ICFE eNEWS #15-05 - February 17th 2015

Penn Corner  - FTC update

“Unlimited data” doesn’t live up to its name

TracFone, the largest prepaid mobile provider in the U.S., agreed to refund $40 million to customers to settle FTC charges that it misled millions of people with promises of “unlimited” data service. The Commission alleges that TracFone, under its various brands, advertised prepaid monthly mobile plans for $45 per month with “unlimited” data. Although TracFone emphasized unlimited data in its ads, the company drastically slowed or cut off people’s mobile data after they used more than a fixed amount in a 30-day period. Customers who had a Straight Talk, Net10, Simple Mobile, or Telcel America unlimited plan before January 2015 can visit FTC.gov/prepaidphones to file a claim for a refund.

Report on internet-connected things

The FTC released a detailed report on the Internet of Things. It comes at a time when many Americans benefit from a growing world of internet-connected gadgets — like health and fitness monitors, home security devices, connected cars and household appliances. The report recommends that companies developing Internet of Things devices give people choices about how their information will be used, build security in at the outset, consider measures to keep unauthorized users from accessing a consumer’s device or data, and where feasible, provide security patches to cover known risks.

Slick car title loans

The FTC settled its first case with car title lenders. Two companies, First American Title Lending of Georgia, LLC, and Finance Select, Inc., advertised zero percent interest rates for 30-day car title loans without letting people know about important loan conditions, or about a higher finance charge that kicked in after the introductory period ended. The companies, which advertised in English and in Spanish, are ordered to stop using deceptive advertising to market car title loans. They also must tell people the true cost of their loans — including all of the qualifying terms associated with getting a loan at the advertised rate, and what the finance charge will be after an introductory rate ends.

Supermarket merger sacked

Supermarket operators Albertsons and Safeway Inc. have agreed to sell 168 stores to settle FTC charges that their proposed $9.2 billion merger would likely raise grocery prices in 130 local markets in Arizona, California, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming. According to the FTC, Albertsons and Safeway compete on the bases of price, quality, product variety, and services, and offer consumers the convenience of one-stop shopping for food and other grocery products. The FTC-ordered divestitures preserve supermarket competition in the affected cities.

National Consumer Protection Week begins March 1st

Every year, National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) encourages people and businesses to learn more about avoiding scams and understanding consumer rights. This year, NCPW takes place March 1-7, 2015. NCPW highlights free resources from government agencies and consumer organizations to help people make smarter buying decisions and spot rip-offs. Visit NCPW.gov to find out about consumer education materials available from NCPW partners, and order free FTC materials.

Revenge porn website banned

A recent FTC settlement bans Craig Brittain, the operator of an alleged “revenge porn” website, from publicly sharing any more nude videos or photos of people without their permission. The FTC says Brittain tricked women to acquire and post intimate images of them, then referred the women to another website he controlled, where they were told they could have the pictures removed if they paid hundreds of dollars. The settlement requires Brittain to permanently delete all the images and personal information he collected — people’s names, towns, phone numbers, and Facebook profiles.

"The only way for the Internet of Things to reach its full potential for innovation is with the trust of American consumers. We believe that by adopting the best practices we’ve laid out, businesses will be better able to provide consumers the protections they want and allow the benefits of the Internet of Things to be fully realized."

— FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez

Bogus coffee bean claim

Lindsey Duncan and his companies, Pure Health LLC, and Genesis Today, Inc. agreed to settle FTC charges that they made false claims that green coffee bean supplements cause significant and fast weight-loss without diet or exercise. The FTC says Duncan settled charges that he and his companies misled people about the supposed weight-loss benefits of green coffee bean extract through a campaign that included appearances on The Dr. Oz Show, The View, and other TV programs. Duncan and his companies will pay $9 million in redress.

Doggy bags foul

The FTC sent letters warning 20 manufacturers and marketers of dog waste bags that their “biodegradable” and “compostable” environmental claims may be deceiving users. The agency sent the letters after it looked at the companies’ green marketing claims. The FTC pointed out examples of potentially misleading statements about how the bags will break down into their natural components within a year after they are thrown away. Most waste bags end up in landfills where it takes longer than a year to biodegrade, if they do at all.

Lame brain training claims

As the result of a settlement with the FTC, Focus Education and its officers, Michael Apstein and John Able, must stop making unproven claims that their computer game, Jungle Rangers, permanently improves children’s focus, memory, attention, behavior, and school performance, including for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The Commission says the company and its officers violated the FTC Act by making false and unproven claims, including their claim that the benefits of the game were proven scientifically.

Debt collector deception

The FTC issued a complaint against Commercial Recovery Systems, Inc. (CRS), its president, Timothy Ford, and its former vice president, David Devany, for violating the FTC Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by using deceptive methods to collect debts. The Commission says CRS illegally threatened consumers with false claims — often stating or implying that they were lawyers or judicial employees calling to collect a debt. According to the FTC, CRS employees claimed people would face legal action or have a certain amount of their paychecks withheld to pay off the debt unless they paid up.


Tax ID Theft Tops FTC Complaints in 2014; IRS Imposter Complaints Up More Than 2,300 Percent
FTC Sends Refund Checks Totaling More Than $700,000 to Consumers Who Lost Money in Robocall Scheme
FTC Sends Refund Checks Totaling More Than $700,000 to Consumers Who FTC ‘Fotonovela’ Warns Latino Community About Debt Collection Scams


FTC Sends Refund Checks Totaling More Than $700,000 to Consumers Who scammer? Beware of family emergency scams.
The FTC has technology tips for domestic violence and stalking victims.
Staying at a hotel? Weigh the risks before using the hotel’s Wi-Fi.

Federal Trade Commission | 600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW | Washington DC 20580

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Sent by:

Paul Richard
President - Executive Director
Institute of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE)

ICFE - Institute of Consumer Financial Education - ICFE.info - 619.239.1401