Showing posts with label FTC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label FTC. Show all posts

Dec 16, 2019

Press Release | FTC: The FTC Is Sending Additional Refund Checks to Consumers Who Bought LeanSpa Products

2-3 minutes - Source: FTC



The Federal Trade Commission is mailing 1,951 refund checks totaling over $321,000 to consumers who bought supposed weight-loss products marketed by LeanSpa, LLC. This is the second round of checks in this matter.
The FTC and the State of Connecticut sued the marketers of LeanSpa in December 2011, charging that they used fake websites to promote acai berry and “colon cleanse” weight-loss products, and falsely told consumers they could receive free trials by paying a nominal shipping and handling cost. In reality, consumers paid $79.95 for the trial, and for recurring monthly shipments of the product that were hard to cancel. The LeanSpa marketers settled the complaint in 2014, agreeing to stop their allegedly deceptive practices and surrender assets for consumer redress.
In October 2015, the FTC announced it was mailing more than 23,000 checks totaling over $3.7 million to consumers who bought LeanSpa products. After the initial mailing was complete, money remained in the settlement fund. The Commission used a portion of this money to send postcards to consumers potentially affected by LeanSpa’s marketing practices, and received more than 2,000 responses, leading to the additional refund mailing announced today.
Rust Consulting, Inc., the refund administrator for this matter, will begin mailing checks today. The average check amount is $164.87, and it must be cashed within 60 days, as indicated on the check. The FTC never requires consumers to pay money or provide information to cash refund checks. Consumers who bought LeanSpa products but did not receive a refund can call 1-866-621-4156.
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.

May 23, 2019

Press Release I FTC Staff Issues FY 2016 Report on Branded Drug Firms’ Patent Settlements with Generic Competitors

4-5 minutes



Reverse-payment agreements using side deals and no-AG commitments decline to lowest level in 15 years

For Release
A new Federal Trade Commission staff report found that, despite a considerable increase in the total number of final Hatch-Waxman patent settlements in FY 2016, significantly fewer settlements included the types of reverse payments that are likely to be anticompetitive.
This report is the Bureau of Competition’s third snapshot of such agreements since the Supreme Court’s decision in FTC v. Actavis, which held that a brand drug manufacturer’s reverse payment to a generic competitor to settle patent litigation can violate the antitrust laws. Generic drugs often cost less than brand drugs, helping to make medicines more affordable for millions of American consumers and thereby keep health care costs down.
The report summarizes data on the 232 final patent settlements filed with the FTC and the Department of Justice during FY 2016 pursuant to requirements imposed by the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003. According to the report:
  • Only a single agreement contained a side deal or no-AG commitment, the types of reverse payments at issue in Actavis and, subsequently, in cases before appellate courts. This was the lowest number of such agreements since 2004.
  • In 29 of the 30 final settlements that contained compensation to the generic company and a restriction on selling a generic product for a period of time, the only explicit compensation was $7 million or less in litigation fees. In Actavis, the Court noted that avoided litigation expenses might constitute a justified payment.
  • The number of agreements with “possible compensation” to the generic company – provisions that might act as compensation, but would require inquiry into specific marketplace circumstances – increased to 14.
  • In 82 percent of final settlements, the generic company received rights not only to the patents at issue in the litigation, but also to licenses or covenants not to sue for all patents that the brand owns at any time after the settlement that might cover the generic product.
  • Other features tracked by the report include provisions that accelerate the licensed entry date based on marketplace events and how parties settle when the generic company has launched its generic product at risk – before a final court decision on the patent merits – prior to settlement.
“The data are clear: the Supreme Court’s Actavis decision has significantly reduced the kinds of reverse payment agreements that are most likely to impede generic entry and harm consumers,” said Chairman Joe Simons. “These annual reports are an important tool to monitor how patent settlement agreements continue to evolve, and to identify provisions that might be anticompetitive.”
Staff will continue to publish annual MMA reports as quickly as practicable.
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.

Contact Information

MEDIA CONTACT:
Betsy Lordan
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-3707
STAFF CONTACT:
Bradley S. Albert
Bureau of Competition
202-326-3670

Source: FTC

Feb 25, 2019

FTC Press Release | FTC Approves Final Order with SoFi

2 minutes



For Your Information

Following a public comment period, the Federal Trade Commission has approved a final consent order with SoFi, resolving allegations that it misrepresented how much money student loan borrowers have saved or will save from refinancing their loans with the company.
In its October 2018 complaint, the FTC alleged that SoFi made prominent false statements about loan refinancing savings in television, print, and internet advertisements. The complaint also alleged that the average savings SoFi touted in its ads inflated the actual average savings – sometimes even doubling it – by excluding large categories of consumers.
Under the final order, SoFi is prohibited from misrepresenting to consumers how much money consumers will save or have saved using its products and from making any claims about any such savings unless the claims are backed up with reliable evidence.
The Commission voted 5-0 to approve the final consent order and the letters to commenters.
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.

Contact Information

MEDIA CONTACT:Nicole Drayton
Office of Public Affairs202-326-2565

Feb 12, 2019

Press Release: New FTC Data Spotlight Details Big Jump in Losses, Complaints about Romance Scams

2-3 minutes



Scammers who use love to target consumers not only take an emotional toll on their victims, but can also take a financial one as well. New complaint data released today by the Federal Trade Commission shows romance scams generated more reported losses than any other consumer fraud type reported to the agency in 2018.
In the last three years, many more consumers have reported romance scams to the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel database, with much higher total reported losses from those scams, according to the Commission’s latest Consumer Protection Data Spotlight. The number of romance scams reported to the FTC has grown from 8,500 in 2015 to more than 21,000 in 2018, while reported losses to these scams more than quadrupled in recent years—from $33 million in 2015 to $143 million last year. For those who said they lost money to a romance scam, the median reported loss was $2,600, with those 70 and over reporting the biggest median losses at $10,000.
Romance scammers often find their victims online through a dating site or app or via social media. These scammers create phony profiles that often involve the use of a stranger’s photo they have found online. The goals of these scams are often the same: to gain the victim’s trust and love in order to get them to send money through a wire transfer, gift card, or other means.
The Spotlight offers tips about how to spot romance scams and avoid losing money to them.

