The FTC hosted an online privacy seminar that brought together researchers, academics, and industry representatives to discuss trends related to consumer privacy and data security. The agency announced a lawsuit against an education technology provider for allegedly lax data security practices that exposed sensitive information about millions of customers and employees. The agency also announced a settlement with a major telecommunications company over alleged junk fees and dark pattern practices. These stories and more after the jump.Continue Reading FTC Updates (October 31 – November 4, 2022)
The FTC had its hands full last week with enforcement actions—releasing orders and a warning letter in matters across the board from consumer privacy, to COVID-19, and to advertising. More on these actions, as well as an update on a forthcoming event on consumer privacy and data security, after the jump.Continue Reading FTC Updates (October 24-28, 2022)
It’s rulemaking week at the FTC, particularly within the Bureau of Consumer Protection. The agency announced multiple Advance Notices of Proposed Rulemaking for public comment in connection with its October 20, 2022 Open Commission meeting. These Notices and other FTC reports this week touch on fake reviews, illegal fees, protecting older consumers, right-to-repair issues, energy costs, and even funeral services. FTC Commissioners issued a joint statement responding to allegations that its staff traded stocks and funds more than those at any other major agency, while FTC Chair Lina Khan and Department of Justice Antitrust Division Assistant Attorney General Johnathan Kantor met with European competition officials on regulating digital markets. These stories and more after the jump.Continue Reading FTC Updates (October 10-21, 2022)
The FTC announced two victories in separate actions against Personal Protective Equipment (“PPE”) companies and secured more than $17 million for consumers. In the two cases, the FTC has alleged that California-based Glowyy and Louisiana-based American Screening each failed to deliver PPE products within promised time periods during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the FTC announced a new action and consent agreement against online homebuying firm Opendoor Labs, Inc. for allegedly misleading claims about the benefits of its service. Last, the Commission is sending checks totaling more than $1 million to 1,966 consumers who were harmed by a debt collection scam. These stories and more after the jump.Continue Reading FTC Updates (August 1-5, 2022)
This week, the FTC announced that it reached settlements with a state real estate board and an international online business coaching organization. It also announced that millions of dollars in refunds would be made available following a win at trial against a private website attempting to assist consumers with government services. The conduct ranges from allegedly anticompetitive behaviors in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act as well as false and deceptive marketing and advertising practices. These stories and more after the jump.
Continue Reading FTC Updates (April 1-8, 2022)
Friday, February 18, 2022
Bureau of Competition: Endorsements, Influencers, and Reviews
The FTC is refunding more than $580,000 to consumers across the country who bought indoor TV antennas and signal amplifiers marketed online with allegedly deceptive claims that the products would allow the consumers to cancel their cable service and still receive their preferred channels for free. The March 2021 complaint alleged that Wellco, Inc. and its owner and CEO, George M. Moscone violated the FTC Act by making deceptive performance claims for their antennas and signal amplifiers and using deceptive consumer endorsements and web pages that looked like objective news reports. The products were sold online under the brand names TV Scout, SkyWire, SkyLink, and Tilt TV.
Continue Reading FTC Updates (February 14-18, 2022)
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The DNR Tattoo
Last week, the Associated Press reported the fascinating story of an unconscious man admitted in acute distress to Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital. The words “Do Not Resuscitate” were tattooed across his upper chest, where one would see them before engaging in chest compressions. He carried no identification, so the medical staff could not reach his next of kin. A decision had to be made immediately, however: do we attempt to revive him?
If doctors took the tattoo at face value, the patient would die. If they rejected the literal words, reading ambiguity into it (perhaps it was merely the result of youthful indiscretion), he might live. The stakes could not have been higher. “We’ve always joked about this, but holy crap, this man actually did it,” said the attending ER physician. “You look at it, laugh a little, and then go: Oh no, I actually have to deal with this.” Fortunately, Jackson Memorial has an ethics team on call for these kinds of situations, and after swift consideration, they recommended that the doctors honor the man’s tattooed request — they allowed the man to die.
Apparently, this is not the first DNR tattoo story. An author in the Journal of Internal Medicine writes of a patient admitted to the hospital for serious surgery, who had the letters “D.N.R.” tattooed on his sternum. When interviewed as part of preoperative procedure, he indicated that he in fact did want to be resuscitated if he went into arrest during surgery, contrary to what was written on his chest. He explained that he acquired the DNR tattoo after losing a drunken poker bet. The author dryly remarks, “It was suggested that he consider tattoo removal to circumvent future confusion about his code status.” The patient declined, however, saying that “he did not think anyone would take his tattoo seriously…”
Can Advertisers Be Taken at Their Word?
The tattoo story has me thinking about its application to advertising. In our line of work, we are frequently confronted with ad copy that expressly says one thing, but arguably implies something else. Indeed, most comparative advertising disputes arise from this kind of situation. The advertiser has carefully crafted a claim, believing it to be truthful and well substantiated. A challenger argues that the literal words may be true, but that the claim also implies something different, and that the different implication is false. Very few sophisticated advertisers are careless or unscrupulous enough to communicate literally false claims. Arguing about implied claims is where the action is.