Translate

Search This Blog

Search Tool




Mar 23, 2018

Federal Trade Commission | Information

Press Release Feed
FTC Action Halts A Large Deceptive Business Opportunity Scheme
Friday, March 23, 2018, 7:00 AM

Defendants touted “secrets for making money on Amazon”

The Federal Trade Commission has charged a business opportunity scheme with falsely claiming that people who buy the defendants’ expensive “Amazing Wealth System” will learn “secrets for making money on Amazon” and likely earn thousands of dollars a month.

According to the FTC, the defendants, who have no affiliation with Amazon.com, have made false or unsubstantiated earnings claims, such as, “Get started on Amazon and Make $5,000-$10,000 in the next 30 days. . . even if you have never sold anything online before.”  They charge from $995 to more than $35,000 for a purported exclusive “plug-and-play system” that allows consumers to create a profitable online business selling products on Amazon.com.

Contrary to the defendants’ promises, most, if not virtually all, purchasers do not earn the advertised income. Many of the strategies and techniques included in the “system,” such as posting fake product reviews, are deceptive and violate Amazon.com’s rules. As a result, purchasers who deploy the defendants’ system often experience problems with their Amazon stores, including suspension and the loss of their ability to sell on Amazon.com.

The court has appointed a temporary receiver over the corporate defendants, barred the defendants from making deceptive marketing claims, and frozen their assets pending resolution of the FTC’s motion for a preliminary injunction. The FTC seeks to end the alleged illegal practices and obtain money for return to injured consumers.

The defendants are AWS LLC, FBA Distributors LLC, FBA Stores LLC, Info Pros LLC, Online Auction Learning Center Inc. (Massachusetts), Online Auction Learning Center Inc. (Nevada), Christopher F. Bowser, Adam S. Bowser, and Jody Marshall. They are charged with violating the FTC Act and the Business Opportunity Rule.

The Commission vote approving the complaint was 2-0. The U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada entered a temporary restraining order against the defendants on March 14, 2018.

This case was brought with the invaluable assistance of the Washington State Office of the Attorney General, Utah Division of Consumer Protection, Utah County Attorney’s Office (Bureau of Investigations), Utah County Sheriff’s Office, Lindon City Police Department, U.S. Marshals Service, and Amazon.com, Inc.

NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The case will be decided by the court.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.
International Competition Network Adopts Guiding Principles for Procedural Fairness and New Recommendations for Merger Review
Friday, March 23, 2018, 7:00 AM

The International Competition Network (ICN) held its 17th annual conference, hosted by the Competition Commission of India, on March 21-23, 2018. Nearly 500 delegates from more than 70 jurisdictions participated, including competition experts from international organizations and the legal, business, academic, and consumer communities. Acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Roger Alford of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division led the U.S. delegation.[1] The conference showcased the achievements of the ICN working groups on competition advocacy, agency effectiveness, cartels, mergers and unilateral conduct, and featured discussion of current competition issues and the future direction of the network.

“The ICN continues to play a critical role in addressing evolving issues and challenges that confront the international competition community,” said FTC Acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen. “As exemplified by this year’s work product on merger review and procedural due process, work that was led by the FTC, there has been substantial progress toward convergence of competition policy around the world.”

“The Division looks forward each year to this opportunity to engage face to face with enforcer colleagues from around the world,” said Assistant Attorney General Delrahim. “The relationships that we develop through ICN are key to our enforcement program, and to promoting sound competition policy worldwide. We commend the Competition Commission of India for hosting an excellent conference.”

Acting Chairman Ohlhausen helped lead the conference’s panel discussion of how competition authorities can communicate the benefits of competition and advocate for pro-competitive policies when the political, social, or economic context is not in their favor. The panel explored how advocacy strategies may differ and recognized that competition advocacy, whatever the context or climate, is a crucial component of a competition agency’s work. Randolph Tritell, Director of the FTC’s Office of International Affairs, led the concluding panel, showcasing the implementation of the ICN’s work across the globe.

