities that furnish information to CRAs to establish and implement reasonable written policies and procedures regarding the accuracy and integrity of the information relating to consumers provided to a CRA;
  • Pre-screen Opt-Out Notice Rule, which outlines requirements for those who use consumer report information to make unsolicited credit or insurance offers to consumers; and
  • Risk-Based Pricing Rule, which requires those who use information from a consumer report to offer less favorable terms to consumers to provide them with a notice about the use of such data.

In addition to the technical changes to the five rules, the Pre-Screen Opt-Out Rule also added the web address where consumers can opt-out of credit offers to the model notices that motor vehicle dealers can use. The Risk-Based Pricing Rule also was updated to include examples that reflect its narrower scope to just motor vehicle dealers. The FTC has created a web page with tips for consumers with poor credit. 

The Commission voted 5-0 to publish the notices in the Federal Register.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

CONTACT INFORMATION


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

Staff Contact:
David Lincicum
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2773
Author: jhenderson2
Posted: September 8, 2021, 12:00 pm

Today, Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina M. Khan announced that an open meeting of the Commission will be held virtually on Wednesday, September 15, 2021. The open meeting will begin at 11 am ET and will be followed by a time for members of the public to address the Commission.

The following items will be on the tentative agenda for the September 15 Commission meeting:

Business Before the Commission

Proposed Policy Statement on Privacy Breaches by Health Apps and Connected Devices: The Commission will vote on whether to issue a policy statement on the importance of protecting the public from privacy breaches by health apps and other connected devices.

Non-HSR Reported Acquisitions by Select Technology Platforms, 2010-2019: An FTC Study: Staff will present some findings from the Commission’s inquiry into large technology platforms’ unreported acquisitions, including an analysis of the structure of deals that customarily fly under enforcers’ radar. The public release of the report is subject to commission vote.

Proposed Revisions to FTC Procedural Rules Concerning Petitions for Rulemaking: The Commission will vote on putting in place a process to receive public input on rulemaking petitions by external stakeholders.

Proposed Withdrawal of 2020 Vertical Merger Guidelines: The Commission will vote on whether to rescind the Vertical Merger Guidelines adopted in June 2020 and the Commentary on Vertical Merger Enforcement issued in December 2020.

After the Commission meeting has concluded, Chair Khan will offer brief remarks and will then invite members of the public to share feedback on the Commission’s work generally and bring relevant matters to the Commission’s attention. Members of the public must sign up for an opportunity to address the Commission virtually at the September 15 event. Each commenter will be allowed to speak for no more than one minute. Anyone who cannot participate during the event may submit written comments or a link to a prerecorded video through a webform. Speaker registration and comment submission will be available through Sunday, September 12, 2021, 8pm ET.

The FTC’s public meeting agendas will be posted on the Commission’s website at least seven days prior to the Commission’s next monthly meeting. A link to the event will be available beginning on September 15, 2021 at 8 am ET via FTC.gov. The event will be recorded, and the webcast and any related comments will be available on the Commission’s website after the meeting. The Commission retains discretion to make public comments available following the event on ftc.gov. Due to challenges related to the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis, open meetings will be held virtually until further notice.

CONTACT INFORMATION


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

Author: bjames@ftc.gov
Posted: September 8, 2021, 12:00 pm

Apps surveilled physical movements, phone use, online activity through hidden hack that exposed device owners to stalkers, abusers, hackers, and other threats

Today, the Federal Trade Commission banned SpyFone and its CEO Scott Zuckerman from the surveillance business over allegations that the stalkerware app company secretly harvested and shared data on people’s physical movements, phone use, and online activities through a hidden device hack. The company’s apps sold real-time access to their secret surveillance, allowing stalkers and domestic abusers to stealthily track the potential targets of their violence. SpyFone’s lack of basic security also exposed device owners to hackers, identity thieves, and other cyber threats. In addition to imposing the surveillance-business ban, the FTC’s order requires SpyFone to delete the illegally harvested information and notify device owners that the app had been secretly installed.

 “SpyFone is a brazen brand name for a surveillance business that helped stalkers steal private information,” said Samuel Levine, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The stalkerware was hidden from device owners, but was fully exposed to hackers who exploited the company’s slipshod security. This case is an important reminder that surveillance-based businesses pose a significant threat to our safety and security. We will be aggressive about seeking surveillance bans when companies and their executives egregiously invade our privacy.”

This is the second case the FTC has brought against stalkerware apps, and the first where the FTC is obtaining a ban. In a complaint, the FTC alleged that Support King, LLC, which did business as SpyFone.com, and its CEO sold stalkerware apps that allowed purchasers to surreptitiously monitor photos, text messages, web histories, GPS locations, and other personal information of the phone on which the app was installed without the device owner’s knowledge.  

To install its software, SpyFone required purchasers who used the apps on Android devices to bypass many of the phone’s restrictions. The stalkerware company also provided instructions on how to hide the app so that the device user was unaware the device was being monitored, the FTC alleged. In order to use some functions, such as monitoring email, purchasers had to “root” a phone on which the app is installed, which also could void warranties and expose the device to security risks.

The illegal secret surveillance provided by the apps made it easy for stalkers and abusers to monitor their potential targets and steal sensitive information about their physical movements, phone use, and online activities. For example, some of the products allowed a purchaser to see the device’s live location and view the device user’s emails and video chats. 

The stalkerware app company not only illegally harvested and shared people’s private information, it also failed to keep it secure. The FTC alleges that SpyFone did not put in place basic security measures despite promising that it took “reasonable precautions to safeguard” the information it illegally harvested. The stalkerware apps’ security deficiencies include not encrypting personal information it stored, including photos and text messages; failing to ensure that only authorized users could access personal information; and transmitting purchasers’ passwords in plain text.

Moreover, after a hacker accessed the company’s server and obtained personal data of about 2,200 consumers in August 2018, the company promised purchasers that it would work with an outside data security firm and law enforcement authorities to investigate the incident. The FTC, however, alleges that the company failed to follow through on this promise.