Source: FTC

FTC Announces New Date for Workshop Examining Online Event Ticket Sales

2 minutes



Event will now be held on June 11, 2019

For Your Information
The Federal Trade Commission has announced it is pushing back until June 11, 2019, the date of a workshop aimed at examining consumer protection issues related to the online event ticket marketplace.
The workshop, first announced in October, was originally set to take place in March, but has been delayed until June due to the extended government shutdown. The event will feature opening remarks by Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter and will bring together a variety of stakeholders, including industry representatives, consumer advocates, trade associations, academics, and government officials, to discuss problematic practices in the online event ticket marketplace.
The workshop, which is free and open to the public, will be held at the Constitution Center, 400 7th St., SW, Washington, DC, and will be webcast live on the FTC’s website. Additional information about the event can be found on the event webpage.
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.

Contact Information  

Dec 10, 2018

FTC I Press Release: Defendant in Fraudulent Business Coaching Scheme Settles with FTC


One of the defendants involved in MOBE, a massive internet marketing and business coaching scheme alleged to have bilked hundreds of millions of dollars from consumers worldwide, has agreed to settle with the Federal Trade Commission.
In June 2018, the FTC charged the MOBE enterprise and three individuals with orchestrating the “My Online Business Education” program in violation of the FTC Act. According to the complaint, the defendants falsely claimed that their business education program would enable people to start their own online businesses and earn substantial income. Touting a “proven” 21-step system, the defendants preyed on U.S. consumers—including service members, veterans, and older adults—through online ads, social media, direct mailers, and live events held throughout the country, according to the FTC. The complaint further alleged that the MOBE defendants made false or misleading refund guarantees to consumers.
The settling defendant in this case, Susan Zanghi, allegedly helped operate and perform acts crucial to the MOBE enterprise, including opening up bank accounts and merchant accounts in the United States. Under the settlement order, Zanghi is permanently banned from selling or marketing business coaching or investment opportunities. In addition, she is prohibited from making or assisting in the making of any misrepresentations about any product or service.
The settlement order also requires Zanghi to turn over $33,400 in frozen assets under her name and to immediately surrender to the FTC all control over funds held in the name of the MOBE corporate entities.
The Commission vote approving the settlement order against Zanghi was 5-0. The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida entered the order on Dec. 6, 2018. (FTC File No. P063000; the staff contact is Sung W. Kim, Bureau of Consumer Protection, 202-326-2211.)
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.

Dec 3, 2018

Defendants in Sellers Playbook Get-Rich Scheme Settle with FTC and Minnesota



The defendants in a Minnesota-based business opportunity scheme known as Sellers Playbook have settled with the Federal Trade Commission and the State of Minnesota.
The Sellers Playbook defendants include Jessie Conners Tieva, Matthew R. Tieva, and their companies, Exposure Marketing Company and Sellers Playbook, Inc.
The FTC and the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office alleged that defendants lured consumers into believing that they would likely earn thousands of dollars a month selling products on Amazon. In marketing their so-called system for selling on Amazon, defendants used false and unsubstantiated claims, such as make “$20,000 a month” and “Potential Net Profit: $1,287,463.38.” According to the complaint, the price of the “system” that defendants sold ranged from $497 to more than $30,000.
The complaint alleges that defendants violated the FTC Act, the Business Opportunity Rule, the Consumer Review Fairness Act, the Minnesota Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and the Minnesota Prevention of Consumer Fraud Act by making false or unsupported earnings claims, failing to provide the required disclosure documents, and using contracts that restrict individual consumers’ ability to review products and services they purchased.
The settlement approved by the court bans defendants from selling or assisting others to sell any business opportunity or business coaching program. The defendants also are prohibited from making unsupported earnings claims and suppressing consumers’ reviews of defendants’ products or services, and are required to turn over significant assets for consumer redress.
The settlement order also imposes a $20.8 million judgment against the defendants, which will be suspended when they surrender all funds held in any corporate accounts; all goods and assets owned by the corporate defendants; all assets held by the court-appointed receiver; and substantial assets owned by Matthew and Jessie Tieva.
The Commission vote approving the settlement order was 5-0. The U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota entered the settlement order on November 20, 2018.
This case was brought with the assistance of the Utah Division of Consumer Protection, the U.S. Marshals Service for the District of Minnesota, Amazon.com, Inc., the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota, and the Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc.)

Source: FTC

Nov 29, 2018

FTC Returns more than $750,000 to Consumers Who Bought Two Deceptively Marketed Supplements from Health Research Laboratories, LLC



The Federal Trade Commission is mailing 16,596 checks totaling more than $750,000 to consumers who bought two deceptively marketed dietary supplements, NeuroPlus and BioTherapex, from Health Research Laboratories, LLC. Affected consumers will receive their checks by the end of December, with the average refund amount totaling $44.34.
The FTC and the State of Maine’s complaint against Health Research Laboratories and its principal, announced in November 2017, alleged that the defendants deceptively marketed two of their health products, BioTherapex and NeuroPlus.
NeuroPlus, which sold for $39.99 per bottle, was deceptively marketed using claims it could protect the brain against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, reverse memory loss, and improve memory and cognitive performance. BioTherapex, which sold for $39.95 per bottle, was falsely advertised to treat arthritis, relieve joint and back pain, and cause significant weight loss. The complaint alleged that the health and efficacy claims for both products are false or unsubstantiated.
In addition to barring the allegedly illegal conduct, the order settling the FTC’s charges required the defendants to pay $800,000 to provide refunds to injured consumers. Consumers who bought NeuroPlus will receive a refund of all of the money that they spent on the product. Consumers who bought BioTherapex will receive a refund of almost 15 percent of the purchase price.
Recipients should deposit or cash checks within 60 days, as indicated on the check. The FTC never requires consumers to pay money or provide account information to cash a refund check.
Consumers with questions about the refund program should contact the FTC’s refund administrator, Analytics Consulting LLC, at 877-915-1883. To learn more about the FTC’s refund program, visit www.ftc.gov/refunds.
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.

Nov 28, 2018

Court Temporarily Halts International Operation that Allegedly Deceived Consumers through False Claims of “Free Trial” Offers and Imposed Unauthorized Continuity Plans

In response to the Federal Trade Commission’s motion, a U.S. district court in California issued an order temporarily halting an alleged Internet marketing scam. The Commission alleges the defendants marketed supposedly “free trial” offers for personal care products and dietary supplements online, but then charged consumers the full price of the products and enrolled them in negative option continuity plans without their consent.