Deputy Assistant Attorney General Alford spoke on a panel discussing online markets and vertical restraints. The panel was part of the Unilateral Conduct Working Group’s ongoing work on vertical restraints. The Working Group, co-chaired by the Department of Justice, presented an interim report examining a series of hypothetical vertical restraints and their effect on competition and potential resulting efficiencies.

The FTC co-chairs the ICN’s Merger Working Group, which promotes convergence toward best practices in merger process and analysis and seeks to reduce the public and private costs of multijurisdictional merger reviews. This year, the Merger Working Group presented revised Recommended Practices on: 1) international enforcement cooperation; 2) timing of notification; and 3) review periods. The working group also presented results of its agency survey on vertical merger analysis and related economic assessment.

The Agency Effectiveness Working Group produced new recommendations on due process in competition law enforcement. The FTC-led project developed Guiding Principles for procedural fairness, recommendations for internal agency practices that support sound decision making, and implementation tips for good agency enforcement process. The group also studied how economic thinking and economic analysis can be incorporated into agencies’ investigations and decision-making processes. The working group introduced  new video training modules on merger remedies and enforcement cooperation as part of the ICN’s online interactive educational center for competition authorities from around the world.

The Cartel Working Group addresses the challenges of anti-cartel enforcement, including the prevention, detection, investigation and punishment of cartel conduct. The Cartel Working Group presented an interim report on survey findings regarding major characteristics of leniency regimes, incentives and disincentives for leniency applications and interaction between leniency and other policies.

The Advocacy Working Group provides guidance and facilitates experience-sharing to improve the effectiveness of ICN members’ competition advocacy initiatives. At the conference, the group released its second report as part of the Strategy Project. The report analyzes survey results on how competition agencies assess their advocacy actions and programs, and identifies common practices and trends. This work will inform the development of guidance covering the planning, monitoring, and evaluation of advocacy actions and programs. The working group also expanded the Market Studies Information Store, which now includes over 700 market studies conducted by member agencies, and facilitates knowledge-sharing, collaboration, and best practices in market studies.

Created in October 2001 to increase understanding of competition policy and promote convergence toward sound antitrust enforcement around the world, the ICN, founded by 15 members including the FTC and the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, has grown to 138 member agencies from 125 jurisdictions, supported by a wide network of non-government advisors from around the world.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about how competition benefits consumers or file an antitrust complaint. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

[1] Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim had planned to attend, but was required to remain in Washington due to the litigation schedule in a Division matter.
FTC Charges Recidivist Telemarketer for Millions of Illegal Calls Pitching Home Security Systems and Monitoring Services to Consumers
Friday, March 23, 2018, 7:00 AM

Related defendants permanently barred from engaging in abusive telemarketing

How to stop unwanted calls on a mobile phone - see what built-in features your phone has, see what services your carrier offers, download a call-blocking app (some are free, while others charge a monthly fee, some will access your contacts, calls might be stopped, ring silently, or go straight to voicemail), and report unwanted calls at ftc.gov/complaint.The Federal Trade Commission has filed a complaint and motion for preliminary injunction in federal district court alleging that Alliance Security Inc., a home security installation company, and its founder, directly and through its authorized telemarketers, called millions of consumers whose numbers are on the National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry. Two of Alliance’s authorized telemarketers and their principals also have agreed to settle charges that they made illegal calls on Alliance’s behalf.

According to the FTC, Alliance and its CEO and founder Jasjit “Jay” Gotra are recidivist violators of the Commission’s Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR). Gotra previously operated Alliance under the name Versatile Marketing Solutions, Inc., and settled FTC telemarketing- and robocall-related charges against them in a court order announced in April 2014. In the action announced today, however, the FTC alleges Alliance and Gotra never complied with the 2014 court order.

“Defendants Alliance and Gotra have shown a blatant disregard for the law and consumers’ privacy rights,” said Tom Pahl, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “This case reflects the FTC’s sustained law enforcement work to protect consumers’ privacy from abusive calls and illegal credit inquiries.”