In addition to banning Support King and Zuckerman from offering, promoting, selling, or advertising any surveillance app, service, or business, the proposed settlement requires them to delete any information illegally collected from their stalkerware apps. It also orders them to notify owners of devices on which SpyFone’s apps were installed that their devices might have been monitored and the devices might not be secure.

The Commission voted 5-0 to issue the proposed administrative complaint and to accept the consent order with the company. Commissioner Rohit Chopra issued a separate statement.

The FTC will publish a description of the package in the Federal Register soon. The proposed order will be subject to public comment for 30 days after publication in the Federal Register after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposal final. Instructions for filing comments will appear in the published notice. Once processed, comments will be posted on Regulations.gov.

NOTE: The Commission issues an administrative complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $43,280.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

CONTACT INFORMATION


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

Staff Contact:
Jacqueline Connor
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2844
Author: jhenderson2
Posted: September 1, 2021, 12:00 pm

The Federal Trade Commission is sending 4,505 checks to people who lost money in a financing scheme that targeted customers shopping for computers and related electronic devices.

In 2008, the FTC alleged that BlueHippo Funding, LLC and affiliate BlueHippo Capital, LLC promised to finance new computers, collected money from customers, and then failed to provide them with computers. The Commission also alleged that the two companies failed to disclose key terms of BlueHippo’s refund policy to customers prior to their making payments.

Explore Data with the FTC: Learn more about FTC refunds to consumersAfter agreeing to a settlement with the FTC, BlueHippo continued to engage in deceptive practices. In 2009, the FTC sued the companies again, as well as CEO and sole owner Joseph Rensin, charging them with contempt for violating the 2008 order. The FTC won a lengthy court battle, and is now using the money it recovered from Rensin to provide more than $103,000 in refunds to consumers.

People who receive checks should deposit or cash them within 90 days, as indicated on the check. Recipients who have questions about their checks can call the refund administrator Analytics, Inc., at 1-855-558-1233. The FTC never requires people to pay money or provide account information to cash a refund check.

The FTC’s interactive dashboards for refund data provide a state-by-state breakdown of FTC refunds. In 2020, FTC actions led to more than $483 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 Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Contact For Consumers:
Analytics
Refund Administrator
1-855-558-1233

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

Author: jhenderson2
Posted: August 31, 2021, 12:00 pm

The fees for telemarketers accessing phone numbers on the National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry will increase incrementally in FY 2022.

Find out about Do Not Call complaints and registrationsAll telemarketers calling consumers in the United States are required to download the numbers on the National DNC Registry to ensure they do not call consumers who have registered their phone numbers. The first five area codes are free to download, and organizations that are exempt, such as some charitable organizations, may obtain the entire list for free. Telemarketers must subscribe each year for access to the Registry numbers.

The cost of accessing a single area code in the registry will be $69 in FY 2022, which is an increase of $3 from FY 2021. The maximum charge to any single entity for accessing all area codes nationwide is now $19,017 (up from $18,044 in FY 2021). The fee for accessing an additional area code for a half year will increase $2 from FY 2021, to $35.

The Commission vote authorizing publication of the Federal Register notice announcing the new fees was 5-0.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

CONTACT INFORMATION


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

Staff Contact:
Ami Dziekan
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202 326 2648
Author: mkatz
Posted: August 24, 2021, 12:00 pm

Defendants targeted seniors and retirement communities with misleading health claims about stem cell therapy and charged up to $5,000 per joint injection

The Federal Trade Commission and the Georgia Attorney General’s Office today sued the co-founders of the Stem Cell Institute of America for marketing stem cell therapy to seniors nationwide using bogus claims that it is effective in treating arthritis, joint pain, and a range of other orthopedic ailments.

The agencies’ complaint also alleges that the Canton, Georgia-based defendants promoted the false or unsubstantiated claim that stem cell therapy is comparable or superior to surgery, steroid injections, and painkillers, and that they provided chiropractors and other healthcare practitioners with the means of deceiving consumers about such treatments.

“These defendants advertised expensive stem cell injections with baseless pain-relief claims, and provided marketing materials and training to chiropractors to do the same,” said Samuel Levine, Acting Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. “With our partner, the Georgia Attorney General, we aim to ensure they can’t keep preying on older adults and others who need real medical help.”

“At best, the use of unproven products or therapies can cost consumers thousands of dollars without affording them any results,” said Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr. “At worst, it can be harmful to their health. Our office will continue to hold accountable businesses that make unsubstantiated claims and violate the law – especially those that target our older or at-risk adults.”

The joint agency complaint, names as defendants Steven D. Peyroux and Brent J. Detelich, Regenerative Medicine Institute of America, LLC, doing business as Stem Cell Institute of America, LLC (SCIA); Physicians Business Solutions, LLC (PBS); and Superior Healthcare, LLC (SHC).

Peyroux, a chiropractor, owned and managed SHC, a clinic that provided patients with a range of healthcare-related services, including, between 2015 and mid-2019, stem cell therapy. While running SHC, Peyroux founded PBS, a consulting firm that advises and trains chiropractors and other healthcare practitioners on how to expand their businesses. Detelich, a former chiropractor and longtime business associate of Peyroux’s, started working with PBS as a coach and speaker, and has managed some of the company’s business operations.

 In 2015, Peyroux and Detelich co-founded SCIA, a company that trained chiropractors and other healthcare practitioners on how to add stem cell therapy to their practices. The complaint states SCIA trained its client clinics on how to recruit patients through advertising, host free educational seminars, and conduct consultations. SCIA also provided its clients access to a “vault” of sample advertisements, including newspaper ads, fact sheets, and PowerPoint slides and provided client clinics with the appearance of being part of a large nationwide network under the SCIA name and logo.

The agencies contend the defendants also hosted their own free “educational seminars” for consumers, where they marketed SHC as an SCIA clinic and pitched stem cell therapy as an effective treatment for joint pain and other orthopedic conditions. They allegedly targeted seniors and retirement communities, and at the end of the seminars would attempt to schedule attendees for consultations at SHC’s clinic. SHC charged approximately $5,000 per joint injection, with many patients receiving more than one injection as part of their treatment.

