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 1
IN THIS ISSUE
SUNTASIA. The FTC will mail more than 356,000 checks — totaling approximately $14 million — to reimburse people who were victimized by a fraudulent telemarketing scheme operated by Suntasia Marketing. In a December 2008 settlement, Suntasia and its affiliates agreed to pay more than $11 million in cash to the FTC and turn over various property to be sold. According to the FTC, from 1999 to 2007, Suntasia deceptively marketed a series of memberships in buyers’ and travel clubs to nearly a million consumers nationwide. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2010/01/suntasia.shtm.
NET CETERA. FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski have released Net Cetera: Chatting with Kids About Being Online, a booklet that tells parents and teachers what they need to know to talk to kids about issues like cyberbullying, sexting, mobile phone safety, and protecting the family computer. Download or order free copies of Net Cetera at OnGuardOnline.gov, a partnership of more than a dozen federal agencies and the technology industry. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/12/netcetera.shtm.
INSIDE THE ENVELOPE. A federal court has jailed Zoilo Cruz for ignoring a 2008 court order that required him to stop scamming Spanish-speakers in the U.S. and Puerto Rico into thinking they could earn substantial income working at home stuffing envelopes in exchange for a $37 fee. Instead of earning money, buyers got a pamphlet explaining how to place their own misleading ads to sell the same pamphlet. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/12/intermarketing.shtm.
CHIP DOMINATION. The FTC has charged Intel with illegally using its dominant market position to stifle competition and hold on to its computer chip monopoly. According to the FTC, Intel waged a decade-long campaign to shut out rivals from the marketplace, depriving computer buyers of choice and innovation for microchips in central processing units (CPUs) and graphic processing units (GPUs). The FTC wants to prevent Intel from using threats, bundled prices, or other offers to encourage exclusive deals, hamper competition, or unfairly manipulate the price of its chips. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/12/intel.shtm.
FREE TRIAL OFFERS. The FTC, Visa and the BBB have alerted consumers to online deceptive marketing connected to free trial offers, which often require people to cancel or opt-out of a recurring charge for future products or services. While many merchants use this billing process appropriately, others pre-check consent boxes, bury the details of the offers in the fine print and terms and conditions, and make cancellations or returns difficult, catching people in a cycle of recurring charges for products and services they don’t want. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/12/visa.shtm.
DO NOT CALL REGISTRY
- FY09 DATA BOOK. FY 2009 complaint data – by month, complaint type, population, area code and more, as well as general information about the Registry, including the number of active registrations and consumer complaints since the Registry opened in 2003. Read the report: www.ftc.gov/os/2009/12/091208dncadatabook.pdf.
- BIENNIAL. Focuses on the use of the Registry in FY09: more than 191 million active registrations, and more than 18 million new phone numbers registered; nearly 45,000 sellers, telemarketers, and others paid more than $15 million in fees to access the Registry; and the FTC implemented a new procedure for tracking disconnected and reassigned phone numbers. Read the report: www.ftc.gov/os/2010/01/100104dncbiennialreport.pdf.
- ENFORCEMENT. DNC enforcement efforts since 2003: the FTC and the FCC have collected more than $22 million in penalties from Registry violators; the agencies have prohibited (and the FTC has brought 18 actions stopping) “robocalls” — the practice of delivering a pre-recorded message instead of connecting a consumer to a live representative when a consumer answer the call. Read the report: www.ftc.gov/os/2010/01/100104dncadditionalreport.pdf.
FRAUD FORUM. Proposes developing more effective ways to protect people from scams, including reaching under-served communities; improving victim assistance; training law enforcers and legal services in the use of new technologies to fight fraud; expanding the number of contributors to the Consumer Sentinel Network database; and encouraging more research on fraud victims and scammers. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/12/fraud.shtm.
SAFE WEB. Examines how the agency has used the Safe Web Act’s expanded law enforcement authority to share information and work cooperatively with foreign law enforcement agencies to protect consumers from cross-border fraud. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/12/safeweb.shtm.