Since the court entered the 2014 order, Alliance and Gotra allegedly have made or helped others make at least two million calls to consumers that violate the TSR, including more than a million to numbers on the DNC Registry. Alliance installs home security systems, and its employees allegedly make outbound calls to solicit the sale of the systems and associated security monitoring services.

Alliance also contracts with third-party telemarketers that make similar outbound calls pitching its products and services, including many to numbers on the DNC Registry. For example, Alliance hired defendants Defend America, LLC and Power Marketing Promotions, LLC and their principals and authorized them to market their products, leading to those companies also illegally calling consumers whose phone numbers are on the Registry.

How to stop unwanted calls on a landline - see what services your carrier offers, some services are free, but others charge a monthly fee, install a call-blocking device (some use blacklists to stop unwanted calls and/or divert calls to voicemail while some use whitelists of approved numbers, and report unwanted calls at ftc.gov/complaint.The complaint also charges Defend America and Power Marketing with violating the TSR by not identifying the seller in their calls, and Alliance for telling the two companies not to identify it in calls to consumers. The complaint also alleges Alliance and Power Marketing deceived consumers by misrepresenting themselves as calling on behalf of ADT, an unrelated home security company.

According to the complaint, even after Alliance learned about the deceptive calls, it failed to terminate its contracts with these telemarketers. Finally, the complaint alleges that Alliance and Gotra obtained consumer reports without having a permissible purpose, in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

The Defend America and Power Marketing defendants have agreed to settle the Commission’s charges, as detailed below.

The stipulated final order settling the charges against Defend America and its principal Jessica Merrick permanently bars them from telemarketing or assisting others in telemarketing. It also imposes a civil penalty of $2,296,500, which will be suspended based on inability to pay.

The stipulated final order settling the charges against Power Marketing and its principal Kevin Klink permanently bans them from selling home security and medical alert devices. Power Marketing also is banned from all telemarketing. Klink is banned from making robocalls or helping anyone else make them, from calling phone numbers on the DNC Registry, unless a consumer directly contacts him to request a call, and from selling lists containing numbers on the Registry.

The order also bars Klink from abusive telemarketing practices and other TSR violations related to abandoning outbound calls, failing to identify the seller in a telemarketing call, and using spoofed caller ID numbers. It imposes a civil penalty of $3,293,512 against Power Marketing and Klink, which will be partially suspended due to their inability to pay, upon payment of $300,000 to the Commission.

How to stop unwanted calls if you use VOIP - look into internet-based services (your carrier may be able to help), some services are free, but others charge a monthly fee, check with your carrier if you are not sure if your home phone uses the internet (VOIP), with blocking services, calls might be stopped, ring silently, or go straight to voicemail, and report unwanted calls at ftc.gov/complaint.The proposed court settlements announced today resolve the FTC’s charges against individual defendants Merrick and Klink, and corporate defendants Defend America LLC and Power Marketing Promotions LLC. Litigation continues against Jasjit “Jay” Gotra and Alliance Security Inc., formerly known as Versatile Marketing Solutions, Inc.; VMS Alarms; VMS; Alliance Security; Alliance Home Protection; and AH Protection.

The Commission vote authorizing the complaint and approving the proposed consent decrees was 2-0. The proposed consent decrees are subject to court approval.

NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. Stipulated final injunctions/orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.
FTC and FCC to Host Joint Policy Forum on Illegal Robocalls
Thursday, March 22, 2018, 7:00 AM

Will discuss regulatory action and technological solutions to protect consumers and empower service providers to combat illegal robocalls and spoofing

The Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will host a joint policy forum this Friday aimed at furthering the fight against illegal robocalls and caller ID spoofing.

The Forum will discuss past, current, and potential future action to protect consumers and empower service providers to block illegal robocalls. Remarks will be delivered by Acting FTC Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen (by video); FCC Chairman Ajit Pai; FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Brendan Carr; and FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny. Speakers from the technology, consumer advocacy, and regulatory communities, among others, will join the conversation on ways to win the fight against illegal robocalls.