In 2018, the complaint alleges, the defendants began offering a stem cell therapy program through PBS similar to SCIA’s services. PBS trains its clients on setting up and marketing a regenerative medicine program through seminars, conferences, one-on-one consultations, and access to “PBS University,” an online platform with training videos. PBS has also provided demonstrations at the SHC clinic on how to administer stem cell injections.

In addition to making false and unsubstantiated claims, the complaint alleges that the defendants violated Georgia’s Fair Business Practices Act related to the distribution of false or misleading information through the use of a computer or computer network.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 5-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. The FTC appreciates the partnership of the Georgia Attorney General’s Office in bringing the action announced today.

NOTE: The Commission files 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. 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 file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

CONTACT INFORMATION


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

Staff Contact:
Elizabeth Nach
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2611
Author: mkatz
Posted: August 17, 2021, 12:00 pm

Over $5.4 million being distributed to buyers of deceptive investment training scheme

The Federal Trade Commission is sending checks totaling more than $5.4 million to 31,144 consumers who purchased an allegedly deceptively marketed investment training scheme offered by California-based Online Trade Academy (OTA) and its founder and Chief Executive Officer, Eyal Shachar.

According to the FTC’s February 2020 complaint, OTA used false or unfounded earnings claims to sell “training programs” costing as much as $50,000. The Commission alleged that OTA made misleading claims that anyone could use its patented “strategy” to generate substantial income from trading in the financial markets and claimed this strategy could generate income in any market condition. Additionally, the complaint alleged OTA “instructors”— salespeople on commission who marketed OTA’s training and strategy in live events across the country— often falsely held themselves out as successful traders who had amassed substantial wealth using the company’s strategy.Explore Data with the FTC: Learn more about FTC refunds to consumers

In addition to paying for monetary refunds to consumers, under the order settling the agency’s complaint, OTA forgave over $13.3 million in debt owed by consumers to OTA.

More than 31,000 consumers are receiving checks, averaging $175 each. Epiq, the redress administrator in this case, will mail checks today. Checks will expire in 90 days, as indicated on the check. Consumers who have questions about this settlement can call the refund administrator at 1-855-535-1840.

The FTC’s interactive dashboards for refund data provide a state-by-state breakdown of FTC refunds. In 2020, FTC actions led to more than $483 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 Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Contact For Consumers:
CONSUMER REDRESS HOTLINE:
1-855-535-1840

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

Author: mkatz
Posted: August 16, 2021, 12:00 pm

As mobile and electronic payments become the norm, Commission staff advocate for more competition to protect businesses and families from unfair fees

The Federal Trade Commission announced that staff have submitted a comment urging the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (the Fed) to clarify and strengthen the implementation of debit card fee and routing reforms to the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) made under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank).

According to a 2019 study, Americans use debit cards almost twice as often as credit cards. Merchants, including millions of small businesses, must pay fees to card issuers, usually banks, and card networks like Visa and Mastercard, in order to accept debit cards. But merchants cannot select low-fee networks unless the issuer enables those networks. Typically, merchants work with payment processing companies to ensure that they get paid. When merchants pay high fees to accept payments, this can lead to price hikes for customers.

In the Dodd-Frank Act, Congress amended EFTA to promote competition among debit card networks by requiring debit card issuers to enable at least two networks so that merchants have a choice for routing electronic debit transactions. The Fed has rulemaking authority to implement these provisions, and the FTC enforces these rules with respect to card networks.

While mobile and electronic payments have been on the rise since 2010, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated that growth, with merchants and consumers shifting increasingly to ecommerce and digital marketplaces. As the Fed’s proposed rule recognizes, issuers do not provide sufficient options to merchants for these types of payments. The FTC staff endorsed the proposed rulemaking by the Fed which clarifies that a 2011 regulation applies both to transactions in which a physical debit card is used, and to “card-not-present transactions” that occur without use of a physical card, such as pay-by-phone or other electronic payments.

The FTC staff also called for rules that would prohibit debit card networks from exploiting an issuer’s position by paying incentives to that issuer based on how electronic debit transactions are routed by merchants using that issuer’s debit cards. According to the FTC staff comment, the Fed should “adopt revisions that ensure that debit card networks do not create incentives for issuers to evade Regulation II’s clear mandate that there be two unaffiliated networks available for each type of debit transaction, with each network a commercially reasonable alternative for merchants.” This addition would ensure that networks do not overburden merchants or consumers.

The FTC staff submitted its comment in response to the Federal Reserve’s proposal to amend Regulation II and clarify that Regulation II applies to card-not-present transactions as well as card-present transactions, issued on May 13, 2021.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff comment to the Federal Reserve was 3-2. Commissioners Noah Joshua Phillips and Christine S. Wilson voted no

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

CONTACT INFORMATION


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

Staff Contact:
Geoffrey Green
Bureau of Competition
202-326-2641
Author: elordan
Posted: August 12, 2021, 12:00 pm

Files administrative complaint aimed at recouping hundreds of millions lost by customers lured by false promises of fuel savings

The Federal Trade Commission has filed an administrative complaint against FleetCor and its CEO, Ronald Clarke, for charging customers hundreds of millions of dollars in mystery fees associated with fuel cards. FleetCor, marketing under the “Fuelman” brand name and through co-branded cards with businesses around the country, falsely told its business customers that they would save money, be protected from unauthorized charges, and have no set-up, transaction, or membership fees. In reality, according to FleetCor’s own records, customers generally have not achieved the advertised per-gallon savings by using FleetCor’s cards.

The FTC filed suit in federal court against FleetCor and Clarke in December 2019, alleging that they charged hundreds of millions of dollars in hidden and undisclosed fees to their customers after making false promises they could save customers on their fuel costs. However, in a ruling earlier this year, the Supreme Court determined that the FTC was not able to seek redress for consumers under section 13(b) of the FTC Act. In an effort to ensure that the agency’s case against the fuel card marketer is still able to recover money lost by consumers, the FTC has filed a new administrative complaint which alleges that FleetCor and Clarke violated section 5 of the FTC Act.