Apex Capital Group, LLC and the individual defendants also allegedly set up shell companies in the United States and the United Kingdom, which they then used as fronts to open merchant accounts. Those merchant accounts allegedly were used to process millions of dollars in consumer payments for the defendants’ products, allowing the defendants to avoid detection by the credit card networks and law enforcement for several years.
According to the FTC’s complaint, the operation, run by individual defendants Phillip Peikos and David Barnett, has conducted its online subscription scam since early 2014, marketing and selling more than 50 different products to consumers.
The defendants mainly offer supposed “free trials” of personal care products and dietary supplements that they claim will promote weight loss, hair growth, clear skin, muscle development, sexual performance, and cognitive abilities. The products are sold on websites with both U.S. and U.K. domain names, such as trybiogenic.com, tryneuroxr.com, virilitydirect.com, and bestcelex.co.uk.
The FTC alleges that the defendants represent that consumers only have to pay a $4.95 shipping and handling fee for a 30-day supply, but actually charge consumers the full price for the products—approximately $90. They also allegedly enroll consumers in unwanted negative option continuity plans without their knowledge or consent, and continue to charge them about $90 per month for a month’s supply of the product. The material terms of these offers, when present at all, are hidden in small, hard-to-read type, or on separate webpages accessible only via hyperlinks.
The FTC alleges that many consumers who attempt to complete the order process for the purported free trials are tricked into ordering additional products, and are enrolled in continuity plans for those products as well. Consumers who try to cancel the unwanted plans find it difficult to do so, and the defendants continue to charge some consumers even after supposedly cancelling their plans.
The FTC’s complaint alleges that to further this scheme, the defendants used dozens of shell companies and straw owners—sometimes referred to as nominees or signors—to obtain the merchant accounts needed to accept consumers’ credit and debit card payments. Processing charges through other companies’ merchant accounts is known as “credit card laundering,” which is an illegal practice that some unscrupulous merchants use to bypass credit card associations’ monitoring practices and avoid detection by law enforcement.
The defendants formed at least 32 limited liability companies in Wyoming between August 2013 and May 2016. These companies allegedly had no employees, did not conduct business, and were formed solely to obtain merchant accounts used to accept consumers’ credit and debit card payments. To secure these merchant accounts, the defendants used California residents as signors on merchant account applications submitted to banks and other financial institutions.
The defendants also formed at least 37 limited companies in the United Kingdom, including the corporate defendants named in the complaint. The FTC alleges that in many instances, the individuals named as directors of the U.K. companies actually are the same California residents used as signors on merchant account applications submitted in the U.S. The defendants used these U.K. companies to open additional merchant accounts at a Latvian bank as part of the scheme, according to the Commission.
Based on this conduct, the FTC’s complaint alleges that the defendants violated Section 5 of the FTC Act, as well as the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act (ROSCA) and the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA). The complaint also alleges that the defendants engaged in unfair practices, in violation of the FTC Act, through their credit card laundering activities and unauthorized charges.
The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 5-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California under seal, and the seal has now been lifted and the TRO granted. A complete list of the defendants can be found in the complaint on the FTC’s website.
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.
CONTACT FOR CONSUMERS:
Consumer Response Center
877-382-4357
CONTACT FOR NEWS MEDIA:
Mitchell J. Katz
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2161
STAFF CONTACT:
Laura A. Zuckerwise
FTC’s Northeast Region
212-607-2804

Source: FTC

Nov 27, 2018

FTC Testifies before Senate Commerce Subcommittee about the Agency’s Work to Protect Consumers, Promote Competition, and Maximize Resources


