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 5
IN THIS ISSUE
RECORD PENALTY IN AN FTC CONSUMER PROTECTION CASE. The operators of a telemarketing scheme will pay a record $18.8 million and leave the charitable donation business to settle charges that they violated an FTC order. According to the FTC, Civic Development Group, LLC, CDG Management, LLC, and owners Scott Pasch and David Keezer tricked people into thinking that they were donating directly to legitimate charities serving police, firefighters and veterans, when only a small percentage of the donations actually went to the charities. The civil penalty is the largest ever in an FTC consumer protection case. Read the press release.
ANNUAL REPORT RELEASED. The FTC’s 2010 Annual Report describes the Commission’s law enforcement and education efforts since March 2009, including stopping fraudulent financial schemes, promoting competition in the health care and technology markets, holding public roundtables about privacy and technology, stopping robocalls, hosting hearings about the future of the newspaper industry and updating the1992 Horizontal Merger Guidelines. Read the press release.
BAN ON CREDIT REPAIR AND MORTGAGE RELIEF SERVICES. At the FTC’s request, a federal court has banned United Credit Adjusters, Inc. --- and its affiliates and principals --- from selling credit repair and mortgage relief services, and ordered them to pay more than $7.5 million. The court entered default judgments against most of the defendants because they didn’t respond to the lawsuit. Litigation continues against defendant Gerald Serino. According to the FTC, the defendants falsely promised to improve peoples’ credit scores by removing negative information. Some defendants falsely claimed that they could help homeowners get mortgage loan modifications or stop foreclosure. Read the press release.
CUSTOMIZED PRIVACY NOTICE AVAILABLE. The FTC and seven federal regulators have released an Online Form Builder that financial institutions can use to develop and print customized versions of a model consumer privacy notice. The Online Form Builder, based on the model form regulation published in the Federal Register on December 1, 2009, under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, is available with several options. Read the press release.
HELPING HANDS. An Arizona-based telemarketing operation that identified itself as “Helping Hands of Hope” has settled charges that it conned consumers into buying household items at prices substantially higher than retail, by falsely promising the proceeds would benefit charities or people with disabilities. The order requires the defendants to pay $26.3 million. The operation will turn over assets worth more than $60,000 in partial satisfaction of the judgment. The judgment against the operation’s president has been suspended based on her inability to pay. She will have to pay the full amount if she is later found to have misrepresented her financial condition. Read the press release.
CREDIT REPORTS. A new FTC rule can help people see through those confusing ads for “free credit reports” – which often require them to buy credit monitoring or other services. Truly free credit reports are available at AnnualCreditReport.com. Under the amended Free Credit Reports Rule, ads for these so-called “free” credit reports must have clear disclosures. Read the press release.
ON THE HORIZON. The FTC is seeking public comment about a proposed revision of the Horizontal Merger Guidelines, which outline how the federal antitrust agencies evaluate the likely competitive impact of mergers. The FTC and Department of Justice developed the proposed Guidelines after a series of public workshops; comments will be accepted through May 20. Read the press release.
FAIR DEBT COLLECTION. The FTC has issued its 32nd annual fair debt collection report. The report details the steps the agency has taken to protect people from --- and educate them about --- unfair, deceptive and abusive debt collection practices. Read the report.
Two Commissioners have joined the FTC.
Edith Ramirez was a partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP, in Los Angeles, where she handled a broad range of complex business litigation. She also has extensive appellate litigation experience. She was an associate at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP, in Los Angeles and clerked for the Hon. Alfred T. Goodwin in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Her term expires September 2015. Read the press release.
Julie Brill was the Senior Deputy Attorney General and Chief of Consumer Protection and Antitrust for the North Carolina Department of Justice, since February 2009. Brill also has been a Lecturer-in-Law at Columbia University’s School of Law. Prior to her move to the North Carolina Department of Justice, Brill was an Assistant Attorney General for Consumer Protection and Antitrust for the State of Vermont for over 20 years. Her term expires September 2016. Read the press release.
DEBT RELIEF SCAMS. The FTC told the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation that the FTC will continue its stepped-up efforts to protect financially strapped people from deceptive and abusive debt relief scams. In recent years, the FTC has brought 20 lawsuits against for-profit credit counseling firms, debt settlement services and debt negotiators; more investigations are under way. Read the press release.
COPPA ROUNTABLE. The FTC will host a roundtable on June 2 to explore several topics related to updating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule and protecting kids’ privacy in light of rapidly changing technology. The Rule was enacted in 2000 and requires website operators to get parental consent before collecting, using or disclosing personal information from children under 13. The roundtable will be held at the FTC Conference Center, 601 New Jersey Avenue N.W., Washington, DC. It is free and open to the public. Pre-registration is not required. A live webcast will be available at ftc.gov. Read the press release.
CREDIT CARD INTEREST RATE REDUCTION SCAMS. Warns people about robocalls and cautions that many credit card interest rate reduction offers are scams.
SETTLING YOUR CREDIT CARD DEBTS. Lists options for help in managing your debt, including dealing with your creditors directly, contacting a credit counselor, considering bankruptcy and dealing with companies that promise to settle your debt.
The Internet and other technologies have taken kids’ exposure to advertising to new levels: ads are virtually everywhere. That’s why the FTC has launched Admongo, a campaign to raise advertising literacy among the nation’s tweens. Admongo is designed to equip kids with critical thinking skills they can use to understand advertising messages. The resources at Admongo.gov help kids figure out who’s responsible for ads, what ads are saying and what ads want their target audiences to do.
Through Admongo.gov, a game-based website aims to teach kids to recognize commercial messages and prompts them to ask key questions when they see them. Teachers can incorporate the curriculum (tied to national standards of learning in language arts and social studies) into their lessons, use a library of fictional ads for teaching tools and send home activities for parents and kids to do together. All these materials are free and in the public domain.
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