“FleetCor fleeced its customers out of hundreds of millions of dollars through its dishonest practices,” said Samuel Levine, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The FTC will do everything it can to get money back to FleetCor’s business customers and unsuspecting fuel card users by refiling this complaint administratively. We will also continue to work with Congress on a broader legislative solution following the Supreme Court’s decision in AMG, which has hindered our ability to recover redress for families and honest businesses.”

The Commission vote to issue the administrative complaint was 4-1. Commissioner Noah Phillips voted yes but dissented in part as to the inclusion of Ronald Clarke as an individual defendant. Commissioner Christine S. Wilson voted no, including as to the inclusion of Ronald Clarke as an individual defendant, but concurred in part as to Counts III, IV, and V against FleetCor. 

NOTE: The Commission issues an administrative complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The issuance of the administrative complaint marks the beginning of a proceeding in which the allegations will be tried in a formal hearing before an administrative law judge.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Contact For Consumers:
Consumer Response Center
877-382-4357

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

Staff Contacts:
Brittany Frassetto
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2774

Christopher Leach
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2394

Gregory Madden
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2426
Author: jhenderson2
Posted: August 11, 2021, 12:00 pm

Today, the Federal Trade Commission announced that Aristotle International, Inc. (Aristotle) has been removed from the list of self-regulatory organizations that police for compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Operators of websites and online services that paid Aristotle fees to participate in its self-regulatory program can no longer receive favorable regulatory treatment.

“The FTC will no longer allow self-regulatory organizations to flout their obligations under Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act rules. Aristotle will no longer be recognized by the FTC as an approved Safe Harbor program,” said Samuel Levine, Acting Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. “There is a clear conflict of interest when self-regulatory organizations are funded by the website operators and app developers they are supposed to police, so we will be closely scrutinizing other children’s privacy oversight outfits to determine whether they are living up to their obligations.”

Aristotle was one of seven FTC-approved Safe Harbor organizations and is the first to be removed from the list of FTC-approved children’s privacy self-regulatory programs since the COPPA Rule went into effect two decades ago. The COPPA Rule requires that operators of commercial websites and online services directed to children under the age of 13, or general-audience websites and online services that knowingly collect personal information from children under 13, notify parents about their information practices and obtain verifiable parental consent before collecting, using, or disclosing any personal information from children under the age of 13.

Organizations such as Aristotle operate self-regulatory COPPA “safe harbor” programs that certify compliance with the FTC’s COPPA Rule. In order to get FTC approval to operate their programs, such organizations must have guidelines that provide the same or greater protections for children as the COPPA Rule. They also must have an effective and mandatory mechanism in place to conduct independent assessments of member organizations’ compliance with the program guidelines. Companies certified as members of a safe harbor program are deemed to be in compliance with the COPPA Rule. The Commission approved Aristotle to operate a COPPA Safe Harbor program in 2012.

As part of its oversight of the COPPA Safe Harbor program, the FTC warned Aristotle earlier this year that the agency was concerned Aristotle may not have sufficiently monitored its member companies to ensure they were complying with its guidelines, as required by the COPPA Rule. After receiving an inadequate response from Aristotle, FTC staff told Aristotle that it planned to recommend that the Commission revoke its approval of the company’s safe harbor program. On June 1, Aristotle notified Commission staff that it was withdrawing from the COPPA safe harbor program.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

CONTACT INFORMATION


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

Staff Contact:
Peder Magee
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3538
Author: jhenderson2
Posted: August 4, 2021, 12:00 pm

FTC is returning more than $350,000 to nearly 23,000 consumers nationwide

Willow Curve device.The Federal Trade Commission is sending refund checks totaling more than $350,000 to consumers who bought Willow Curve, a device that applies low-level light and, according to the agency, was deceptively advertised as an effective way to relieve pain.

According to an FTC complaint filed in June 2020, the defendants behind Willow Curve touted it as a “smart” device that was FDA-approved and “clinically proven” to relieve pain and reduce inflammation for people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, diabetic neuropathy, nerve damage, torn tendons and any number of other serious conditions, without scientific evidence to support these claims.

Explore Data with the FTC: Learn more about FTC refunds to consumersNearly 23,000 consumers are receiving $15.35 each through the settlement. Analytics, Inc., the refund administrator in this case, is mailing checks today. People who receive checks should deposit or cash them within 90 days, as indicated on the check. Consumers who have questions about their refunds should call Analytics at 1-855-479-2054.

The FTC’s interactive dashboards for refund data provide a state-by-state breakdown of FTC refunds. In 2020, FTC actions led to more than $483 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 Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Contact For Consumers:
Consumer Redress Hotline
1-855-479-2054

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

Author: mkatz
Posted: August 3, 2021, 12:00 pm

More than $1.5 million being returned to customers of Position Gurus and Top Shelf Ecommerce

The FTC is sending checks totaling more than $1.5 million to more than 3,000 consumers who were deceived into buying worthless Internet-based marketing products and services by two companies called Position Gurus, LLC, and Top Shelf Ecommerce, LLC.

Explore Data with the FTC: Learn more about FTC refunds to consumers According to the FTC’s May 2020 complaint, the companies and their owners targeted consumers looking to start retail businesses on the Internet. The complaint alleged that the defendants falsely represented that their services would drive more customers to consumers’ new online stores and drastically increase sales and earnings.

The defendants also falsely claimed to be associated with unrelated coaching companies that consumers had prior dealings with; collected consumers’ personal financial information under false pretenses; and illegally restricted consumers’ ability to review or complain about the defendants’ products, services, or conduct, the FTC alleged.

JND Legal Administration, the refund administrator for this case, will mail checks today. The checks average over $511 each. People who receive checks should deposit or cash them within 90 days, as indicated on the check. Recipients who have questions about their checks can call the refund administrator at 1-888-906-0551. The FTC never requires people to pay money or provide account information to cash a refund check.

The FTC’s interactive dashboards for refund data provide a state-by-state breakdown of FTC refunds. In 2020, FTC actions led to more than $483 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 Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Contact For Consumers:
Consumer Redress Hotline
1-888-906-0551

Media Contact:

Author: mkatz
Posted: August 2, 2021, 12:00 pm

The Federal Trade Commission is sending refund checks totaling nearly $2.3 million to people who lost money to credit card debt relief schemes.

