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Consumer gag clauses: Totally not awesome under CRFA

Moon Unit Zappa’s 1982 song “Valley Girl” popularized the phrase “gag me with a spoon.” We doubt the lyric “gag me with a form contract clause” would have been a hit, but it’s among the tactics expressly outlawed by the Consumer Review Fairness Act. As two proposed settlements demonstrate, the FTC thinks gag clauses and similar non-disparagement provisions that violate the CRFA are – to quote Ms. Zappa – grody to the max.

FinTech finds a home in the FTC Business Center

The term “FinTech” covers a lot of topics central to the FTC’s consumer protection mission – lending, payment systems, data security, privacy, and truth in advertising, to name just a few. So where can businesses go for resources on how established consumer protection standards apply in this emerging marketplace? FinTech-related materials have a new home in the Business Center: a dedicated FinTech page.

3 tips from 3 FTC Consumer Review Fairness Act cases

Their lines of work are as different as can be: an HVAC and electrical contractor, a flooring seller, and a company that takes people on horseback rides. But according to the FTC, they have one thing in common. They all violated the Consumer Review Fairness Act. Read on for details about the FTC’s first cases solely enforcing the CRFA, the form contract provisions the FTC says contravened the law, and tips for keeping your contracts CRFA-compliant.

This National Small Business Week, the focus is on cybersecurity

It’s National Small Business Week, a time when we celebrate the businesses that make our communities thrive. For the FTC, it’s an opportunity to let business owners know that when it comes to protecting your business from cyber threats, you’re not alone. The federal government has resources to help you address common cyber threats and create a culture of cybersecurity at your company. The materials at FTC.gov/Cybersecurity were introduced last year in cooperation with DHS, NIST, and the SBA.

FTC case against backpack seller unpacks how law applies in crowdfunding

Where do entrepreneurs go if they’re long on ideas, but short on capital? In their short history, crowdfunding platforms have often been the financial sparkplug that ignites the engine of innovation. But some campaigners promote zealously and deliver zilch. According to the FTC, a company raised over $800,000 in four crowdfunding campaigns for a high-tech backpack and other items, but used a large portion of the money on personal expenses.

i-Dressup and a data security mess-up

Kids love to play dress-up, but parents wouldn’t want them rummaging through the attic or climbing to the top shelf of the wardrobe without permission and proper supervision. The i-Dressup.com website offered users – including children – a virtual way to play dress-up and design clothes without those potential dangers.

Safeguard your network and customer credentials: Tips from the latest FTC data security case

Suppose a lunch companion says, “I think there’s something wrong with this tuna salad.” To determine if the problem is tuna not to their taste vs. tuna gone bad, would you scarf it down? Probably not. Now remove tuna salad from the example and substitute a web browser extension. (Stay with us here.) Let’s say you’ve been warned that an unknown extension could be used for fraud. Should you download it and let it marinate in your company’s network?

Putting the focus on small business financing

Whether you’re starting a business or trying to grow one, there’s one thing you need to take it to the next level: capital. Entrepreneurs look to traditional lenders, of course, but they’re also turning to the online marketplace to find small business financing. What types of products are available? What are the benefits and the consumer protection considerations?

Violating Made in USA order lands filtration seller in hot water

When a company settles a case with the FTC, it’s not just water under the bridge. An FTC administrative order includes provisions designed to prevent similar deceptive or unfair practices in the future – and violations of those orders may result in civil penalties. The FTC just announced a proposed settlement with Georgia-based iSpring Water Systems for violating a 2017 order related to the company’s Made in USA claims.

The Avant settlement: New financial platforms, established consumer protections

“There is nothing new under the sun.” It’s from the Book of Ecclesiastes and who are we to disagree? So even when innovative products enter the market – for example, new platforms offering financial services – fundamental consumer protection principles remain constant. And as the FTC’s $3.85 million settlement with Avant, LLC, demonstrates, that includes representations and practices related to online lending.

Bogus celebrity testimonials and phony formats: DON’TS for advertisers and affiliates

“Viagra for the brain.” It’s a slogan designed to attract the attention of consumers concerned about cognition. Then there was a massive online ad campaign of “news” websites featuring supposed testimonials from people like Bill Gates and the now-late Dr. Stephen Hawking. It’s no wonder people forked over millions for supplements that went by names like Geniux, Xcel, EVO, and Ion-Z.

FTC’s Approach to Consumer Privacy: Watch the webcast live

We do our best to keep the puffery in check. So when we say an event features a star-studded line-up of panelists, we think we can substantiate that claim. The FTC’s ongoing Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century have brought luminaries together to discuss the impact on the FTC’s mission of broad-based changes in the economy, evolving business practices, and tech developments.

FTC workshop looks into loot boxes

Gamers call them loot boxes – in-game rewards players can buy that contain a random assortment of virtual items. The loot may help players advance in an online game or allow them to customize their avatars. The rewards may be virtual, but they’ve become a very real revenue stream for game developers.

Warning letters re-”mined” diamond sellers to describe products accurately

Remember the old Superman movie where the Man of Steel squeezed carbon in his hand to create a diamond? That’s not how it’s done, but these days not everything sparkly comes from a mine. In addition to mined diamonds, consumers can choose simulated diamonds or diamonds created in a laboratory. What matters to consumers – and the FTC – is that companies accurately describe what they’re selling.

From hero to zero: “Charities” claimed to help police and vets, but pocketed proceeds

To many Americans, the phrase “We support our troops” is more than just a bumper sticker. They put their money where their heart is and contribute to organizations that benefit members of the military – or police officers, first responders, or others who serve. Their generous intent shouldn’t be undermined by sham charities that allocate the lion’s share of donations not to promised services, but to telemarketing, salaries, and other overhead.

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