The Federal Trade Commission today testified before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security regarding the agency’s work to protect U.S. consumers and promote competition, while maximizing the agency’s resources and anticipating and responding to changes in the marketplace.
Testifying on behalf of the Commission, FTC Chairman Joseph J. Simons and Commissioners Noah Joshua Phillips, Rohit Chopra, Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, and Christine S. Wilson noted that during fiscal year 2018, the FTC’s law enforcement actions led to more than $1.6 billion in refunds to consumers and collected more than $8.5 million for the Treasury. This includes $83.3 million in redress that the Commission returned to consumers, while FTC orders—including in the Volkswagen, Amazon, and NetSpend matters—required defendants to self-administer consumer refund programs worth more than $1.6 billion.
The FTC complements its enforcement efforts through policy and research work, and advocacy and education initiatives, the testimony noted. In September 2018, the Commission began holding its Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century to explore whether broad-based changes in the economy, evolving business practices, new technologies, or international developments might require adjustments to competition and consumer protection law, enforcement priorities, and policy. To date, the Commission has heard from more than 200 panelists and received over 700 public comments, according to the testimony. The FTC will continue to hold public hearings through early 2019.
Consumer privacy and data security remain important priorities for the FTC, and the Commission reiterated its commitment to use every tool at its disposal to protect consumers, according to the testimony. To date, the FTC has brought more than 60 data security cases alleging that companies failed to implement reasonable safeguards, as well as more than 60 general privacy cases.
The FTC has aggressively pursued privacy and data security cases in a variety of areas, the testimony explained. For example, the Commission recently gave final approval to an expanded settlement with the ride-sharing company Uber Technologies Inc. related to allegations that the company failed to reasonably secure sensitive consumer data stored in the cloud. Earlier this year, the Commission approved a settlement with PayPal, Inc. to resolve allegations that its Venmo peer-to-peer payment service misled consumers about their ability to control the privacy of their Venmo transactions and the extent to which their financial accounts were protected by “bank grade security systems.” In addition, the FTC has actively enforced the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield framework—a critical tool for protecting privacy and enabling cross-border data flows—and has brought four cases in the last two months, according to the testimony.
The testimony noted, however, that there are limitations to Section 5 of the FTC Act, which is the main statute enforced by the Commission. Section 5 does not provide for civil penalties, reducing the Commission’s deterrent capability. In addition, the Commission also lacks authority over non-profits and common carrier activity, as well as broad APA rulemaking authority for privacy and data security generally.
“The Commission has challenged numerous privacy and security practices under Section 5 of the FTC Act. Our program in these areas – which includes enforcement, as well as consumer and business education – has been highly successful within the limits of our authority,” Simons said in separate oral remarks before the subcommittee. “But Section 5 is an imperfect tool. In my view, we need more authority.”
The testimony reiterated the FTC’s longstanding bipartisan call for comprehensive data security legislation. The Commission also urged Congress to consider enacting privacy legislation that would be enforced by the FTC. While the agency remains committed to vigorously enforcing existing privacy-related statutes, Congress may be able to craft legislation that would more seamlessly address consumers’ legitimate concerns regarding the collection, use, and sharing of their data and provide greater clarity to businesses while retaining the flexibility required to foster competition and innovation, according to the testimony.
The testimony also outlined the FTC’s work to ensure that advertising is truthful and not misleading. This past year, the agency has continued to bring cases challenging false and unsubstantiated health claims, including those targeting students, older consumers, consumers affected by the opioid crisis, and consumers with serious medical conditions. The FTC has also challenged false claims in the financial area, according to the testimony. For example, the Commission recently announced a settlement with online student loan refinancer Social Finance over allegations that it made deceptive claims about the average savings members could achieve by refinancing their student loans.
Fighting fraud continues to be a major focus of the FTC’s law enforcement efforts, the testimony stated. The Commission’s anti-fraud program tracks down and stops some of the most egregious scams that prey on U.S. consumers—often, the most vulnerable consumers who can least afford to lose money. In September 2018, the Commission brought an action against Sunkey Publishing, alleging that the lead generation operation falsely claimed to be affiliated with the military and promised to use consumers’ information only for military recruitment purposes. Instead, the FTC alleged that Sunkey used the information it collected to make millions of illegal telemarketing calls and sold the information to post-secondary schools.
The testimony also focused on the FTC’s efforts to target companies that facilitate fraud. Earlier this month, MoneyGram International Inc., agreed to pay $125 million to settle allegations that the company failed to take steps required under a 2009 FTC order to crack down on fraudulent money transfers that cost U.S. consumers millions of dollars. The matter also resolved allegations that the company violated a 2012 deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice.
Illegal robocalls remain a significant consumer protection problem and consumers’ top complaint to the FTC, which received more than 3.7 million robocall complaints in FY 2018, according to the testimony. The FTC has used many methods to fight these illegal calls, including 136 enforcement actions to date. Technological advances, however, have allowed bad actors to place millions or even billions of calls, often from abroad, at very low cost, and in ways that are difficult to trace. The testimony noted and reiterated the FTC’s prior testimony in favor of eliminating the common carrier exemption, stating that the exemption is outdated and unnecessary, and that it impedes the Commission’s work to tackle illegal robocalls.
The Commission testimony also detailed the FTC’s work to preserve and promote competition in many sectors of economy that directly affect consumers and their wallets, such as health care, consumer products and services, technology, manufacturing, and energy. Since the beginning of FY 2017, the FTC has challenged 45 mergers. While many of these matters were resolved through divestiture settlements, the Commission in FY 2018 voted to initiate litigation to block five mergers, according to the testimony. Three of these ended successfully when the parties abandoned their transactions, while the other two are still being litigated.
The testimony also discussed the FTC’s ongoing efforts to stop anticompetitive conduct. The FTC has focused in particular in the last two decades on anticompetitive practices by drug manufacturers. For example, the testimony noted, a federal court ruled earlier this year that the pharmaceutical company AbbVie Inc. used sham litigation to illegally maintain its monopoly over the testosterone replacement drug Androgel, and ordered $448 million in monetary relief to consumers.
The FTC also closely follows developments in the high-tech sector, from the growth of smart appliances and smart cars to artificial intelligence, the testimony stated. While these advances in technology may offer consumer benefits, they also raise complex competition issues. The FTC is working to track current and developing business models while also ensuring companies in this sector abide by the same rules of competitive markets that apply to others, according to the testimony.
The Commission vote approving the testimony and its inclusion in the formal record was 5-0.
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.

Source: FTC

FTC Requests Public Comment on Supervalu Inc.’s Application to Approve Sale of 2 Supermarkets Operating under the Shop ’n Save Banner in Va. and W. Va.



The Federal Trade Commission is accepting public comments on an application by Supervalu Inc. to divest a Shop ’n Save supermarket in Berryville, Va., and another in Martinsburg, WV.
The FTC’s Oct. 31, 2016 modified final order with grocery chain operators Koninklijke Ahold and Delhaize Group required them to divest 18 of their stores in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia to Supervalu affiliate, Shop ’N Save East, LLC. The final order settled charges that the proposed $28 billion merger of Koninklijke Ahold and Delhaize Group likely would have been anticompetitive.
For three years after the order was issued, Supervalu was required under the order to obtain approval from the FTC if Supervalu chose to sell certain stores. According to the application, Supervalu intends to resell two stores – one in Berryville, VA and the other in Martinsburg, WV – back to Koninklijke Ahold and Delhaize Group (“Giant”).
According to the application, shortly after it acquired the stores, Supervalu experienced a steep decline in sales. Despite significant efforts, Supervalu was unable to bring shoppers back to the stores and recover the lost sales. Faced with this poor initial performance, Supervalu’s joint-venture partner in the divestiture declined to take over the stores, according to the application. Supervalu states that it plans to close the stores in the coming months unless a buyer is found.
The application notes that Supervalu attempted to find alternative buyers for the stores. Giant, however, was the best available buyer. According to the application, the transaction therefore will preserve consumer choice and jobs in each city. The application also states that Giant is expected to make significant investments in the acquired stores going forward.
The Commission will decide whether to approve the application after a 30-day public comment period, which expires on Dec. 27, 2018. Comments can be filed electronically, or sent to: FTC Office of the Secretary, 600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington. (FTC File No. 151 0175; the staff contact is, Eric D. Rohlck, Bureau of Competition, 202-326-2861.)
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.

Source: FTC

Nov 26, 2018

FTC Issues Annual Report on Ethanol Market Concentration 2018



For Your Information
The Federal Trade Commission has issued its 2018 Report on Ethanol Market Concentration. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 directs the Commission to perform an annual review of market concentration in the ethanol production industry “to determine whether there is sufficient competition among industry participants to avoid price-setting and other anticompetitive behavior.”
As in prior years, the 2018 report concludes that “the low level of concentration and large number of market participants in the U.S. ethanol production industry continue to suggest that the exercise of market power to set prices, or coordinate on price or output levels, is unlikely.”
The Commission vote to approve the report was 4-0-1, with Commissioner Christine S. Wilson not participating. (FTC File No. P063000; the staff contact is Catharine Bill, Bureau of Competition, 202-326-2966.)
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.