In a complaint announced in July 2019, the FTC and the state of Ohio alleged Educare Centre Services, Inc. and Tripletel, Inc. made false and unfounded promises that they would significantly reduce the interest rates on consumers’ credit cards, and also promised a 100 percent money-back guarantee if the promised rate reduction failed to materialize or if consumers were otherwise dissatisfied.

In December 2019, the FTC and Ohio amended their complaint and added Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service provider Globex Telecom, Inc. as a defendant. The amended complaint alleged that Globex knowingly provided the Educare scheme with the means to make calls to U.S. consumers, including illegal robocalls, to market Educare’s phony credit card interest rate reduction services.

The FTC and Ohio filed a separate complaint in 2019 that alleged that Madera Merchant Services and B&P Enterprises generated and processed remotely created payment orders or checks that allowed dishonest merchants to withdraw money from their victims’ bank accounts. Madera and B&P Enterprises supported many unscrupulous merchants, including Educare’s deceptive telemarketing scheme.

Explore Data with the FTC: Learn more about FTC refunds to consumersAs a result of the settlements reached with these defendants, the FTC is mailing 7,786 refund checks averaging about $293 each.

People who receive checks should deposit or cash them within 90 days, as indicated on the check. Recipients who have questions about their checks can call the refund administrator, JND Legal Administration, at 1-833-916-3597. The FTC never requires people to pay money or provide account information to cash a refund check.

The FTC’s interactive dashboards for refund data provide a state-by-state breakdown of FTC refunds. In 2020, FTC actions led to more than $483 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 Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Contact For Consumers:
JND Legal Administration
Refund Administrator
1-833-916-3597

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

Author: jhenderson2
Posted: July 29, 2021, 12:00 pm

FTC alleged that Richard Berry orchestrated regional scheme to falsify consumer information on financing applications

The FTC reached an agreement with Richard Berry, the owner and manager of a group of bankrupt auto dealerships in Arizona and New Mexico, to resolve charges that he and the dealerships deceived consumers and falsified information on vehicle financing applications.  Many of the affected consumers were members of the Navajo Nation.

“When Berry’s auto dealerships falsified income and down payment information to qualify people for loans they couldn’t afford to pay back, they set people up for failure – including default, repossession, and ruined credit,” said Samuel Levine, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “That’s why the FTC sued Berry and his dealerships.”

The FTC reached an earlier settlement with the four dealerships: Tate’s Auto Center of Winslow, Tate’s Automotive, Tate Ford-Lincoln-Mercury, and Tate’s Auto Center of Gallup. If approved by the district court, the present settlement against Berry, would result in a $450,000 payment to the FTC and conclude the FTC’s case. The settlement also included a stipulated dismissal of relief defendant Linda Tate, which has been entered by the court.

The FTC’s complaint, filed in August 2018, alleged that the defendants falsified consumers’ income and down payment information to get vehicles financed and engaged in unlawful advertising.  In an earlier ruling in the case, the judge found that the defendants violated the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) and Consumer Leasing Act (CLA) by failing to disclose legally required information in their advertisements.

In addition to the $450,000 payment, the proposed settlement prohibits Berry from misrepresenting information in documents associated with a consumer’s purchase, financing, or leasing of a motor vehicle, and misrepresenting the costs or any other material fact related to vehicle financing. The proposed order also requires Berry to provide consumers sufficient time to review and obtain a copy of the relevant vehicle financing documents and prohibits him from violating the TILA and CLA.  

The FTC wishes to acknowledge the valuable assistance of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission during the investigation of this case.

The Commission vote approving the proposed stipulated order was 5-0. Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter issued a concurring statement. The proposed order was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.

NOTE: Stipulated final orders or injunctions, etc. 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 file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Contact For Consumers:
Consumer Response Center
877-382-4357

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

Staff Contact:
Naomi Takagi
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3668
Author: elordan
Posted: July 29, 2021, 12:00 pm

The Federal Trade Commission testified before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce on legislation to modify the FTC’s authority and address other pressing issues facing the agency.

Testifying on behalf of the Commission, FTC Chair Lina M. Khan and Commissioners Noah Joshua Phillips, Rohit Chopra, Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, and Christine S. Wilson expressed gratitude to the Subcommittee for all it is doing to ensure the agency’s critical work can continue. Many of the reform measures currently before Congress give the Commission a much-needed boost in critical areas where enforcement tools are needed, the testimony states.

The FTC plays a critical role in ensuring that markets are fair for individuals, families, and honest businesses but, the testimony notes, the agency currently faces many challenges: A surge in corporate mergers threatens to further concentrate market power and protect dominant incumbents, and the Commission’s ability to tackle key challenges -- from COVID fraud to anticompetitive conduct – has been substantially diminished after the Supreme Court’s recent AMG decision, which barred the agency from seeking monetary relief under Section 13(b) of the FTC Act.

In addition, the testimony notes, the FTC is facing severe resource constraints as it works to address the soaring number of global mergers and acquisitions and a large numbers of consumer complaints to the agency about a broad range of pandemic-related marketplace abuses. The Commission believes that additional resources are necessary to help it effectively achieve its mission.

In spite of these challenges, the FTC has worked vigorously to ensure that its critical work can continue, the testimony states. Since the beginning of the pandemic, thanks in part to the civil penalty authority provided by this Subcommittee in the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act, the Commission has successfully halted dozens of COVID-related scams. The agency also reached out to communities most affected by fraud, alerting the public to the threats posed by scams and those who facilitate them.

Of particular importance is the Committee’s work to restore the Commission’s ability to secure monetary relief from those that violate the law. Until the Supreme Court’s recent decision in AMG¸ the Commission relied on its 13(b) authority to return billions of dollars to defrauded Americans, and to ensure that lawbreaking companies could not pocket their ill-gotten gains. For example, pending cases today involve $2 billion in potential relief to victims, which is not available after AMG.

