FOR THE CONSUMER
The FTC's monthly newsletter for the Congressional community
It's the news you - and your constituents - can use.
Volume 9 - Number 2
IN THIS ISSUE
DIET PRODUCTS. A federal district court has ordered the marketers of an herbal tea and a diet patch to pay the FTC nearly $2 million in consumer redress for making deceptive claims that the products would allow users to lose weight quickly without changing their diet or exercising. The defendants, Bronson Partners, LLC and its officer, Martin Howard, claimed that people could lose as much as six pounds a week by drinking one cup of their Chinese Diet Tea after each meal to “neutralize the absorption of fattening foods.” They also said that if worn 24 hours a day for at least three months, their Bio-Slim Patch would eliminate fat. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2010/01/diet.shtm.
DEBT COLLECTION. The FTC has settled with the remaining defendants to end a case that drew the largest civil penalty ever imposed on a debt collection business. According to the FTC, Academy Collection Service, Inc. and its owner, Keith Dickstein, paid $2.25 million to settle FTC charges that while collecting debts, they allegedly misled, threatened, and harassed consumers, disclosed debts to third parties, and deposited postdated checks early, in violation of federal law. Albert S. Bastian and Edward Hurt, who oversaw Academy’s Las Vegas collection center, agreed to pay $375,000 and $300,000, respectively. The judgments were suspended based on their inability to pay. The full judgments will become due immediately if the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial condition. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2010/01/academy.shtm.
SHORTCUT. The FTC intervened to preserve competition before allowing the merger of the makers of laser microdissection devices, a key tool for scientific research. Under the FTC’s proposed consent order, Danaher Corporation and MDS Analytical Technologies (US) Inc., must sell MDS’s devices to Life Technologies Corp. to prevent higher prices or reduced innovation for these devices, which incorporate a laser, a computer and a monitor with a microscope. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2010/01/danaher.shtm.
PAY FOR DELAY. According to the FTC’s recent study, sweetheart deals between branded and generic drug companies prevent consumers from getting lower-priced drugs and they are on the rise. Under these ‘pay for delay’ agreements, branded drug companies pay generic firms to stay out of the market, delaying the launch of the lower priced generic drugs. In 2004, there were no ‘pay for delay’ deals; last year there were 19. According to the FTC, ‘pay for delay’ agreements cost consumers $3.5 billion more each year in inflated drug costs. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2010/01/payfordelay.shtm.
CARE TO COMMENT? The FTC is seeking public comments on proposed guidelines designed to help website operators comply with the FTC’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule. The Rule requires operators of websites directed at children under 13 years old to notify parents and obtain their consent before collecting, using, or disclosing the personal information they collect from kids. The proposed guidelines also would apply to general audience websites that knowingly collect personal information from kids under 13. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2010/01/isafe.shtm.
DATA PROTECTION. A mortgage broker who discarded peoples’ personal financial records in a publicly-accessible dumpster paid a $35,000 civil penalty to settle FTC charges. According to the FTC, the defendant, Gregory Navone, improperly disposed of about 40 boxes of sensitive consumer records collected by companies he had owned, including tax returns, mortgage applications, bank statements, photocopies of credit cards and drivers’ licenses, and at least 230 credit reports. In addition, two mortgage brokerage companies he previously owned failed to provide reasonable and appropriate security for sensitive consumer information, despite promising they would do so. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2010/01/navone.shtm.
INDOOR TANNING. Cautions people that deliberate tanning, either indoors or out, increases your risk of melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer. 8.5"x11", 2 pages. www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt174.pdf.
MEDICAL IDENTITY THEFT. Explains how medical identity theft occurs, how it differs from traditional identity theft, offers tips to minimize your risk and how to recover should you experience a theft. 8.5"x11", 6 pages. www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/idtheft/idt10.shtm.
DEBT COLLECTION. Provides information about debtors’ rights under federal law when dealing with debt collectors. Bookmark, 8.5"x2.5", 2 sided, color. www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/bookmarks/bmk18.pdf.
PEER-TO-PEER FILE SHARING: A GUIDE FOR BUSINESS. Helps businesses understand and minimize the security risks associated with Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file sharing software. 5.5"x8.5", 13 pages. www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/business/idtheft/bus46.shtm.
CONGRESSIONAL FAIR. The 12th Annual National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) is right around the corner: March 7-13. This campaign provides tips and resources at www.consumer.gov/ncpw to help everyone take full advantage of their consumer rights. This year’s theme -- Dollars & Sense: Rated “A” for All Ages -- highlights the importance of using good consumer sense at every stage of life – from grade school to retirement. Check out the NCPW blog for short, timely features about helpful resources, leave a comment, and share your plans for promoting NCPW. The FTC and its NCPW partners will host a Congressional Fair for Members and staff, February 18 from 9:30 am to 11:30 am in the Rayburn Foyer. Get free constituent education resources for town hall meetings in your district. For more information about NCPW and the Fair, contact Derick Rill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AMERICA SAVES WEEK. The FTC is a partner in America Saves Week (ASW) an education campaign that promotes savings and encourages people to take informed action to “build wealth, not debt.” The goal of ASW, which takes place February 21-28, is to get employers, financial institutions, government leaders, non-profit networks, and other organizations to persuade tens of millions of Americans to save and build wealth more effectively: paying off high-cost debt, ensuring adequate emergency savings, accumulating home equity, and saving for retirement. Encourage your constituents to enroll as an American Saver to create a basic savings plan. Share tips about how to cut costs on food, clothing, home heating and other expenses. Check out the resources available at www.americasaves.org.
PRIVACY. The FTC is hosting its final public roundtable on March 17 to explore the privacy challenges posed by social networking, cloud computing, online behavioral advertising, mobile marketing, and the collection and use of information by retailers, data brokers, third-party applications, and other businesses. This roundtable will address protecting health data and other sensitive consumer information and will review some of the themes raised in the other roundtables. It will be held at the FTC’s Conference Center, 601 New Jersey Ave, NW, Washington, DC. This event is free and open to the public; no pre-registration required. A live webcast will be available at www.ftc.gov. For more information, visit www.ftc.gov/bcp/workshops/privacyroundtables.
In the wake of the devastation caused by the earthquake in Haiti, the FTC is alerting people to choose carefully when considering urgent appeals for aid. The best way to provide immediate help is to donate money directly to established national relief organizations that have the experience and means to deliver aid. The FTC offers these tips on giving:
Donate to recognized charities that you have given to before. Be skeptical about those that have sprung up overnight. They may be well-meaning, but they lack the infrastructure to provide assistance. And be aware that some phony charities use names that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations.
You don’t have to donate to someone who contacts you out of the blue with an unsolicited email, phone call or text message. It’s better to give through a website or phone number that you know is legitimate. Do not give out your personal or financial information – including your Social Security number or credit card and bank account numbers .
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