After a slower start in August, the FTC has been busy with actions taken to protect everyday consumers who have been the victims of organized schemes intended to mislead them. The FTC also announced the appointment of a new Director of the Bureau of Competition This and more, after the jump.
Monday, August 14, 2023
Bureau of Consumer Protection: Credit Reporting and CAN-SPAM Act
- The FTC announced a settlement with Experience Consumers Services (ECS), which offers consumers access to their Experian credit information, resolving allegations that company violated the CAN-SPAM Act by allegedly failing to provide clear and conspicuous notices of consumers’ ability to opt out of receiving marketing messages. According to the complaint filed by the Department of Justice on behalf of the FTC, consumers who signed up for free membership accounts with ECS were then sent emails promoting Experian’s products and services. However, the emails did not contain an unsubscribe link consumers could use to keep from receiving additional marketing messages. The proposed order provides that ECS will pay $650,000 in penalties and the company is prohibited from sending marketing emails to consumers without an opt-out option.
Wednesday, August 16, 2023
Bureau of Consumer Protection: Real Estate Investment
- The FTC announced that it will be sending refunds totaling approximately $10 million to consumers across the country who bought real estate overseas under allegedly deceptive means. The complaint alleged that Sanctuary Belize, along with other corporate partners and individuals, deceptively promised consumers they would be investing in a luxury development and resort. However, the defendants failed to deliver on the promised amenities, causing consumers who invested in Sanctuary property to lose money and their ability to resell the real estate.
Thursday, August 17, 2023
Bureau of Consumer Protection: Telemarketing
- The FTC announced that fees for telemarketers accessing phone numbers on the National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry will increase in 2024, although the Telemarketing Sales Rule Fees will become effective on October 1, 2023. The cost of accessing a single area code in the registry will be $78 in 2024, which is an increase of $3. The maximum charge to any single entity for accessing all area codes nationwide is now $21,402 (up from $20,740).
Monday, August 21, 2023
Bureau of Consumer Protection: Student Debt Relief
- A federal court approved a temporary restraining order on August 16, 2023, to stop a student debt relief scam. The FTC alleged in its complaint that defendants claimed to offer student debt relief under the “Biden Loan Forgiveness” plan and defrauded students of millions of dollars in illegal fees.
Tuesday, August 22, 2023
Bureau of Consumer Protection: Deceptive Conduct
- A federal court issued a temporary restraining order on August 11, 2023, that shut down an investment scheme that misled people to invest in online stores. The FTC alleged that Automators claimed to use artificial intelligence to ensure profitability of its investors and that most of its and other named defendants’ clients lost significantly.
Bureau of Consumer Protection: Online Advertising and Marketing
- The FTC and DOJ are sending over $9 million to 22,562 people who lost money to student loan debt relief scheme Ameritech Financial. Brandon Frere was convicted of criminal charges related to his operation of the scheme, which, according to the FTC’s complaint, misrepresented affiliation with the Department of Education. Consumers with questions about the refund process should visit the FTC’s FAQ page.
Bureau of Competition: Director Announced
- Federal Trade Commission Chair Khan announced on August 22, 2023, that Henry Liu was appointed as Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition. Liu was a partner in Covington & Burling’s litigation and antitrust practices. The Commission approved Liu in a 3-0 vote.
Wednesday, August 23, 2023
Bureau of Consumer Protection: FCRA, Credit Reporting
- On August 23, the FTC announced that it is contacting more than 9,000 people who may be eligible to receive compensation due to the agency’s settlement with Vivint Smart Home, Inc., a home security company. The FTC alleged in its complaint that Vivint violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) by using the credit history of another person, or adding a co-signer without their permission, to approve unqualified customers. Vivint referred the innocent third parties linked to the defaulting customers to debt collectors. Vivint agreed to pay $20 million in total civil penalties and consumer compensation, $4.7 million of which will be available for the claims process, as well as create a Customer Service Task Force.
Thursday, August 24, 2023
Bureau of Consumer Protection: Funerals
- The FTC released an agenda for its upcoming Funeral Rule Workshop set to take place on September 7, 2023 in a hybrid format. The FTC will also webcast the event live on its website. The event will cover comments on an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued by the agency in November. The ANPR discussed potential updates to the Funeral Rule, including whether online pricing by funeral providers should be required.