The event agenda is available on the FTC’s website.The event is free and open to the public. Members of the media are welcome to attend.
WHAT:    FTC, FCC Policy Forum on Illegal Robocalls
WHEN:    Friday, March 23, 2018
9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. ET
WHERE:    Federal Communications Commission
445 12th St., SW, Washington, DC
MEDIA CONTACTS:    Mitchell J. Katz, FTC Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2161

Will Wiquist, FCC Office of Media Relations
202-418-0509
LIVESTREAM:    http://www.fcc.gov/live
FTC Requests Public Comment on Red Ventures’ Application to Approve Sale of Caring.com
Thursday, March 22, 2018, 7:00 AM

The Federal Trade Commission is currently accepting public comments on an application by Red Ventures to divest the assets of Caring.com, as required under the FTC’s March 12, 2018, final order settling charges that Red Ventures’ $1.4 billion acquisition of Bankrate would likely harm competition in the market for third-party paid referral services for senior living facilities.

Red Ventures’ application petitions the FTC to approve its divestiture of Caring.com to Caring Holdings, LLC. Before its acquisition by Red Ventures, Caring.com operated as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bankrate.com, with its own management and autonomous business; its current operations are covered by a Commission Order to Hold Separate and Maintain Assets pending the business’ divestiture. According to the application, Caring Holdings, LLC is a newly formed company backed by a group of private equity investors and entrepreneurs with a proven track record of growing online businesses. The Caring Holding, LLC team has experience and expertise in lead generation, search engine optimization, digital marketing and customer acquisition.

The Commission will decide whether to approve the application after a 30-day public comment period, which expires on April 23, 2018. Comments can be filed electronically  or sent to: FTC Office of the Secretary, 600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington. (FTC File No. 1710196; the staff contact is Elizabeth Piotrowski, Bureau of Competition, 202-326-2623.)

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about how competition benefits consumers or file an antitrust complaint. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.
FTC and New York Attorney General Settlements Ban Abusive Debt Collectors from the Debt Collection Business and from Buying or Selling Debt
Thursday, March 22, 2018, 7:00 AM

The operators of a deceptive and abusive debt collection scheme are banned from the debt collection business and from buying or selling debt under settlements with the Federal Trade Commission and the New York Attorney General’s Office.

As alleged in the agencies’ complaint, the defendants used threats and abusive language, including false threats that consumers would be arrested or sued, to collect supposed debts. The court halted the operation pending resolution of the case.

In addition to the banned activities, the settlement orders prohibit the defendants from misrepresenting financial products and services and from profiting from customers’ personal information collected as part of the challenged practices.

The orders against Travell Thomas, 4 Star Resolution LLC, Profile Management Inc., International Recovery Service LLC, Check Solutions Services Inc., Check Fraud Service LLC and Fourstar Revenue Management LLC and against Maurice Sessum impose a $30 million judgment that will be partially suspended upon the surrender of certain assets. The order against Charles Blakely III and Merchant Recovery Service, Inc. imposes an $18,789,000 judgment that will be partially suspended upon the surrender of certain assets. The assets to be surrendered in these settlements include more than $1 million in corporate and individual assets frozen by the court. In each case, the full judgment will become due immediately if the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial condition.

The Commission vote approving the proposed stipulated orders was 2-0. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York entered the orders on March 20, 2018.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York obtained 14 guilty pleas from individuals involved in the scheme, including Travell Thomas and Maurice Sessum who were each sentenced to more than 7 years in prison. The FTC’s referral of this case is part of the long-standing partnership between the agencies to help protect consumers. Read more about the assistance the FTC provides to criminal prosecutors on the FTC’s Criminal Liaison Unit page.

NOTE: Stipulated final orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.
FTC Challenges CDK Global, Inc.’s Proposed Acquisition of Competitor Auto/Mate, Inc.
Tuesday, March 20, 2018, 7:00 AM

Acquisition would harm competition in dealer management system software for new car dealers

The Federal Trade Commission has issued an administrative complaint charging that a proposed merger between two specialized software vendors violates federal antitrust laws.

