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FTC Approves Changes to Vocational Schools Guides

November 20, 2013 Comments off

FTC Approves Changes to Vocational Schools Guides
Source: Federal Trade Commission

The Federal Trade Commission revised its Vocational School Guides, which advise against deceptive marketing practices by businesses that offer vocational training.

Created in 1972, the Vocational School Guides (formally known as Guides for Private Vocational and Distance Education Schools) address misrepresenting accreditation, the transferability of credit to other schools, government or employment agency affiliation, and testimonials or endorsements. They also warn against misrepresenting teacher or enrollment qualifications, the nature of courses, the availability of financial aid, and the availability of jobs for graduates. In addition, the Guides address the use of deceptive diplomas or certificates, and placing classified ads that appear to be “help wanted” ads.

In 2009, the FTC sought public comment on the Guides as part of its systematic review of all current FTC rules and guides. In response to those comments, the FTC has amended the Guides to address more specifically misrepresentations:

  • commonly used in recruitment, including those regarding completion/dropout rates and post-graduation job prospects;
  • about whether completion of a program will qualify students to take a licensing exam;
  • concerning a student’s score on an admissions test, how long it takes to complete a course or program, or a student’s likelihood of success; and
  • regarding the likelihood of financial aid or help with language barriers or learning disabilities, or how much credit students will receive for courses completed elsewhere.
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FTC Poses Eight Questions to Ask When Choosing a College After Military Service

November 12, 2013 Comments off

FTC Poses Eight Questions to Ask When Choosing a College After Military Service
Source: Federal Trade Commission

The Federal Trade Commission is advising servicemembers, veterans, and their families that some for-profit schools may be more interested in gaining access to their post 9/11 GI Bill benefits than helping them fulfill their education goals. To help servicemembers identify a school that will meet their needs as they transition to student status, the FTC released a new tip sheet.

The guidance, 8 Questions to Ask When Choosing a College, encourages servicemembers, veterans and their families to carefully assess the schools they’re interested in attending, whether working toward a certificate or a higher degree. Using words such as “veteran” or “military-approved” may not necessarily equate to better education and support.

FTC Closes Seven-month Investigation of Proposed Office Depot/OfficeMax Merger

November 6, 2013 Comments off

FTC Closes Seven-month Investigation of Proposed Office Depot/OfficeMax Merger
Source: Federal Trade Commission

The Federal Trade Commission has unanimously voted to close its seven-month investigation into the proposed $1.2 billion merger of office supply superstores Office Depot, Inc. and OfficeMax, Inc. and has issued a Commission statement detailing the basis for its decision.

While the FTC successfully challenged the proposed merger of office supply superstores Staples, Inc., and Office Depot in 1997, the Commission observes in today’s statement that its investigation, “has shown that the market for the sale of consumable office supplies has changed significantly in the intervening years.” As a result, office supply superstores “today face significant competition and . . . the proposed merger is unlikely to substantially lessen competition in the retail sale of consumable office supplies.”

Aaron’s Rent-To-Own Chain Settles FTC Charges That it Enabled Computer Spying by Franchisees

October 28, 2013 Comments off

Aaron’s Rent-To-Own Chain Settles FTC Charges That it Enabled Computer Spying by Franchisees
Source: Federal Trade Commission

Aaron’s, Inc., a national, Atlanta-based rent-to-own retailer, has agreed to settle FTC charges that it knowingly played a direct and vital role in its franchisees’ installation and use of software on rental computers that secretly monitored consumers including by taking webcam pictures of them in their homes.

According to the FTC’s complaint, Aaron’s franchisees used the software, which surreptitiously tracked consumers’ locations, captured images through the computers’ webcams – including those of adults engaged in intimate activities – and activated keyloggers that captured users’ login credentials for email accounts and financial and social media sites.

“Consumers have a right to rent computers free of cyberspying and to know when and how they are being tracked by a company,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “By enabling their franchisees to use this invasive software, Aaron’s facilitated a violation of many consumers’ privacy.”

FTC Proposes Changes to Wool Products Labeling Rules

September 18, 2013 Comments off

FTC Proposes Changes to Wool Products Labeling Rules
Source: Federal Trade Commission

The Federal Trade Commission is seeking public comment on proposed changes to its Wool Products Labeling Rules as part of its systematic review of all current FTC rules and guides.

