FOR THE CONSUMER
The FTC's monthly newsletter for the Congressional community
It's the news you - and your constituents - can use.
Volume 8- Number 2
IN THIS ISSUE
SUNTASIA. Fourteen defendants involved in Suntasia Marketing, Inc.’s, massive telemarketing scheme will pay more than $16 million to settle FTC charges that they deceptively marketed memberships in discount buyer’s and travel clubs to nearly a million consumers nationwide. The FTC alleged that the defendants tricked people into divulging their bank account information and then charged them without authorization. Suntasia victims will get an additional $33 million as part of another settlement between the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and Wachovia Bank, N.A., which allegedly processed thousands of unauthorized demand drafts on Suntasia’s behalf. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/01/suntasia.shtm.
ELECTRIFYING. The marketers of Ab Force belts will pay $7 million to settle FTC charges that they made false and deceptive claims that their device —which applies electronic stimulation to the abdominal muscles — would cause users to lose weight, create well-defined abdominal muscles, and be an effective alternative to conventional exercise. People bought more than 700,000 Ab Force belts and accessories. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/01/telebrands.shtm.
AT THEIR DISPOSAL. The FTC has charged a mortgage broker with discarding people’s sensitive personal and financial information in an unsecured dumpster, in violation of federal law. According to the FTC, Gregory Navone didn’t implement policies for secure disposal and allowed 40 boxes of tax returns, mortgage applications, bank statements, photocopies of credit cards and drivers’ licenses, and at least 230 credit reports to be thrown out in a publicly-accessible dumpster. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/01/navone.shtm.
TRUE-D‘OH. A federal judge has ordered infomercial marketer Kevin Trudeau to pay more than $37 million for violating a 2004 stipulated order by misrepresenting the contents of his book, “The Weight Loss Cure ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About.” In August 2008, a federal judge banned Trudeau from producing or publishing infomercials for products in which he has a financial interest for three years. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/01/trudeau.shtm.
PAVING THE WAY. The FTC blocked Oldcastle Architectural, Inc.’s purchase of rival Pavestone to preserve competition for drycast concrete hardscape products used by D-I-Yers. The merged firm would have had nearly 90 percent of sales of patio products, like concrete pavers and retaining wall blocks, to the national home improvement centers, The Home Depot, Lowe’s and Wal-Mart. The companies ended their merger plans once the FTC took action to stop the deal. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/01/crh.shtm.
NO DEAL. West Penn Multi-List Inc. has agreed to settle FTC charges that its rules unfairly discouraged home sellers from using non-traditional listings or discount real estate brokers. West Penn agreed to drop rules that withheld valuable Multiple Listing Service benefits from brokers who didn’t use traditional listing contracts. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/01/westpenn.shtm.
DO NOT CALL. By federal court order, two groups of vacation and timeshare companies will pay a total of almost $1.2 million for violating the FTC’s Do Not Call Rule. Central Florida Investments, Inc., Westgate Resorts, Ltd., and All In One Vacation Club, LLC --- and their affiliated companies --- called people whose phone numbers were on the Do Not Call Registry without having their consent or an “established business relationship.” Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/01/westgate.shtm.
AT THE FTC
The FTC will host the following events at its conference center at 601 New Jersey Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. These events are free and open to the public; a government-issued photo ID is required for entry. Pre-registration is not required.
RESALE PRICE MAINTENANCE (RPM). These workshops, to be held February 17 and 19, will examine the economic harms and benefits of RPM, which typically involves an agreement that sets the prices at which a retailer resells a manufacturer’s goods to consumers. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/01/rpm.shtm.
FRAUD FORUM. The Fraud Forum will take place February 25 and 26. On the first day, law enforcement, consumer advocates, business representatives, and academics will examine the extent of fraud in the economy; how scammers learn the tools of their trade; who is at greatest risk of fraud; and what opportunities exist for improved self-regulatory efforts. The second day is open to domestic and international law enforcement officials only. A live webcast of this workshop will be available at www.ftc.gov. Send comments to email@example.com. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/10/fraud.shtm.
AD LITERACY. The FTC will host an Advertising Literacy Forum on March 12, 2009 to gather input for its advertising literacy initiative, which seeks to raise awareness among tweens about advertising and marketing messages; improve their ability to read, analyze, and appreciate advertisements; and show them the benefits of being an informed consumer. Experts on advertising and marketing to kids will discuss what children experience in the commercial world, what they should know to navigate in it, and what they understand about their experiences. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/01/literacy.shtm.
GLOBAL DATA SECURITY. The FTC and two international organizations will host a conference March 16 and 17 for policymakers, consumer advocates, industry representatives, technology experts, and academics from around the world to address how companies can manage personal data security issues internationally. A live webcast of this workshop will be available at www.ftc.gov. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/12/datasec.shtm.
ON THE ROAD
DRM BEAT. The FTC and the Technology Law and Public Policy Clinic at the University of Washington School of Law will host a free conference on the use of digital rights management technologies (DRM), which hardware manufacturers, publishers, and copyright holders typically use to control how consumers access and use content. The workshop, which is open to the public, will be held March 25 from 9 am to 4:30 pm at the University of Washington Law School in Seattle . Comments and research may be submitted electronically at https://secure.commentworks.com/ftc-DRMtechnologies. Pre-registration is not required. A live webcast will be available at www.ftc.gov. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/12/drm.shtm.
VIRTUAL WORLDS AND KIDS: MAPPING THE RISKS. A quick guide to inform parents about online virtual worlds and help kids avoid content or virtual spaces that might be inappropriate for them. www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt038.shtm.
National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) 2009, which takes place March 1-7, focuses on the tools for dealing with today’s economy and for making smart financial decisions. Information can help people get the most for their money, whether they are trying to stretch their paychecks, find a quick fix for a spotty credit history, or tell the difference between a real deal and a potentially fraudulent product or service. The NCPW site, www.consumer.gov/ncpw, offers free resources --- the nuts and bolts --- to share with your constituents.
The FTC and its NCPW partners are sponsoring an NCPW Information and Resources Fair on Thursday February 19, from 9:30 am to 11:00 am in the Rayburn Foyer, Rayburn House Office Building. Enjoy a light breakfast and meet staff from a variety of federal agencies and consumer groups which have free information about managing debt and credit, getting your free annual credit report, making decisions about mortgages, protecting personal information, and more. Pick up materials to distribute in your district and get ideas for town hall meetings, community programs, and newsletter articles. To learn more about the Fair, contact Derick Rill at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get more information about NCPW at www.consumer.gov/ncpw.
FTC'S OFFICE OF CONGRESSIONAL RELATIONS: 202-326-2195.
Check out the CONGRESSIONAL RESOURCES portion of our website at
www.ftc.gov/ocr/index.shtml. No password needed to access.
ORDERING FTC's FREE CONSUMER INFORMATION
-- For one to 49 copies of FTC publications, call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
-- For 50 or more copies of publications, visit www.ftc.gov/bulkorder
-- If you need a copy of any publication immediately, you can view, download, and print from www.ftc.gov
-- For special orders, email Derick Rill at email@example.com
To file a fraud complaint, visit www.ftc.gov or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
To subscribe or unsubscribe to this newsletter:
-- Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, Member or Committee affiliation, email address, and the word "subscribe" or "unsubscribe" in the body of the message.