The Commission also now faces challenges in obtaining injunctive relief, the testimony notes. In FTC v. Shire ViroPharma, Inc., the Third Circuit held that the language in Section 13(b) of the FTC Act describing a company that “is engaged in, or is about to engage in” illegal conduct means the FTC can initiate enforcement actions only when a violation is either ongoing or “impending” at the time the suit is filed. This decision limits the Commission’s ability to hold accountable entities who engaged in illegal conduct that occurred entirely in the past. The district court’s recent dismissal of the FTC’s antitrust complaint against Facebook cited the ViroPharma opinion in concluding that the Commission could not use Section 13(b) to address Facebook’s alleged past anticompetitive conduct. Restoring the FTC’s power to seek injunctions and monetary relief is critical to our work to protect Americans from unlawful business conduct.

The Commission vote to approve the testimony was 5-0.

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.  For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blog.

CONTACT INFORMATION


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

Author: jwolf
Posted: July 28, 2021, 12:00 pm
WHAT: The Federal Trade Commission will host PrivacyCon 2021 to examine the latest research and trends related to consumer privacy and data security.
WHEN: Tuesday, July 27, 2021, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. ET
WHERE: The event will be held online. A link to view PrivacyCon will be posted the morning of the event to ftc.gov and the event page.
WHO: The event will feature remarks by Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter and FTC Chief Technologist Erie Meyer, as well as presentations and discussions on a variety of privacy and data security research.
TWITTER: The event will be tweeted live from the FTC’s Twitter page (@FTC) using the hashtag #PrivacyCon21.

CONTACT INFORMATION


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

Author: jhenderson2
Posted: July 26, 2021, 12:00 pm

The Federal Trade Commission voted in an open Commission meeting to retain the FTC Care Labeling Rule to ensure American consumers continue to get accurate information on how to take care of their fabrics and extend the life of their clothes. In a statement, the Commission also indicated that it will continue to consider ways to improve the Rule to the benefit of families and businesses.

The Care Labeling Rule has been in effect since 1971 and requires manufacturers and importers to attach labels with care instructions for garments and certain piece goods, providing instructions for dry cleaning or washing, bleaching, drying and ironing clothing. Public comments solicited by the FTC over the past decade show the Care Labeling Rule continues to provide valuable guidance and serve as an important tool for consumers, manufacturers, retailers, designers and dry cleaners alike.

In July 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, the Commission voted 3-2 to propose repealing this consumer protection altogether. Following that action, the FTC received more than 200 comments, with an overwhelming majority opposed to the repeal of the rule.

“The Federal Trade Commission first promulgated the Care Labeling Rule in 1971, with the goal of ensuring buyers were provided clear and accurate information on how to take care of their fabrics.  Since then, the agency periodically has reviewed the rule, seeking public comments to ensure the rule is keeping pace with new developments and still providing buyers with relevant information,” said FTC Chair Lina M. Khan in the open Commission meeting. “After careful consideration, I believe the record supports retaining the Care Labeling Rule and that it should not be rescinded.”

Submissions to the most recent public comment period led the Commission to conclude that repealing the rule would not be in the public interest. Many individuals and small businesses opposed the repeal, emphasizing that buyers rely on labels to help extend the life of their clothes.

Other comments the FTC received from the apparel manufacturing and cleaning industries indicated that removing the labels would increase the likelihood that their customers’ items might be damaged in the wash and, as a result, expose their businesses to unnecessary liability, the Commission noted.

The Commission voted 5-0 to issue a statement to notify the public that it will not repeal the Care Labeling Rule, as previously proposed.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Contact For Consumers:

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

Author: jwolf
Posted: July 21, 2021, 12:00 pm

Commission unanimously adopts policy statement aimed at restoring Right to Repair for small businesses, workers, consumers, and government entities

The Federal Trade Commission today unanimously voted to ramp up law enforcement against repair restrictions that prevent small businesses, workers, consumers, and even government entities from fixing their own products. The policy statement adopted today is aimed at manufacturers’ practices that make it extremely difficult for purchasers to repair their products or shop around for other service providers to do it for them. By enforcing against restrictions that violate antitrust or consumer protection laws, the Commission is taking important steps to restore the right to repair.

In May, the FTC released a report to Congress that concluded that manufacturers use a variety of methods—such as using adhesives that make parts difficult to replace, limiting the availability of parts and tools, or making diagnostic software unavailable—that have made consumer products harder to fix and maintain. The policy statement notes that such restrictions on repairs of devices, equipment, and other products have increased the burden on consumers and businesses. In addition, manufacturers and sellers may be restricting competition for repairs in a number of ways that might violate the law.

“These types of restrictions can significantly raise costs for consumers, stifle innovation, close off business opportunity for independent repair shops, create unnecessary electronic waste, delay timely repairs, and undermine resiliency,” FTC Chair Lina M. Khan said during an open Commission meeting. “The FTC has a range of tools it can use to root out unlawful repair restrictions, and today’s policy statement would commit us to move forward on this issue with new vigor.”

In the policy statement, the Commission said it would target repair restrictions that violate antitrust laws enforced by the FTC or the FTC Act’s prohibitions on unfair or deceptive acts or practices. The Commission also urged the public to submit complaints of violations of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, which prohibits, among other things, tying a consumer’s product warranty to the use of a specific service provider or product, unless the FTC has issued a waiver.

The Commission voted 5-0 to approve the policy statement during an open Commission meeting live streamed to its website. Chair Lina M. Khan issued a statement. Commissioner Rohit Chopra issued a separate statement.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

CONTACT INFORMATION


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

Author: jhenderson2
Posted: July 21, 2021, 12:00 pm

Today, the Federal Trade Commission will hold its second virtual open Commission meeting followed by live comments from the public. This is part of a series of monthly meetings opening the work of the Commission to the public.

WHO: Chair Lina M. Khan, Commissioner Noah Joshua Phillips, Commissioner Rohit Chopra, Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, Commissioner Christine S. Wilson, members of the public
WHAT: The meeting will follow the agenda announced on July 12.
WHEN: Today, July 21, 2021 1 p.m. ET. Note: The start time for this meeting previously had been scheduled for 12 p.m. ET.
WHERE: The meeting will be livestreamed via webcast

The event will be recorded, and the webcast and any related comments will be available on the Commission’s website after the meeting. The Commission retains discretion to make public comments available following the event on ftc.gov. Due to challenges related to the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis, open meetings will be held virtually until further notice. The FTC’s future public meeting agendas will be posted on the Commission’s website at least seven days prior to the Commission’s next monthly meeting.