Contact Information

MEDIA CONTACT:
Betsy Lordan
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-3707

Source: FTC

Nov 13, 2018

PR Firm and Publisher Settle FTC Allegations They Misrepresented Product Endorsements as Independent Opinions, Commercial Advertising as Editorial Content



image from Instagram post promoting mosquito repellent, woman holding two bottles
Carly Patterson
Instagram post promoting mosquito repellent from 'carlypatterson04' thanking 'fitorganicusa' for the repellent, with comments from 'fitorganicusa' and others
Two Georgia-based companies and their principals have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission allegations that, in connection with promoting a new insect repellent during the 2016 Zika virus outbreak, they misrepresented that paid endorsements were independent consumer opinions and commercial advertising was independent journalistic content.
Under two proposed Commission orders, the respondents are prohibited from making such misrepresentations going forward, and must disclose material connections with, and otherwise monitor, any endorsers they engage.
What the FTC Did to Protect Consumers
According to the FTC’s complaint, PR firm Creaxion Corporation proposed launching and promoting its client’s new mosquito repellent using a media campaign tied to the mosquito-borne Zika virus and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil. Creaxion partnered with Inside Publications, LLC, publisher of Inside Gymnastics magazine, to obtain athlete endorsers and otherwise promote the product.
The respondents allegedly engaged two gold medalists as endorsers, who each received several thousand dollars for their activities. The respondents drafted, reviewed, and monitored certain social media posts and advertorials. According to the complaint, the athletes posted social media endorsements for the repellent without disclosing they were paid, and Inside Publications reposted the endorsements, again without disclosure. Inside Gymnastics also ran paid ads for the product that were disguised as features or other articles of interest to its readers, the FTC alleges.
The FTC separately alleges that the Creaxion respondents reimbursed employees and “friends” for buying and reviewing the product on Walmart.com.
Based on this conduct, the complaint alleges the respondents violated the FTC Act by: 1) falsely representing that endorsements reflected the independent opinions and experience of impartial users; 2) failing to disclose material connections between the endorsers and the marketer of the product, specifically that certain endorsers were paid or reimbursed by, or employees of, the PR firm promoting the product; and 3) falsely representing that paid ads were the independent statements and opinions of impartial publications.
What the Settlements Mean
The two proposed administrative orders settling the FTC’s allegations prohibit, in part, the Creaxion respondents and the Inside Publications respondents from engaging in the challenged practices in connection with the promotion or sale of any product or service, and require them to take certain compliance measures. First, the orders prohibit the respondents from misrepresenting the status of any endorser or reviewer of a product or service, including misrepresenting that the endorser or reviewer is an independent user or ordinary consumer.
Next, the orders prohibit the respondents from making any representation about any endorser of a product or service without clearly and conspicuously disclosing, in the endorsement, any unexpected material connection between the endorser and any respondent or anyone else affiliated with the product or service.
Third, the orders prohibit the respondents from misrepresenting that paid commercial advertising is a statement of opinion from an independent or objective publisher or source. The goal is to prevent the dissemination of deceptively formatted advertising.
Finally, the orders require the respondents, when using endorsers, to take certain steps to ensure they comply with the endorsement provisions of the orders. Such steps include clearly notifying endorsers of their responsibilities, creating a monitoring system to review the endorsements, and terminating endorsers who fail to comply.
The Commission vote to issue the administrative complaint and to accept the proposed consent agreements was 5-0. The FTC will publish a description of the consent agreement packages in the Federal Register shortly.
The agreements will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through December 13, 2018, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent orders final. Interested parties can submit comments electronically [comment on Creaxion case; comment on Inside Publications case] by following the instructions in the “Invitation To Comment” part of the “Supplementary Information” section.
NOTE: The Commission issues an administrative 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. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $41,484.
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.
CONTACT FOR CONSUMERS:
Consumer Response Center
877-382-4357
CONTACT FOR NEWS MEDIA:
Mitchell J. Katz
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-216
STAFF CONTACT:
Karen Mandel
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2491

Nov 8, 2018

FTC Chairman Joseph J. Simons Meets with Counterparts from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico to Discuss Antitrust Enforcement: FTC I Press Relese

Antitrust agency heads from the United States, Canada, and Mexico meet today in Mexico City to discuss their ongoing work to ensure consistent and effective antitrust enforcement and increased cooperation among the three nations.
The meeting includes Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joseph J. Simons, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division, Canadian Acting Commissioner of Competition Matthew Boswell, and President Alejandra Palacios of the Mexican Federal Economic Competition Commission.
Chairman Simons seated in discussion with antitrust counterparts at Competition Bureau Canada event
FTC Chairman Joseph J. Simons meets with antitrust counterparts in Mexico City.
The discussions will cover a wide range of topics including developments and priorities, challenges for enforcers in times of antitrust populism, and procedural fairness in antitrust investigations. The officials also are exploring ways to deepen cooperation and convergence on sound antitrust principles.
“Strengthening ties with our closest neighbors is always a top priority, and I look forward to exploring additional avenues for cooperation,” said FTC Chairman Simons. “Coordination and continued dialogue are essential to ensure that vigorous competition benefits consumers in all three countries.”
“The Division’s close relationship with our antitrust colleagues in Mexico and Canada is critical to sound antitrust enforcement in North America,” said Assistant Attorney General Delrahim. “We look forward to our continued efforts to work with our international partners to promote competition to the benefit of consumers.”
The 1995 cooperation agreement between the United States and Canada, the 1999 agreement between the United States and Mexico, and the 2001 agreement between Canada and Mexico laid the foundation for these meetings. The agreements commit the agencies to coordinate and cooperate with each other in an effort to ensure the most consistent and effective antitrust enforcement.
The Federal Trade Commission works with foreign governments to promote international cooperation and sound policy. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases and the FTC International Monthly for the latest FTC news and resources.

Contact Information

MEDIA CONTACT:
Betsy Lordan
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-3707

MoneyGram Agrees to Pay $125 Million to Settle Allegations that the Company Violated the FTC’s 2009 Order and Breached a 2012 DOJ Deferred Prosecution Agreement: FTC I Press Release




