FOR THE CONSUMER
The FTC's monthly newsletter for the Congressional community
It's the news you - and your constituents - can use.
Volume 5 - Number 12
IN THIS ISSUE
STOPPING THE ZANGO TANGO. Zango, Inc. and two principals have agreed to settle FTC charges that they violated federal law when they used unfair and deceptive methods to download adware and prevent consumers from removing it. The settlement bars future downloads of Zango’s adware without consumers’ consent, requires Zango to provide a way for consumers to remove the adware, and requires them to give up $3 million in ill-gotten gains. Zango, formerly known as 180solutions, Inc. is one of the world’s largest distributors of adware. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2006/11/zango.htm
MEDIA MOTOR. At the FTC's request, a U.S. district court shut down ERG Ventures, an operation that tricked consumers into downloading malicious software by hiding its Media Motor program within seemingly innocuous screensavers and video files. The malicious software, loaded onto millions of computers without consumers’ consent, degraded their computers’ performance, spied on them, and exposed them to a barrage of disruptive ads. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2006/11/mediamotor.htm
POSTAL JOBS SCAM. An operation that sold worthless prep materials for post office jobs that didn’t exist will give up most of their assets to settle FTC charges. According to the FTC, Jeffrey Wayne Simmons falsely claimed he was connected with the Postal Service and that his study materials would help consumers pass the postal entrance exam and get jobs with the Postal Service. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2006/11/simmons.htm
FUNERAL HOME/CEMETERY DIVESTITURE. The FTC has reached an agreement with the nation’s two largest funeral home and cemetery chains which will allow them to merge while preserving competition and protecting consumer choice. Under the settlement, Service Corporation International (SCI) must sell funeral homes in 29 markets and cemeteries in 12 markets across the United States before it can acquire Alderwoods Group Inc. These provisions will protect competition in markets for funeral or cemetery services and will reduce the prospect of higher prices or reduced levels of service.
Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2006/11/scialderwoods.htm
THEY NEED GUIDANCE. Guidance Software Inc. has settled FTC charges that it violated federal law when it failed to keep its security promises and take reasonable measures to protect sensitive customer data. Their failed security allowed hackers to access sensitive credit card information for thousands of consumers. The settlement will require the company to implement a comprehensive information-security program and obtain audits by an independent third-party security professional every other year for 10 years. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2006/11/guidance.htm
CONTEMPT-IBLE. A U.S. district court judge has ruled Timothy Scott Jackson and others guilty of civil contempt for violating the order from a 2001 FTC federal court case. The court ordered the defendants to pay more than $2.37 million to the US Treasury. Jackson misrepresented the benefits of his grant information package, claiming that customers who used it were very likely to receive a $25,000 grant within 90 days and that government grants were available to pay personal bills.
Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2006/11/jackson.htm
CARE TO COMMENT?
TELEMARKETING. The FTC has extended the comment period for two proposals to revise portions of the Telemarketing Sales Rule. One proposal would explicitly prohibit using prerecorded messages in telemarketing calls answered by a consumer (unless the consumer has given prior written consent to receive such prerecorded message calls.) The other would change the method of calculating the maximum allowable rate of call abandonment from a “per day per calling campaign” standard to a “per thirty days per calling campaign” standard. Comments are due to the FTC by December 18.
Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2006/11/fyi0671.htm
FOOD FOR THOUGHT. The FTC is looking for public comment on its proposal to solicit information from food and beverage companies about how they market to children and adolescents. Comments are due to the FTC by December 21.
Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2006/10/fyi0666.htm
MILITARY PERSONNEL & FAMILIES FIGHTING BACK AGAINST IDENTITY THEFT. Brochure with tips for military personnel and their families on how to deter, detect, and defend against identity theft. 4"x9", 8 panels, color. www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/idtheft/idt02.htm
ELECTRONIC CHECK CONVERSION. Brochure explains how electronic check conversion works, advising consumers to keep close tabs on their bank accounts. www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre31.htm
DIVERSITY VISA LOTTERY; READ THE RULES, AVOID THE RIP-OFFS. Alert warns consumers of unscrupulous businesses which claim that, for a fee, they can make it easier to enter the U.S. State Department's annual Diversity Visa lottery or increase the chances of winning. 8.5"x11", 3 pages. www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt003.htm
GREEN LIGHTS & RED FLAGS. The FTC and its Ohio partners will present two half-day “back-to-basics” workshops about complying with truth-in-advertising laws. "Green Lights & Red Flags: FTC-BBB Rules of the Road for Advertisers" features national experts discussing the latest developments in advertising law for business owners, marketing executives, and in-house counsel. The Cleveland workshop on December 7 will be held at Cuyahoga Community College's Corporate College East from 8:30a to 12:30p. The Columbus workshop on December 8 will be held at the Columbus Athenaeum, from 8:30a to 2:15p. The admission for each workshop includes lunch and a CD-ROM of all workshop materials. For more information or to register, visit www.ftc.gov/greenlights.
Shopping for gifts can be a real dilemma. Gift cards may be the answer: one size fits all, and the recipients can get exactly what they want. But before you buy a wallet full of gift cards from your favorite retailer or your local financial institution, the FTC wants you to know that some strings may be attached. Some cards can be used only at the retailer’s store locations; others can be used anywhere. Some have expiration dates. Some let you “reload” or add money to the balance on the card. Other tips to keep in mind before you buy:
- Read the fine print. If you don’t like the terms and conditions, buy elsewhere.
Ask about expiration dates and fees. This information may appear on the card itself, on the accompanying sleeve or envelope,
or on the issuer’s website. If you don’t see it, ask for it. Make sure that whatever the salesperson tells you is in writing.
- Consider purchase fees: Is there a fee to buy the card, to activate it, or for shipping and handling? Are there fees for the recipient? Some cards have fees that can reduce the card’s value, like activation fees, transaction fees, monthly maintenance fees, inactivity or non-use fees, replacement fees for lost or stolen cards or balance inquiry fees.
Check on purchase exceptions. For example, can you use a store-specific gift card at both the physical store and the store’s website?
Can an “all-purpose” card really be used to buy groceries or gasoline?
For more information, visit www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt010.htm
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