CONTACT INFORMATION


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

Author: bacree
Posted: July 21, 2021, 12:00 pm

July 27 online event will highlight cutting-edge privacy and security research

The Federal Trade Commission has released the final agenda for its sixth annual PrivacyCon event, which will be held online on July 27, and will include a focus on the privacy and security risks associated with algorithms, online advertising, and the Internet of Things.

PrivacyCon 2021 will highlight exciting new research and build on discussions in the United States and around the globe on trends related to consumer privacy and data security. Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter and Chief Technologist Erie Meyer will give opening remarks followed by six panels focused on algorithms, privacy considerations and understanding, advertising technology, the Internet of Things, privacy issues related to children and teens, and privacy and the pandemic. The event will also feature a presentation on the Algorithmic Bias Playbook by Ziad Obermeyer, Professor of Health Policy and Management at the Berkeley School of Public Health.

The full agenda and links to the research that will be presented at PrivacyCon 2021 are available on the event page. PrivacyCon will take place online from 9 a.m. ET  to 5 p.m. ET. A link to view PrivacyCon 2021 will be posted on the event page the morning of the event. Registration is not required.

 

AGENDA

Introduction

Jamie Hine, Senior Attorney, Federal Trade Commission, Division of Privacy & Identity Protection

Welcome to PrivacyCon

Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, Commissioner, Federal Trade Commission

Opening Remarks

Erie Meyer, Chief Technologist, Federal Trade Commission

Panel 1: Algorithms

  • Basileal Imana, University of Southern California, Auditing for Discrimination in Algorithms Delivering Job Ads
  • Hongyan Chang, National University of Singapore, On the Privacy Risks of Algorithm Fairness
  • Martin Strobel, National University of Singapore, On the Privacy Risks of Model Explanations

Moderator:  Devin Willis, Attorney, Federal Trade Commission, Division of Privacy & Identity Protection

Algorithms Presentation

  • Ziad Obermeyer, University of California at Berkeley, Algorithmic Bias Playbook Presentation

Moderator:  Lerone Banks, Technologist, Federal Trade Commission, Division of Privacy & Identity Protection

Panel 2: Privacy – Considerations and Understanding

  • Nico Ebert, Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Bolder is Better:  Raising User Awareness Through Salient and Concise Privacy Notices
  • Siddhant Arora, Carnegie Mellon University, Finding a Choice in a Haystack:  Automatic Extraction of Opt-Out Statements from Privacy Policy Text
  • Cameron Kormylo, Virginia Tech, Reconsidering Privacy Choices:  The Impact of Defaults, Reversibility, and Repetition
  • Peter Mayer, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Now I’m a bit angry – Individuals’ Awareness, Perception, and Responses to Data Breaches that Affected Them

Moderator:  Danielle Estrada, Attorney, Federal Trade Commission, Division of Privacy & Identity Protection

Panel 3: AdTech

  • Imane Fouad, Inria (France), Missed by Filter Lists:  Detecting Unknown Third-Party Trackers with Invisible Pixels
  • Janus Varmarken, University of California Irvine, The TV is Smart and Full of Trackers: Measuring Smart TV Advertising and Tracking
  • Miranda Wei, University of Washington, What Twitter Knows:  Characterizing Ad Targeting Practices, User Perceptions, and Ad Explanations Through Users’ Own Twitter Data

Moderator:  Miles Plant, Attorney, Federal Trade Commission, Division of Privacy & Identity Protection

Panel 4: IoT

  • Anupam Das, North Carolina State University, Hey Alexa, is this Skill Safe:  Taking a Closer Look at the Alexa Skill Ecosystem
  • Jeffrey Young, Clemson University, Measuring the Policy Compliance of Voice Assistant Applications
  • Pardis Emami-Naeni, University of Washington, Which Privacy and Security Attributes Most Impact Consumers’ Risk Perception and Willingness to Purchase IoT Devices?
  • Genevieve Liberte, Florida International University, Real-time Analysis of Privacy (un)Aware IoT Applications

Moderator:  Linda Holleran Kopp, Attorney, Federal Trade Commission, Division of Privacy & Identity Protection

Panel 5: Privacy – Children and Teens

  • Mohammad Mannan, Concordia University (Canada), Betrayed by the Guardian - Security and Privacy Risks of Parental Control Solutions and Parental Controls:  Safer Internet Solutions or New Pitfalls?
  • Cameryn Gonnella, BBB National Programs, Risky Business - The Current State of Teen Privacy in the Android App Marketplace

Moderator:  Manmeet Dhindsa, Attorney, Federal Trade Commission, Division of Privacy & Identity Protection

Panel 6: Privacy and the Pandemic

  • Marzieh Bitaab, Arizona State University, Scam Pandemic:  How Attackers Exploit Public Fear through Phishing
  • Christine Geeng, University of Washington, Social Media COVID-19 Misinformation Interventions Viewed Positively, But Have Limited Impact

Moderator:  Christina Yeung, Technologist, Federal Trade Commission, Office of Technology Research and Investigation

Closing Remarks

Lerone Banks, Technologist, Federal Trade Commission, Division of Privacy & Identity Protection

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

CONTACT INFORMATION


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

Staff Contact:
Jamie Hine
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2188
Author: jhenderson2
Posted: July 20, 2021, 12:00 pm

New Jersey-based defendants are banned from telemarketing, will pay more than $1.6 million, and turn over property

Find out about Do Not Call complaints and registrationsThe owners of a New Jersey-based company that sells septic tank cleaning products agreed to a permanent ban on telemarketing and will pay more than $1.6 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that the company and its telemarketer made illegal robocalls to consumers, including tens of millions of calls to numbers listed on the agency’s Do Not Call Registry. In addition, the defendants will turn over a residential property as part of the settlement.

