ICFE eNEWS #15-09 - Mar 25th 2015
The FTC filed a complaint against DIRECTV, a national provider of home
satellite television services, for deceptively advertising a discounted
12-month programming package. According to the FTC, ads for the
programming package don't clearly disclose to customers that the package
requires a two-year contract. The complaint also alleges DIRECTV does
not clearly say that the package-s cost increases up to $45 more per
month in the second year of the contract - or that, if you wanted to
cancel before the end of the two-year period, you'd pay fees of up to
$480 to cancel the package.
FTC sponsors two robocall contests
As part of a long-term effort to combat illegal robocallers, the FTC
announced two new contests. The first contest, Robocalls: Humanity
Strikes Back, challenges contestants to create a tool that people can
use to block or automatically forward unwanted landline or mobile
robocalls. These calls go to a honeypot, which is an information system
that researchers and investigators can use to analyze robocalls. The
second contest, DetectaRobo, challenges contestants to use honeypot data
to predict which incoming calls are robocalls. Visit
www.ftc.gov/strikeback and www.ftc.gov/detectarobo for more information.
Survey robocall hid telemarketing pitch
The FTC and 10 state attorneys general took action against Florida-based
Caribbean Cruise Line, Inc. (CCL) and seven other companies. According
to the FTC, the companies violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule by
illegally using political survey robocalls to sell cruise vacations.
People who answered the calls heard a pre-recorded message asking them
to participate in a 30-second research survey. Those who "pressed one"
to get a two-day cruise to the Bahamas were connected to a live
telemarketer working for CCL, who tried to sell them cruise vacations.
Allstar Marketing Group, LLC, agreed to settle charges from the FTC and
the New York Office of the Attorney General that it deceived people with
its "buy-one-get-one-free" offers for "as-seen-on-TV" products.
According to the charges, the company didn't disclose the total number
of products people were buying, or all the related fees and costs, and
billed people without their consent. The FTC says that Allstar offered
the products to people who believed they were buying items at the prices
and quantities they saw advertised on TV. Instead, people who called to
order from Allstar were given a confusing sales pitch that mislead them
to buy more than what they wanted, and were charged more fees than they
bargained for. Allstar will pay $7.5 million for consumer refunds.
Premier Precious Metals refunds
The FTC sent more than $2.4 million in refund checks to people harmed by
a Premier Precious Metals investment scam. The Commission alleges that
the company took millions of dollars from investors, including many
older people, by conning them into buying precious metals on credit
without clearly disclosing significant costs and risks. The people
affected will recover nearly 70 percent of the amount they lost. If you
get a refund check, be sure to cash it within 60 days of the mailing
date. And remember, the FTC will never ask you to pay anything or give
personal information before you can cash a refund check.
Cancer drugs stay competitive
Global pharmaceutical company Novartis AG has agreed to divest assets
related to two oncology drugs currently in development to settle FTC
charges that its $16 billion acquisition of GlaxoSmithKline's portfolio
of cancer-treatment drugs would likely be anticompetitive. Physicians
use BRAF and MEK inhibitors to treat melanoma, and both products are
also being developed to treat a variety of other cancers. According to
the FTC, if the acquisition went forward as proposed, Novartis would
likely have delayed or terminated development of both drugs, raising
prices for consumers and depriving them of potentially superior
Buying or selling online?
The FTC has two new articles, Online Auctions for Buyers and Online
Auctions for Sellers, providing tips for people who want to buy or sell
using an online auction. For more free information on a variety of
consumer topics, visit consumer.ftc.gov.
"DIRECTV misled consumers about the cost of its satellite television
services and cancellation fees. DIRECTV sought to lock customers into
longer and more expensive contracts and premium packages that were not
adequately disclosed. It's a bedrock principle that the key terms of an
offer to a consumer must be clear and conspicuous, not hidden in fine
— FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez
Double Shot refunds
The FTC mailed 11,585 refund checks totaling more than $464,000 to
people who lost money buying dietary supplements deceptively marketed as
"fat burning" and "calorie blocking." According to the FTC settlement,
Manon Fernet and her company, the "Freedom Center Against Obesity"
falsely claimed that their Double Shot pills would cause rapid,
substantial, and permanent weight loss without diet or exercise. People
receiving refund checks are encouraged to cash them before they expire
on April 21, 2015.
Melanoma app crackdown
Two companies – Heath Discovery Corporation and New Consumer Solutions
LLC, – that market MelApp and Mole Detective agreed to stop making
claims that their mobile apps could detect symptoms of melanoma.
According to the FTC, the apps instructed users to photograph a mole
with a smartphone camera and input other information about the mole. The
apps then claimed to calculate the mole's melanoma risk. The FTC says
the marketers lacked adequate scientific evidence to support the claim.
Swatting mosquito repellent claims
According to the FTC, Viatek deceptively marketed Mosquito Shield Bands,
claiming that their mint oil wristbands would protect or prevent users
from being bitten by mosquitos. Viatek also claimed their bands would
create a five-foot vapor barrier and protect people from being bitten
for 96-120 hours. The FTC says the company did not have competent and
reliable scientific evidence to back up their claims.
Weight-loss product scammers banned
Hispanic Global Way scammers have been banned from telemarketing and
selling weight loss products after the FTC said the company charged
Spanish-speaking consumers for unordered or defective products.
According to the FTC, the company shipped incomplete orders, wrong or
defective products, and products that did not perform as advertised on
TV. When people called to complain, telemarketers ignored or insulted
them. Some people were also told they couldn't return or exchange
products, or that they would have to pay a fee to do so.
IN OTHER NEWS:
- FTC, New York Attorney General Crack Down on Abusive Debt Collectors
- FTC Stops Automobile Shipment Broker from Misrepresenting Online Reviews
- FTC Sues to Stop Deceptive Debt Relief Operation
- Identity Theft Tops FTC's Consumer Complaint Categories Again in 2014
- Beware of emails from the Bureau of Defaulters-FTC. The FTC doesn't send
emails like that to people. Report the scam. http://go.usa.gov/3acmV
- Imposter scams can happen to anyone. Here are the top ten to look out
- Have questions about unwanted calls and the National Do Not Call
Registry? The FTC has answers. Check out http://go.usa.gov/3aU6F
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Paul S. Richard
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ICFE - Institute of Consumer Financial Education -