MoneyGram International, Inc. has agreed to pay $125 million to settle allegations that the company failed to take steps required under a 2009 Federal Trade Commission order to crack down on fraudulent money transfers that cost U.S. consumers millions of dollars.
The $125 million payment is part of a global settlement that resolves allegations that MoneyGram also violated a separate 2012 deferred prosecution agreement with the Department of Justice.
“The FTC’s 2009 order required MoneyGram to protect consumers from fraud through its money transfer system, and today we are holding MoneyGram accountable for its failure to do so,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons. “MoneyGram’s alleged failure to implement key provisions of the order allowed scammers to continue to use its money transfer system to rip off consumers.”
Money transfers are a preferred method of payment for fraudsters because money sent through money transfer systems can be picked up quickly at locations all over the world, and once the money is paid out, it is all but impossible for consumers to get their money back. The systems also often allow scam artists to remain anonymous when receiving money from their victims.
In its new filing addressing violations of the 2009 order, the FTC alleges that MoneyGram failed to implement the comprehensive fraud prevention program mandated by the 2009 order, which requires the company to promptly investigate, restrict, suspend, and terminate high-fraud agents.
The 2009 order required MoneyGram to conduct timely fraud investigations of any agent location that has received two or more fraud complaints within 30 days; has fraud complaints totaling 5 percent or more of the location’s total monthly received transactions; or has displayed any unusual or suspicious money transfer activity. It also must terminate locations that may be complicit in fraud-induced money transfers.
The FTC alleges that MoneyGram was aware for years of the high levels of fraud and suspicious activities involving certain agents, including large chain agents. For example, the standards MoneyGram established for taking disciplinary actions did not comply with the 2009 order, because those standards required agents to have unreasonably high fraud rates before they could be suspended or terminated, according to the FTC. At the same time, MoneyGram also often failed to promptly conduct the required reviews or to suspend or terminate agents, particularly those from larger locations with high levels of fraud.
The FTC alleges, for example, that MoneyGram did not place any restrictions on one large chain agent until approximately mid-2013, even though the chain was the subject of more fraud complaints than any other MoneyGram agent worldwide. Some of the chain’s locations had fraud rates as high as 50 percent of the money transfer activity. When it did take disciplinary action, MoneyGram focused on lower-volume, “mom and pop” agents with high levels of fraud, while treating large chain agents differently, according to the FTC.
The FTC also alleges that MoneyGram’s computerized monitoring system, aimed at blocking known fraudsters from using its service, malfunctioned for an 18-month period in 2015 and 2016. During that time, MoneyGram failed to block individuals that the company knew or should have known were using its service for fraud or to obtain fraud-induced money transfers.
MoneyGram also allegedly violated the order by failing to properly vet its agents and by not providing appropriate training on how to detect and prevent consumer fraud for all its agents, including locations with high fraud rates.
Under the 2009 order, MoneyGram also was required to record the complaints it receives about fraud-induced money transfers and to share that information with the Commission. Between January 1, 2013 and April 30, 2018, MoneyGram received at least 295,775 complaints about fraud-induced money transfers—a large majority of which involved a small percentage of agents. The Commission alleges, however, that the company, in some cases, failed to record information it received about fraud-induced money transfers and share it with the FTC.
In addition to the monetary payment, MoneyGram has agreed to an expanded and modified order that will supersede the 2009 order and apply to money transfers worldwide. The modified order requires, among other things, that the company block the money transfers of known fraudsters and provide refunds to fraud victims in circumstances where its agents fail to comply with applicable policies and procedures. In addition, the modified order includes enhanced due diligence, investigative, and disciplinary requirements.
The Commission wishes to thank the following agencies for their assistance in this matter: The Department of Justice’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section; the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Philadelphia Division Office in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; and the Office of the Minnesota Attorney General.
The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the stipulated order for compensatory relief and modified order for permanent injunction was 5-0. The FTC filed the stipulated order in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. 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.

At FTC’s Request, Court Halts Massive “Sanctuary Belize” Real Estate Investment Scam: FTC I Press Release