According to the complaint, CDK Global, Inc.’s proposed acquisition of Auto/Mate would reduce competition in an already concentrated market, eliminating the substantial current competition between CDK and Auto/Mate, and between Auto/Mate and other market participants. The complaint also alleges that Auto/Mate was poised to become an even stronger competitive threat in the future, so that existing, current competition between the parties understates the most likely anticompetitive effects of this transaction.

The Commission also authorized FTC staff to seek a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction in federal court to prevent the parties from consummating the merger, and to maintain the status quo pending the administrative proceeding. CDK and Auto/Mate subsequently notified the FTC that they have abandoned the proposed transaction.

By acquiring Auto/Mate, CDK would have expanded its lead as the largest provider of so-called Dealer Management System, or “DMS”, software in the United States. New car dealers use DMS software to manage nearly every aspect of their business, including accounting, payroll, parts and vehicle inventory, service repair scheduling, and vehicle financing, according to the complaint. Because franchise DMS software also manages the flow of information between dealers and the vehicle manufacturers whose cars they sell, franchise DMS providers must obtain certifications from those vehicle manufacturers. Currently, CDK and Reynolds & Reynolds are the two largest providers of DMS software to new vehicle dealers in the United States. According to the complaint, although smaller than CDK and Reynolds & Reynolds, Auto/Mate has been winning business by offering dealers lower prices, flexible contract terms, free software upgrades and training, high quality customer service, and modest fees to integrate third-party applications.

“Today’s announcement from CDK and Auto/Mate that they have decided to abandon their proposed merger is good news for new car dealers across the United States,” said Bruce Hoffman, Acting Director of the Bureau of Competition. “Dealerships will continue to benefit from the disruptive and innovative efforts of Auto/Mate, resulting in improvements to DMS offerings across the industry. Despite Auto/Mate’s relatively small market share, it was winning a significant share of opportunities from CDK—a larger share than Auto/Mate’s overall market share might have suggested, showing that Auto/Mate was a strong competitor to CDK. Moreover, the evidence indicated that Auto/Mate was also a threat to other incumbent DMS providers, and, importantly, was poised to become an even more effective competitor in the near future. The Commission’s action shows that it will block a proposed merger if a large, established firm seeks to eliminate competition from a small but significant and developing competitor that is delivering substantial competitive benefits in innovation, price, and quality.”

The Commission votes to issue the administrative complaint, and to authorize filing a federal court complaint seeking a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction, were both 2-0.

NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. A complaint constitutes an allegation, but does not constitute a determination that the law has been violated as alleged.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about how competition benefits consumers or file an antitrust complaint. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.
CFPB and FTC Report on 2017 Activities to Combat Illegal Debt Collection Practices
Tuesday, March 20, 2018, 7:00 AM

Agencies provide annual summary of their actions under Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

Today the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (Bureau) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported on their 2017 activities to combat illegal debt collection practices. The annual report to Congress on the administration of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) details the agencies’ efforts to stop unlawful debt collection practices, including vigorous law enforcement, education and public outreach, and policy initiatives.

“I appreciate the opportunity to work with Acting Chairman Ohlhausen and all our partners at the FTC,” Bureau Acting Director Mick Mulvaney said. “From now on, we will be working closely with the FTC to enforce the FDCPA while protecting the legal rights of all in a manner that is efficient, effective, and accountable.”

“The FTC will remain vigilant in our efforts to monitor this industry and stop unlawful conduct that harms both consumers and legitimate businesses and will continue to work with our law enforcement partners, including the CFPB, on this important issue,” FTC Acting Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen said.

The CFPB and the FTC share enforcement responsibilities under the FDCPA. In January 2012, they entered into a memorandum of understanding that provides for coordination in enforcement, sharing of supervisory information and consumer complaints, and collaboration on consumer education. The agencies work closely to coordinate respective efforts to protect consumers, including meeting regularly to discuss ongoing and upcoming law enforcement against collectors.