According to the FTC’s complaint, Environmental Safety International, Inc. or ESI; ESI’s two officers, brothers Joseph Carney and Sean Carney; and their other brother Raymond Carney, acted together to initiate more than 45 million illegal telemarketing calls to consumers nationwide between January 2018 and March 2019 to promote ESI’s “Activator 1000” line of septic tank cleaning products. The FTC alleges that 31 million of those calls were made to numbers on the DNC Registry. The Department of Justice filed the complaint and proposed orders on the FTC’s behalf.

ESI Activator 1000 productAccording to the complaint, the defendants’ telemarketers falsely told consumers they were calling from an unnamed “environmental company” to give consumers “free info” on their septic tank cleaning product. Despite being told the robocall was “not a sales call or solicitation,” consumers who “pressed one” to receive free information instead received a sales pitch.

The complaint also alleges that ESI sent letters to consumers who agreed to buy their products but had unpaid invoices, falsely claiming that they would be referred to a “national collection agency” or to an attorney. However, ESI never took either of these actions.

In addition to the bans on telemarketing, the settlement orders impose $10.2 million civil penalty judgments against all defendants, which will be partially suspended after Joseph and Sean Carney pay $1,646,210 to the U.S. Treasury and Raymond Carney pays $15,000 to the Treasury.

In addition, Joseph and Sean Carney are prohibited from making material misrepresentations to consumers, including that they would be referred to an attorney or collection agency. They are prohibited from billing or attempting to collect payments from any consumers in connection with the sale of their septic tank cleaning products, and are required to notify all ESI customers with unpaid balances that they no longer have to pay ESI because their balances have been cancelled. Joseph and Sean Carney must also apply for ESI’s dissolution within 30 days.

The Commission vote to refer the civil penalty complaint and consent orders to the DOJ for filing was 4-0. The DOJ filed the complaint on behalf of the FTC in the U.S. District Court for District of New Jersey and the settlements have been approved 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 file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

CONTACT INFORMATION


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

Staff Contact:
Amy Hocevar
FTC’s East Central Region
216-263-3455
Author: mkatz
Posted: July 16, 2021, 12:00 pm

 

The FTC’s Blog on Privacy & Identity

Business Blog Posts

By Samuel Levine, Acting Director, FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection

According to the CDC, more than 34 million Americans have diabetes. To put a human face on that public health statistic, 1 in 10 people at your company, friends in your neighborhood, and members of your extended family struggle with a disease that could threaten their lives. The uninsured, those with high-deductible health plans, and lower-income consumers face another challenge that makes managing diabetes even more difficult: the high cost of insulin.

Read more >
Author: Samuel Levine, Acting Director, FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection<br />
Posted: September 9, 2021, 4:01 pm
By Lesley Fair

The Nilsson song “Everybody’s Talking” has withstood the test of time and now could refer to the host of smart household products that communicate with consumers – and often with each other. But are companies protecting the security of consumer information they collect or maintain?

Read more >
Author: Lesley Fair<br />
Posted: September 8, 2021, 6:42 pm
By Lesley Fair

If your company is facing the fall-out from Hurricane Ida, flooding in Tennessee, western wildfires, or any other natural disaster, your employees are looking for help in the recovery process – and you’re looking to make a safe return to business. But as flood waters recede, dangerous predators can spring to the surface: scammers targeting people and small businesses trying to get back on their feet. Here are ways to avoid common post-disaster scams.

Read more >
Author: Lesley Fair<br />
Posted: September 3, 2021, 3:14 pm
By Lesley Fair

By installing an app called SpyFone onto the device of an unsuspecting person, a user could stealthily track their target’s email, photos, contacts, calendars, web history, and even location. Support King, LLC, and CEO Scott Zuckerman marketed SpyFone as a way to monitor the activities of children and employees, neglecting to take action to prevent stalkers and domestic abusers from using the illegal secret surveillance effectuated by the company’s products.

Read more >
Author: Lesley Fair<br />
Posted: September 1, 2021, 8:07 pm
By Seena Gressin

Have you or one of your employees received an alarming text message about unemployment insurance benefits from what seems to be your state workforce agency? You’re not alone. Identity thieves are targeting millions of people nationwide with scam phishing texts aimed at stealing personal information, unemployment benefits, or both.

Read more >
Author: Seena Gressin<br />
Posted: August 4, 2021, 2:26 pm
By Lesley Fair

Set a reminder now for Tuesday, July 27, 2021, to make sure you’re up on the latest research about privacy and data security. That’s the date of the FTC’s sixth annual PrivacyCon and you’re invited to participate virtually.

Read more >
Author: Lesley Fair<br />
Posted: July 20, 2021, 5:06 pm
By Lesley Fair

No one can top Waylon Jennings’ invitation to Luckenbach, Texas, where people can get “Back to the Basics of Love.” But we can offer the next best thing for business executives, advertising professionals, and attorneys: a virtual invitation to Dallas, Texas, on June 24, 2021, to get back to the basics of law.

Read more >
Author: Lesley Fair<br />
Posted: June 21, 2021, 5:55 pm
By Lesley Fair

We’ll leave it to the economists to crunch the employment numbers. We’re just happy to see more Help Wanted signs in the windows of Main Street retailers. That’s good news for Americans affected by pandemic-related layoffs. As companies are getting back to business and returning to an in-person workplace, the FTC has some tips for job seekers.

Read more >
Author: Lesley Fair<br />
Posted: June 17, 2021, 8:04 pm
By Lesley Fair

Call it a “blessing.” Call it a “loom.” In a case just filed in federal court, the FTC and the State of Arkansas use another phrase to describe what the operators of the Blessings in No Time investment program are up to. We call it a pyramid scheme.

Read more >
Author: Lesley Fair<br />
Posted: June 17, 2021, 1:05 pm
By Lesley Fair

It’s exciting to see so many “open” signs appearing in store windows across the country. But some companies making the transition to an in-person workplace may find themselves in a short-term cash flow crunch. Even before the pandemic, the FTC raised concerns about deceptive practices related to small business financing. With many companies working to regain their footing, the FTC has tips on protecting yourself when looking for financing.

Read more >
Author: Lesley Fair<br />
Posted: June 16, 2021, 4:10 pm

 


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