The Wool Products Labeling Rules require that labels on wool products disclose the manufacturer’s or marketer’s name, the country where the product was processed or manufactured, and information about the fiber content. The FTC first issued the Rules under the Wool Products Labeling Act of 1939, known as the Wool Act. The agency completed its last review of the Rules in 1998 and modified the Rules in 1998 and 2000. In 2006, the Wool Act was amended by the Wool Suit Fabric Labeling Fairness and International Standards Conforming Act, which provides that wool products identified as cashmere or as containing very fine wools are misbranded unless they have no more than the average fiber diameter specified in the Act.

In January 2012, the FTC sought comment on the Rules. In response to the comments received, the FTC proposes changes designed to clarify and update the Rules, to make them more flexible, and to align them with the Commission’s proposed amendments to the Textile Rules. The proposed changes include incorporating the Wool Act’s new definitions for cashmere and very fine wools, clarifying descriptions of products containing virgin or new wool, and revising the Rules to allow certain hang-tags disclosing fiber trademarks and performance even if they do not disclose the product’s full fiber content.

FTC Advises Consumers on Preventing, Identifying, and Dealing With Hacked Email or Social Networking Accounts

August 8, 2013 Comments off

FTC Advises Consumers on Preventing, Identifying, and Dealing With Hacked Email or Social Networking Accounts
Source: Federal Trade Commission

The Federal Trade Commission has new tips to help people deal with email and social networking hacks, whether it’s lessening the chances of a hack in the first place, or recovering from a hack once it happens.

Hacked Email, new guidance from the FTC, identifies signs an account may have been hacked such as friends and family members receiving messages the user didn’t send, a sent folder emptied, social media posts the user didn’t create, or email or other accounts the user can’t open.

If consumers think they have been hacked, the FTC encourages them to take the following actions:

  • Make sure security software is up-to-date and delete malware;
  • Change passwords;
  • Check with their email provider or social networking site for information about restoring the account;
  • Check account settings; and
  • Tell your friends

Using unique passwords for important sites like banking and email and safeguarding user names and passwords can help users protect themselves from hackers. The FTC recommends users turn on two-factor authentication if a service provider offers it; not click on links or open attachments from unknown users; and only download free software from sites a user knows and trusts. When using a public computer, do not let web browsers remember passwords, and log out of all accounts when finished.

FTC Acts Against Spam Text and Robocalling Operations

August 7, 2013 Comments off

FTC Acts Against Spam Text and Robocalling Operations
Source: Federal Trade Commission

The Federal Trade Commission has moved to shut down an international network of scammers that sent millions of unwanted text messages to consumers, using the lure of “free” gift cards and electronics to entice consumers into an elaborate scheme designed to take their money and target them for illegal robocalls.

In its complaint, the FTC alleges that scammers sent unwanted text messages to consumers, many of whom had to pay for receiving the texts. The messages promised consumers free gifts or prizes, including gift cards worth $1,000 to major retailers such as Best Buy, Walmart and Target.

Consumers who clicked on the links in the messages found themselves caught in a confusing and elaborate process that required them to provide sensitive personal information, apply for credit or pay to subscribe to services to get the supposedly “free” cards. In addition, consumers’ phone numbers were signed up to receive unwanted automated telemarketing calls, also known as robocalls.

This complaint builds on a nationwide sweep conducted by the Commission in March to crack down on scammers who use these spam text messages to deceive consumers.

The FTC complaint names nine defendants who allegedly were involved in various aspects of the operation in violation of the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule. It seeks injunctions against the defendants preventing them from continuing their alleged deceptive and unfair practices as well as requiring them to pay monetary relief.

According to the complaint, when consumers followed the links included in the unwanted messages, they were directed to sites that collected a substantial amount of personal information, including in some instances health information, before being allowed to continue toward receiving the supposed gift cards. In many cases, the information was requested under the guise of being shipping information for the supposed gift cards. The Commission alleges that in addition to selling the information for marketing purposes, the defendants also made unwanted automated telemarketing calls to consumers selling products such as home security, satellite television and travel services.

Once consumers entered their personal information, they were directed to another site and told they would have to participate in a number of “offers” to be eligible for their gift card. In some cases, consumers were obligated to sign up for as many as 13 of the offers. These offers frequently included recurring subscriptions for which consumers were required to provide credit card information and pay up front for “shipping and handling” charges. In other cases, they required consumers to submit applications for credit that would be reflected in their credit reports and possibly affect their credit score.

In most, if not all, instances, it would be impossible for a consumer to receive the allegedly “free” merchandise without spending money, according to the complaint.

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