Map of Belize showing location of Sanctuary Belize on the coast, just north of Placencia and Placencia International Airport. Belmopan is to the northwest, and Belize City is to the north.(NOTE TO MEDIA: Please see related press kit with maps, video, and audio.)
At the Federal Trade Commission’s request, a federal district court in Maryland issued an order temporarily shutting down the largest overseas real estate investment scam the FTC has ever targeted.
According to the FTC, the scam was established by Andris Pukke, a recidivist scammer currently living in California, and he perpetuated it even while serving a prison sentence for obstruction of justice.
The alleged scheme took in more than $100 million, marketing lots in what supposedly would become a luxury development in Central America known by several names, including Sanctuary Belize, Sanctuary Bay, and The Reserve. According to the FTC, the defendants duped consumers into buying Sanctuary Belize lots by falsely promising that the development would include luxury amenities and be completed soon, and that the value of the lots would rapidly appreciate.
In filing the complaint against Pukke and a range of other defendants, the FTC is seeking to permanently stop the scheme and obtain a court order requiring them to turn over hundreds of millions of dollars to compensate deceived U.S. investors.
“The defendants in this case operated a sophisticated international real estate investment scheme that cheated consumers out of millions of dollars of their hard-earned retirement savings,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons. “The FTC is committed to stopping this outrageous behavior and compensating the hundreds of victims.”
The Sanctuary Belize Scheme
According to the FTC, the defendants operated a set of interrelated businesses (the Sanctuary Belize Enterprise or SBE) and ran commercials on Fox News and Bloomberg News advertising parcels of land that were part of a luxury development in Belize. They also advertised the property through infomercials. Consumers who expressed interest in buying property would receive a call from California-based telemarketers who identified themselves as “property consultants” or “investment consultants.”
These telemarketers allegedly made six false claims in their pitches to sell lots in the development, including that:
  • SBE uses a “no-debt” business model, which makes buying a lot in Sanctuary Belize less-risky than a real estate investment in which the developer must make payments to creditors like banks;
  • Every dollar SBE collects from lot sales goes back into the development;
  • This continual funding stream means that SBE will finish development quickly -- within two to five years;
  • The development will include impressive amenities, such as a hospital staffed with American doctors, an emergency medical center near the downtown “Marina Village,” a championship-caliber golf course, an airstrip, and a new international airport with direct flights to the United States;
  • These amenities will ensure that property values will double or even triple in two to three years; and
  • It will be easy for buyers to resell their lots.
The FTC alleges that SBE representatives in Belize made the same deceptive claims when they met with prospective buyers visiting the property before purchasing lots.
The FTC also contends that relying on the defendants’ deceptive claims, consumers purchased lots that typically cost between $150,000 and $500,000 outright, or made large down payments followed by sizeable monthly payments, in addition to paying monthly homeowners association (HOA) fees. However, because the defendants’ claims are not true, consumers either have lost, or will lose, some or all of their investments.
According to the FTC, a no-debt model actually increases risk for purchasers, and the defendants used consumers’ payments to fund their own high-end lifestyles instead of investing the money in the development. The FTC contends that the development and the amenities will not be completed in the promised timeline, the value of the lots has not appreciated, and there is no resale market for the lots.
Based on these claims, the FTC charges the defendants with violating the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule. In addition, the FTC charges Belize’s Atlantic International Bank with assisting and facilitating the Sanctuary Belize scam.
The complaint also names Angela Chittenden, Beach Bunny Holdings, LLC, The Estate of John Pukke (Andris Pukke’s late father), John Vipulis, and Deborah Connelly as relief defendants who received funds from SBE’s deceptive and illegal conduct.
Related Contempt Motions Announced Today
In addition to the Sanctuary Belize complaint announced today, the FTC has filed three contempt motions against several of the individual defendants, including Andris Pukke, who has a long history with the Commission. In 2003, the FTC sued Pukke, AmeriDebt, and DebtWorks, alleging they deceptively sold financially strapped consumers debt management plans while pretending to be a “non-profit” credit counseling organization. Pukke and DebtWorks agreed to an order settling the FTC’s complaint in 2006.
The 2006 order barred Pukke from violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule and imposed a $172 million judgment, of which $137 million would be suspended if Pukke cooperated in efforts to recover another $35 million. The order also required Pukke to turn over certain assets, including the Sanctuary Belize parcel. In 2007, however, the court held Pukke and co-defendant Peter Baker in contempt for refusing to turn over the assets, including the land parcel in Belize.
In 2010, Pukke pleaded guilty to obstructing justice after he admitted obstructing the AmeriDebt receivership the order put in place and refusing to turn over the required assets. As a result, the court sentenced him to 18 months in prison. Between 2008 and 2014, the FTC returned nearly $7 million to consumers deceived through the AmeriDebt scheme. Pukke and Baker never relinquished control of the land parcel, however, and allegedly continued marketing it as part of the Sanctuary Belize scheme in the same way they had since 2005, even while Pukke was in jail.
The FTC has now filed a contempt motion against Pukke, Baker, and defendant John Usher related to Sanctuary Belize; a second contempt motion against Pukke and relief defendant John Vipulis seeking money Pukke owes the Commission; and a third contempt motion against Pukke, Baker, and Usher seeking to unwind a prior real estate transfer to enable the FTC to secure the unsold portions of the Belize land parcel.
FTC Seeking Information from Affected Consumers
To aid its lawsuit, the FTC is seeking information from consumers who have done business with the defendants or bought property in Sanctuary Belize. Over the course of the alleged scheme, the defendants have used other names in marketing the development, including Global Property Alliance, Buy Belize, Buy International, Eco Futures, Sittee River Wildlife Reserve, Sanctuary Bay, The Reserve, and The Marina at the Reserve.
The Commission has set up a website where consumers are urged to submit any information related to their dealings with the defendants, including documents, videos, photographs, audio recordings, or any other type of file related to the allegations in the complaint.
The FTC will encrypt all information it collects, and will take steps to ensure that it does not disclose consumers’ personal information. The FTC also may follow up with consumers who submit information relevant to its case.
The Commission voted 5-0 to authorize staff to file: 1) the complaint seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the Sanctuary Belize defendants; 2) a contempt motion against Andris Pukke, Peter Baker, and John Usher; 3) a contempt motion against Pukke and John Vipulis; and 4) a contempt motion against Pukke, Baker, and Usher seeking to unwind a real estate transfer.
The documents were filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland under seal, and the seal has now been lifted in part. A complete list of the 23 individual and corporate defendants named in the case can be found in the Commission’s complaint.
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.
MEDIA CONTACT:
Mitchell J. Katz
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2161
Press Kit: For assistance with B-roll, video, and audio files email webmaster@ftc.gov
STAFF CONTACTS:
Jonathan Cohen
Bureau of Consumer Protection

202-326-2551
Benjamin J. Theisman
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2223

Oct 26, 2018

Federal Trade Commission Gives Final Approval to Settlement with Uber I FTC I Press Release




The Federal Trade Commission has given final approval to a settlement with Uber Technologies, Inc. over allegations that the ride-sharing company deceived consumers about its privacy and data security practices.
In its complaint, the FTC alleged that Uber failed to monitor employee access to consumers’ personal information on an ongoing basis and to reasonably secure sensitive consumer data it stored in the cloud. As a result of its failure to take reasonable measures to secure both rider and driver data, the company suffered two breaches. The first breach occurred in or about May 2014 when an intruder gained access to personal information about Uber drivers. Uber suffered a second, larger breach of drivers’ and riders’ data in October-November 2016, and failed to disclose that breach to consumers or the FTC for more than a year, despite being the subject of an ongoing FTC investigation of its data security practices during that time.
Following the second data breach, the FTC negotiated an expanded and revised settlement with Uber. Under the final settlement, Uber could be subject to civil penalties if it fails to notify the FTC of certain future incidents involving unauthorized access to consumer information, which includes both driver and rider information. The company is also prohibited from misrepresenting how it monitors internal access to consumers’ personal information and the extent to which it protects the privacy, confidentiality, security, and integrity of personal information. In addition, Uber must implement a comprehensive privacy program and for 20 years obtain biennial independent, third-party assessments, which it must submit to the Commission, certifying that it has a privacy program in place that meets or exceeds the requirements of the FTC order.
The FTC received three comments on the revised settlement with Uber. The Commission voted 4-0-1 to approve the final complaint and order as well as responses to the three commenters. Commissioner Christine S. Wilson did not participate. Commissioners Rohit Chopra and Rebecca Kelly Slaughter issued separate statements.
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.

Oct 25, 2018

FTC Gives Final Approval to Settlement with ReadyTech Related to Participation in the EU-US Privacy Shield I FTC I Press Release