In 2017, the Bureau’s activities to combat illegal debt collection practices included fielding consumer complaints, filing lawsuits, and providing the public with tools to deal with aggressive debt collectors. Specifically, the Bureau:

    Handled approximately 84,500 debt collection complaints, making it one of the most prevalent topics of complaints about consumer financial products or services received by the Bureau;
    Uncovered a number of actions that examiners deemed to be violations of the FDCPA through its supervisory examinations;
    Filed briefs as amicus curiae in two cases in the federal courts of appeals arising under the FDCPA;
    Resolved one FDCPA enforcement case, resulting in both consumer relief and a payment to the civil penalty fund, and continued to litigate five others;
    Conducted a number of non-public investigations of companies to determine whether they engaged in collection practices that violated the FDCPA or the Consumer Financial Protection Act;
    Provided consumer debt collection educational materials, which have consistently remained among the most-viewed categories in “Ask CFPB,” an interactive online consumer education tool;
    Offered five sample letters that consumers may use when they interact with debt collectors, which have been downloaded more than 517,000 times as of December 2017; and
    Continued research projects to improve its understanding of the debt collection market and its impact on consumers, including a survey of consumer views on debt, the 2017 Credit Card Market Report, and its study of online debt sales, which have aided in the ongoing development of a potential debt collection rule.

In 2017, the FTC’s activities to combat illegal debt collection practices included bringing law enforcement actions against violators, banning illegal actors, and educating the public about their rights. Specifically, the FTC:

    Filed or resolved 10 cases against 42 defendants, and obtained more than $64 million in judgments;
    Banned 13 companies and individuals that engaged in serious and repeated violations of law from ever working in debt collection again;
    Focused on curbing egregious debt collection practices, including phantom debt collection;
    Worked to educate consumers and businesses about their rights and responsibilities under the FDCPA and FTC Act;
    Distributed 13.8 million print publications to libraries, police departments, schools, non-profit, banks, credit unions, other businesses and government agencies; and
    Logged more than 60 million views on its webpages, with its videos seen more than 581,000 times at YouTube.com/FTC, and its consumer blogs reaching 199,860 (English) and 50,480 (Spanish) email subscribers.

The Bureau and the FTC remain vigilant in their efforts to monitor the debt collection industry and stop unlawful conduct that harms both consumers and businesses. The CFPB’s annual report to Congress on the FDCPA, as required by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, includes information provided by the FTC.

The Federal Trade Commission vote approving its letter to the CFPB was 2-0.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.
Agenda Announced for the March 23, 2018 FTC-FCC Joint Policy Forum on Fighting the Scourge of Illegal Robocalls
Monday, March 19, 2018, 7:00 AM

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will co-host a Joint Policy Forum to discuss the regulatory challenges posed by illegal robocalls and what the agencies are doing to both protect consumers and encourage the development of private-sector solutions.

This event will be held on Friday, March 23, 2018, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Commission Meeting Room at FCC Headquarters, 445 12th Street, SW, Washington, DC.

The tentative agenda for the Joint Policy Forum is outlined below:
9:30 am   

Welcome Remarks by Patrick Webre, Chief, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, FCC

Opening Remarks by Ajit Pai, Chairman, FCC

Video Remarks by Maureen K. Ohlhausen, Acting Chairman, FTC

Remarks by Mignon Clyburn, Commissioner, FCC
9:45 am      

Panel 1: Challenges Facing Consumers and Industry Today

Moderator:

    Micah Caldwell, Special Counsel, Office of the Bureau Chief, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, FCC

Panelists:

    Eduard Bartholme, Executive Director, Call for Action, and Chair, FCC Consumer Advisory Committee
    Kevin Rupy, Vice President of Law and Policy, USTelecom
    Michele Shuster, General Counsel, Professional Association for Customer Engagement

Discussion topics will include the factors driving the volume of illegal robocalls; new threats to consumers, such as Caller ID spoofing; and protections for legitimate callers.
10:15 am    Remarks by Brendan Carr, Commissioner, FCC
10:25 am    

Panel 2: Recent Regulatory and Enforcement Efforts

Moderator:

    Thomas B. Pahl, Acting Director, Bureau of Consumer Protection, FTC

Panelists:

