The FTC had an active week and addressed numerous topics, including ways to protect older adults and gig economy workers. Notably, the FTC released a report showing the rise in sophisticated dark pattern practices and the Commission’s commitment to combatting them. The Commission also announced a proposed rule targeting government and business impersonation scams. This story and more after the jump.
Monday, September 12, 2022
Bureau of Consumer Protection: Older Adults Advisory Group Meeting
- Representatives from thirteen federal and state government agencies, along with representatives from industry and consumer advocates, will join the FTC on September 29, 2022 at 2:30 p.m. ET for the first meeting of the newly formed Scams Against Older Adults Advisory Group. The advisory group is led by the Commission and aims to address the following topics: (1) expanding consumer education efforts; (2) improving industry training on scam prevention; (3) identifying innovative or high-tech methods to detect and stop scams; and (4) developing research on consumer or employee engagement to reduce fraud.
Tuesday, September 13, 2022
Bureau of Competition: International Cooperation
- On September 13, 2022, the FTC participated in a meeting with enforcers from Mexico’s Federal Economic Competition Commission, Canada’s Competition Bureau, and the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. The meeting took place at FTC headquarters in Washington, D.C., and included roundtable discussions on agency enforcement priorities and the current legal environment in each jurisdiction. Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan stated that, “[w]orking closely with our North American neighbors is key for promoting fair, open, and competitive markets.” She also explained the benefits of “[d]eepening collaboration and cooperation” as a way to strengthen the countries’ “respective approaches to enforcement and better protect our citizens,” signaling potential collaboration with Mexican and Canadian competition bureaus in the future.
Thursday, September 15, 2022
Bureau of Consumer Protection: Advertising and Marketing; Dark Patterns
- The FTC announced the release of a staff report titled, Bringing Dark Patterns to Light. The report discusses key points from the FTC’s April 29, 2021 public workshop on digital dark patterns. The workshop featured a variety of speakers, including consumer advocates, members of Congress, researchers, legal experts, and other industry professionals. The report focuses on four dark patterns and consumer protection concerns, and recommendations for companies: (1) misleading consumers and disguising ads; (2) making it difficult to cancel subscriptions or make changes; (3) burying key terms and junk fees; and (4) tricking consumers into sharing data. The report also highlighted the FTC’s efforts to combat the use of dark patterns in the marketplace and reiterated the Agency’s commitment to stop practices designed to trick and trap consumers.
Bureaus of Consumer Protection and Competition: Enforcement Priorities to Protect Gig Workers
- The FTC announced enforcement priorities to defend consumers working in jobs that are part of the “gig economy.” In connection with the press release, the Commission released a policy statement that was approved 3-2. The statement outlines studies showing that gig work constitutes a substantial amount of economic activity in modern times and that it is made up of many people from communities of color. The statement highlighted areas where there is potential harm for gig economy workers including: (1) misrepresentations about the nature of gig work; (2) diminished bargaining power; and (3) concentrated competitor markets. The statement also outlined the Commission’s authority to enforce competition and consumer protection laws in the gig economy in order to secure consumer redress, civil penalties, and injunctions.
Bureau of Consumer Protection: Proposed Rule
- The FTC announced a proposed rule (16 CFR Part 461 Trade Regulation Rule on Impersonation of Government and Business) to challenge government and business impersonation scams. The FTC is seeking comment on potential actions that would challenge government and business impersonation scams by declaring tactics used by scammers unlawful. For instance, the proposed rule would ban scammers from: (1) using government seals or business logos when communicating with consumers by mail or online; (2) spoofing government and business emails and web addresses, including spoofing “.gov” email addresses or using lookalike email addresses or websites that rely on misspellings of a company’s name; and (3) falsely implying government or business affiliation by using terms that are known to be affiliated with a government agency or business (e.g., stating “I’m calling from the Clerk’s Office” to falsely imply affiliation with a court of law). The proposed rule would allow the Commission to recover restitution or seek civil penalties against violators of the rule. The Commission emphasized the importance of the rule following the AMG Capital Management LLC v. FTC decision, which significantly limited the agency’s ability to return money to consumers via restitution or disgorgement.
Bureau of Consumer Protection: Deceptive/Misleading Credit and Finance
- The FTC announced that it will be sending payment totaling more than $415,000 to 3,508 consumers who financed cars or trucks at a Tate’s Auto dealership after January 1, 2013 and later had their vehicle repossessed. The FTC filed a lawsuit against Tate’s Auto in 2018 for allegedly inflating consumers’ income on financing applications to third-party lenders, as well as deceiving consumers about the lease or financing terms of the vehicles they were buying, in violation of the FTC Act, the Truth in Lending Act, and the Consumer Leasing Act. The FTC settled with the corporate and individual defendants in August 2020 and July 2021, respectively.