The Federal Trade Commission has given final approval to a settlement with ReadyTech Corp., over allegations that it falsely claimed it was in the process of certifying its compliance under the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield framework.
The framework establishes a process to allow companies to transfer consumer data from European Union countries to the United States in compliance with EU law. In its complaint, the FTC alleges that ReadyTech, which provides online training services, falsely claimed on its website that it is “in the process of certifying that we comply with the U.S.-E.U. Privacy Shield framework.” While ReadyTech initiated a Privacy Shield application in October 2016, the company did not complete the steps necessary to participate in the Privacy Shield framework.
As part of the settlement, ReadyTech is prohibited from misrepresenting its participation in any privacy or security program sponsored by a government or any self-regulatory or standard-setting organization, including but not limited to the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield framework and the Swiss-U.S. Privacy Shield framework. It also must comply with standard reporting and compliance requirements.
The FTC received three comments on the settlement. The Commission voted 4-0-1 to give final approval to the settlement and to send responses to the three commenters. Commissioner Christine S. Wilson did not participate.
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 Requires Divestitures as Condition of Marathon Petroleum Corporation’s Acquisition of Express Mart I FTC I Press Release


ftc.gov

Marathon Petroleum Corp., an Ohio-based energy company, has agreed to certain conditions to settle charges that its proposed acquisition of Express Mart would violate federal antitrust law.  Marathon’s wholly owned subsidiary Speedway operates the second-largest chain of company-owned and -operated gasoline and convenience stores in the United States.  Express Mart is a Syracuse, N.Y.-based operator of convenience stores and retail fuel outlets.
According to the Federal Trade Commission’s complaint, the acquisition would harm competition for both retail gasoline and retail diesel in five local markets in New York State: Farmington, Fayetteville, Johnson City, Rochester, and Whitney Point.
In four of the five local gasoline retail markets, the proposed acquisition would reduce the number of significant competitors from three to two. In the fifth, it would reduce the number from four to three.
In three of the five retail diesel markets, the proposed acquisition would result in a merger to monopoly. In the fourth, the proposed acquisition would reduce the number of significant competitors from three to two. In the fifth, the proposed acquisition would reduce the number of significant competitors from four to three.
The complaint alleges that, without a remedy, the acquisition would substantially lessen competition for the retail sale of gasoline and diesel in these five local markets. Retail fuel outlets compete on price, store format, product offerings, and location. They also pay close attention to nearby competitors that share similar store characteristics and face similar traffic flow of potential customers. The acquisition would increase the likelihood that Marathon could unilaterally raise prices in each of the five local markets, and also would enhance the incentives for interdependent behavior in all five local markets.
Under the terms of the proposed consent order, Marathon would be required to divest to Sunoco retail fuel assets in Farmington, Fayetteville, Johnson City, Rochester, and Whitney Point within 90 days after the acquisition is completed. Marathon and Express Mart would be required to maintain the competitiveness of the divestiture assets during the divestiture process.
Further details about the consent agreement, which includes an asset maintenance order and allows the Commission to appoint a monitor trustee, are set forth in the analysis to aid public comment for this matter.
FTC staff worked closely with the New York State Attorney General’s office on this matter.
The Commission vote to issue the complaint and accept the proposed consent order for public comment was 5-0. The FTC will publish the consent agreement package in the Federal Register shortly. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through Nov. 26, 2018, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final. Comments can be filed electronically or in paper form by following the instructions in the “Supplementary Information” section of the Federal Register notice.
NOTE: The Commission issues an administrative 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. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $41,484.

Oct 22, 2018

FTC Announces Kick-off of First Annual International Charity Fraud Awareness Week I FTC I Press Release




The Federal Trade Commission, the National Association of State Charities Officials, and state charities regulators across the country are announcing the first annual International Charity Fraud Awareness Week (ICFAW), between October 22 and 26, 2018. ICFAW is a coordinated international campaign to help charities and consumers avoid charity fraud and promote wise giving. Consumers can follow the week’s events at #CharityFraudOut.
The FTC and its U.S. partners are joining the Charities Commission for England & Wales, which for many years has hosted its own Charity Fraud Awareness Week. This year, the event is expanding to other countries.
In addition to the U.S. participants in ICFAW, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland, the New Zealand Charities Service, and the Office of the Scottish Regulator are also joining in the international outreach effort. Key non-governmental participants include Chartered Accountants Worldwide, the UK’s Fraud Advisory Panel, and international charities Oxfam, British Council, and Amnesty International.
“Generous Americans gave more than $286 billion to charity last year. It’s important to raise awareness about charity fraud and promote wise giving, to ensure that consumers’ money goes where it is intended and helps those in need,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons. “Joining forces with state and international partners makes all of our education efforts more effective.”
To promote awareness of the impact of charity fraud and the importance of wise giving, the FTC is releasing a new video, “Make Your Donations Count.” The video highlights the value of researching charities to avoid donating to a scam, provides tips people can follow to verify the charity before they donate, and directs people to visit FTC.gov/Charity for more information.
ICFAW Social Media Campaign
ICFAW features a social media campaign (on Twitter and Facebook) that promotes wise giving tips focused on particular topics of interest each day.
This year’s campaign will feature tips on the following topics:
  • Monday, 10/22: Giving after Natural Disasters
  • Tuesday, 10/23: Charitable Solicitations Made via Telemarketing
  • Wednesday, 10/24: Privacy
  • Thursday, 10/25: Online Giving
  • Friday, 10/26: Wise Giving
Follow the FTC’s official Twitter account for daily tips and tune into the weeklong discussion at #CharityFraudOut. Follow the FTC’s official Facebook account for daily tips and links to resources as well.
Make Your Donations Count - Look up a charity's report & ratings; Never pay by gift card or wire transfer. Credit card and check are safer. Watch out for names that only look like well-known charities; Search the charity name online. Do people say it's a scam? Ask how much of your donation goes to the program you want to support. Donating online? Be sure where that money is going.Resources for Consumers
Many reputable charities are deserving of support. The FTC has tips at www.ftc.gov/charity to help individuals and businesses find those charities and give wisely. Watch our new video, “Make Your Donations’ Count,” and remember to:
  • Look up a charity’s report & ratings.Check them out on sites like the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, and GuideStar.
  • Watch out for names that only look like well-known charities. Just because a group has a sympathetic sounding name, or sounds like a well-known organization, doesn’t mean it’s legitimate. Some of the worst offenders have been known to mimic the names of reputable nonprofits.
  • Search the charity name online. Are people reporting that it’s a scam?
  • Ask how much of your donation really goes to the programs you want to support. Some of the .org charity-rating groups offer an independent assessment.
  • Donating online? Be sure where the money is going.
Apart from personal donations, businesses may be approached for charitable contributions, too. Firms also want their donations to go to reputable non-profits, and they want to avoid inadvertently associating the company with a questionable fundraising campaign. The FTC also has specific advice for businesses in Tips for Retailers: How to Review Charity Requests.
  • When a firm lends its company name to a charity through a sponsorship or by allowing fundraising on the firm’s property, the company’s reputation is on the line. Customers and members of the community may interpret that as a “stamp of approval” and feel safe to donate to a cause the company is championing. Before lending a business’ name to a charity or allowing solicitations on the premises, find out more about who is doing the asking. The FTC guidance includes a simple form companies can use to get key information from charities seeking support.
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.

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