    Denise Beamer, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Consumer Protection Division, Florida Office of the Attorney General
    Lois Greisman, Associate Director, Division of Marketing Practices, Bureau of Consumer Protection, FTC
    Sherwin Siy, Special Counsel, Competition Policy Division, Wireline Competition Bureau, FCC
    Mark Stone, Deputy Chief, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, FCC
    Kristi Thompson, Chief, Telecommunications Consumer Division, Enforcement Bureau, FCC

Discussion topics will include an overview of the relevant law; recent FCC, FTC, and state actions to protect consumers; and enforcement challenges.
11:25 am       Remarks by Terrell McSweeny, Commissioner, FTC
11:30 am   

Panel 3: Solutions and Tools for Consumers

Moderator:

    Julius Knapp, Chief Engineer, Office of Engineering and Technology, FCC

Panelists:

    Alex Algard, Founder & CEO, Hiya
    Jim McEachern, Senior Technology Consultant, Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions
    Alex Quilici, Chief Executive Officer, YouMail
    Margot Saunders, Senior Counsel, National Consumer Law Center
    Krista Witanowski, Assistant Vice President, CTIA
    Nat Wood, Associate Director, Division of Consumer & Business Education, Bureau of Consumer Protection, FTC

Discussion topics will include third-party solutions and other resources available to empower consumers; and industry efforts to develop Caller ID authentication.
12:30 pm      Closing Remarks by Svetlana Gans, Chief of Staff to Acting Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen, FTC

The Policy Forum is open to the public and registration is not required, but seating is limited. Attendees are advised to arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the event to allow time to go through security.

The Policy Forum will be webcast on the FCC webpage at fcc.gov/live and information about the event is available at: fcc.gov/news-events/events/2018/03/fighting-scourge-illegal-robocalls.

Reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities are available upon request. Include a description of the accommodation you will need and tell us how to contact you if we need more information. Make your request as early as possible. Last minute requests will be accepted, but may be impossible to fill. Send an e-mail to fcc504@fcc.gov or call the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau at 202-418-0530 (voice), 202-418-0432 (tty).

For questions or additional information about the Policy Forum, contact Keyla Hernandez-Ulloa of the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau at (202) 418-0965 or Keyla.Hernandez-Ulloa@fcc.gov; or Janice Kopec of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection at (202) 326-2550.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.
Operators of DOTAuthority.com Motor Carrier Registration Service Settle FTC Charges That They Misled Small Businesses Using Fake Government Affiliation
Monday, March 19, 2018, 7:00 AM

The operators of a registration service for motor carriers have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they impersonated, or falsely claimed affiliation with, the U.S. Department of Transportation and other government agencies to get small trucking businesses to pay them for federal and state motor carrier registrations.

Consumers who own and operate certain types of commercial vehicles must register annually with the Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) system or their state government and pay a fee based on their fleet size. These trucking businesses can typically register through the official UCR website or the official website of their state. Some of them also must file a Motor Carrier Identification Report every two years, which can be done at no charge on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website.

In September 2016, the FTC charged that James P. Lamb, Uliana Bogash, DOTAuthority.com Inc., DOTFilings.com Inc., Excelsior Enterprises International Inc. and JPL Enterprises International Inc. tricked small businesses into purchasing their registration services by falsely claiming to be affiliated with government agencies in violation of the FTC Act. They also allegedly failed to disclose the service fee associated with their services or to adequately distinguish it from the actual government registration fee. In addition, the FTC alleged that the defendants failed to disclose adequately that they were enrolling consumers in an automatic billing service for future payments in violation of the Restore Online Shoppers Confidence Act.

Under the settlement order, the defendants are banned from misrepresenting affiliation with any government entity and from using consumers’ billing information to obtain payments without consumers’ express consent. They must also adequately disclose that they are a private third-party service provider and any fees associated with their services. The order imposes a $900,000 judgment that must be paid within one day.

The Commission vote approving the stipulated final order was 2-0. The FTC filed the proposed order in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

NOTE: Stipulated final orders or injunctions have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.