ICFE eNEWS #15-05 - February 17th 2015
"Unlimited data” doesn't live up to its name
TracFone, the largest prepaid mobile provider in the U.S., agreed
to refund $40 million to customers to settle
FTC charges that
it misled millions of people with promises of "unlimited” data service.
The Commission alleges that TracFone, under its various brands,
advertised prepaid monthly mobile plans for $45 per month with "unlimited”
data. Although TracFone emphasized unlimited data in its ads, the
company drastically slowed or cut off people's mobile data after
they used more than a fixed amount in a 30-day period. Customers
who had a Straight Talk, Net10, Simple Mobile, or Telcel America
unlimited plan before January 2015 can visit FTC.gov/prepaidphones to
file a claim for a refund.
Report on internet-connected things
The FTC released a detailed report
on the Internet of Things.
It comes at a time when many Americans benefit from a growing world
of internet-connected gadgets — like health and fitness monitors,
home security devices, connected cars and household appliances.
The report recommends that companies developing Internet of Things
devices give people choices about how their information will be
used, build security in at the outset, consider measures to keep
unauthorized users from accessing a consumer's device or data, and
where feasible, provide security patches to cover known risks.
Slick car title loans
The FTC settled its first case with car title lenders. Two
companies, First American Title Lending of Georgia, LLC, and Finance
Select, Inc., advertised zero percent interest rates for 30-day
car title loans without letting people know about important loan
conditions, or about a higher finance charge that kicked in after
the introductory period ended. The companies, which advertised in
English and in Spanish, are ordered to stop using deceptive advertising
to market car title loans. They also must tell people the true cost
of their loans — including all of the qualifying terms associated
with getting a loan at the advertised rate, and what the finance
charge will be after an introductory rate ends.
Supermarket merger sacked
Supermarket operators Albertsons and Safeway Inc. have agreed to
sell 168 stores to settle FTC charges that
their proposed $9.2 billion merger would likely raise grocery prices
in 130 local markets in Arizona, California, Montana, Nevada, Oregon,
Texas, Washington, and Wyoming. According to the FTC, Albertsons
and Safeway compete on the bases of price, quality, product variety,
and services, and offer consumers the convenience of one-stop shopping
for food and other grocery products. The FTC-ordered divestitures
preserve supermarket competition in the affected cities.
National Consumer Protection Week begins March 1st
Every year, National
Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) encourages
people and businesses to learn more about avoiding scams and understanding
consumer rights. This year, NCPW takes place March 1-7, 2015. NCPW
highlights free resources from government agencies and consumer
organizations to help people make smarter buying decisions and spot
rip-offs. Visit NCPW.gov to
find out about consumer education materials available from NCPW
partners, and order free FTC materials.
Revenge porn website banned
A recent FTC settlement bans
Craig Brittain, the operator of an alleged "revenge porn” website,
from publicly sharing any more nude videos or photos of people without
their permission. The FTC says Brittain tricked women to acquire
and post intimate images of them, then referred the women to another
website he controlled, where they were told they could have the
pictures removed if they paid hundreds of dollars. The settlement
requires Brittain to permanently delete all the images and personal
information he collected — people's names, towns, phone numbers,
and Facebook profiles.
"The only way for the Internet of Things to reach its full potential
for innovation is with the trust of American consumers. We believe
that by adopting the best practices we've laid out, businesses will
be better able to provide consumers the protections they want and
allow the benefits of the Internet of Things to be fully realized."
— FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez
Bogus coffee bean claim
Lindsey Duncan and his companies, Pure Health LLC, and Genesis Today,
to settle FTC charges that
they made false claims that green coffee bean supplements cause
significant and fast weight-loss without diet or exercise. The FTC
says Duncan settled charges that he and his companies misled people
about the supposed weight-loss benefits of green coffee bean extract
through a campaign that included appearances on The Dr. Oz Show,
The View, and other TV programs. Duncan and his companies will pay
$9 million in redress.
Doggy bags foul
The FTC sent letters warning
20 manufacturers and marketers of dog waste bags that their "biodegradable”
and "compostable” environmental claims may be deceiving users. The
agency sent the letters after it looked at the companies' green
marketing claims. The FTC pointed out examples of potentially misleading
statements about how the bags will break down into their natural
components within a year after they are thrown away. Most waste
bags end up in landfills where it takes longer than a year to biodegrade,
if they do at all.
Lame brain training claims
As the result of a
settlement with the FTC, Focus Education and its officers, Michael
Apstein and John Able, must stop making unproven claims that their
computer game, Jungle Rangers, permanently improves children's focus,
memory, attention, behavior, and school performance, including for
children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The
Commission says the company and its officers violated the FTC Act
by making false and unproven claims, including their claim that
the benefits of the game were proven scientifically.
Debt collector deception
The FTC issued a complaint
against Commercial Recovery Systems, Inc. (CRS),
its president, Timothy Ford, and its former vice president, David
Devany, for violating the FTC Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices
Act by using deceptive methods to collect debts. The Commission
says CRS illegally threatened consumers with false claims — often
stating or implying that they were lawyers or judicial employees
calling to collect a debt. According to the FTC, CRS employees claimed
people would face legal action or have a certain amount of their
paychecks withheld to pay off the debt unless they paid up.
IN OTHER NEWS:
Tax ID Theft Tops FTC Complaints in 2014; IRS Imposter Complaints
Up More Than 2,300 Percent
FTC Sends Refund Checks Totaling More Than $700,000 to Consumers
Who Lost Money in Robocall Scheme
FTC Sends Refund Checks Totaling More Than $700,000 to Consumers
Who FTC ‘Fotonovela' Warns Latino Community About Debt Collection
FTC Sends Refund
Checks Totaling More Than $700,000 to Consumers Who scammer? Beware
of family emergency scams.
The FTC has technology
tips for domestic violence and stalking victims.
Staying at a hotel?
Weigh the risks before using the hotel's Wi-Fi.
Federal Trade Commission | 600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW | Washington