VIRTUAL WORLDS. Urges operators of virtual worlds to take a number of steps to keep explicit content away from children and teens, and recommends that parents familiarize themselves with the virtual worlds their kids visit. According to the findings, although little explicit content appeared in child-oriented virtual worlds, a moderate to heavy amount of content appeared in virtual worlds that are designed for teens and adults. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/12/virtualworlds.shtm.
VIOLENT ENTERTAINMENT AND KIDS. How the marketers of violent music, movies, and video games can do more to restrict the promotion of these products to children. The music industry has not yet adopted objective marketing standards limiting ad placement for explicit-content music. Both the video game and movie industries can do more to limit ad placement on websites that disproportionately attract children and teens. The growing practice of releasing unrated DVDs undermines the movie rating system, and confuses parents. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/12/violentent.shtm.
PRE-PAID CALLING CARDS
House Committee on Energy and Commerce
Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection
The testimony details how the FTC has cracked down on the deceptive marketing of prepaid phone cards through law enforcement actions and a joint federal-state task force that includes representatives from the offices of more than 35 state attorneys general and other agencies. Pending legislation would benefit consumers by giving the FTC stronger tools to combat the problem. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/12/prepaidcards.shtm.
YOU ARE HERE. Helps kids protect their privacy, spot frauds and scams, and avoid identity theft. At the new Security Plaza at www.ftc.gov/youarehere, visitors can build a social networking page, see the unintended consequences of posting personal information, and get tips on how to keep their computers safe while they’re online. In the arcade, visitors can play Info Defender 3 and protect Earthlings from Cyclorian invaders who would steal their identities. www.ftc.gov/youarehere.
DEFECTIVE IMPORTED DRYWALL: DON’T GET NAILED BY BOGUS TESTS AND TREATMENTS. Alerts homeowners to possible problems with imported drywall and to avoid anyone trying to sell test kits, inspections, and quick fixes for tainted drywall. 8.5" X 11", 1 page, b&w. www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt164.shtm.
MIRACLE HEALTH CLAIMS bookmark. Warns that products that claim to cure a variety of serious conditions overpromise and underdeliver. Worse, they could be dangerous. 8.5"x2.5", 2 sided, color. www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/bookmarks/bmk17.pdf. Order free copies at http://bulkorder.ftc.gov.
COULD FREE TRIAL OFFERS BE ‘FEE’ TRIAL OFFERS IN DISGUISE? Explains online schemes offering "free trial" membership or products turn out to be costly. Includes guidelines for online marketers to make sure consumers understand the offer before they accept. 8.5"x11", 2 pages. www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt008.shtm.
The following events are free and open to the public. No pre-registration required.
MERGER GUIDELINES. The FTC and U.S. Department of Justice have been holding a series of joint public workshops to explore the possibility of updating the Horizontal Merger Guidelines used by both agencies to evaluate the potential competitive effects of mergers and acquisitions. The fourth workshop will take place January 14 at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, Stanford University, Stanford, California. The fifth workshop will take place January 26 at the FTC Conference Center in Washington, DC. For more information, visit www.ftc.gov/bc/workshops/hmg/index.shtml#dec3.
PRIVACY. The FTC is hosting a series of public roundtables 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. Participants — including academics, privacy experts, consumer advocates, and industry members — will discuss the risks and benefits of information collection and use in online and offline contexts, consumer expectations about various information management practices, and the adequacy of existing regimens to address privacy interests. The next roundtable will be held January 28 at the University of California, Berkeley, California. A live webcast will be available at www.ftc.gov. For more information, visit www.ftc.gov/bcp/workshops/privacyroundtables.
The FTC encourages all Members to participate with other federal, state and local government agencies and consumer protection organizations in the 12th Annual NCPW, March 7-13. This coordinated consumer education 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. The message of NCPW 2010: It’s never too early or too late to become a more informed and empowered consumer. The FTC and its partners are promoting free materials on protecting privacy, managing money and debt, avoiding identity theft, understanding credit and mortgages, and steering clear of frauds and scams. You can download content from www.consumer.gov or order free materials at http://bulkorder.ftc.gov. Grab buttons and banners to link to the NCPW site, cut and paste information into your constituent newsletters or blog posts, distribute copies of materials in your offices or use them in a town hall meeting. For more information about how you can promote NCPW in your district, contact Derick Rill at email@example.com.
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