FOR THE CONSUMER
The FTC's monthly newsletter for the Congressional community
It's the news you—and your constituents—can use.
Volume 4 – Number 3
IN THIS ISSUE
KNEE DEEP IN DEBT. Three debt counseling operations -- and their principals -- will pay more than $6 million combined in consumer redress to settle FTC charges that their business practices were deceptive. Some consumers’ debt, interest rates, and penalties increased; others were forced into bankruptcy. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2005/03/creditcouncel.shtm
WE'LL MANAGE. AmeriDebt will shut down its debt management operation as part of a settlement of FTC charges that it deceived consumers into paying at least $170 million in hidden fees. The FTC charged that the company misrepresented that it was a nonprofit credit counseling organization that would teach consumers how to manage their finances without having to pay any up-front fee. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2005/03/ameridebt.shtm
EYE SPY. At the FTC's request, a U.S. District Court barred a company from making deceptive claims about its free spyware detection scans that were used to market the company's anti-spyware software. The FTC charged that the free scan "detected" spyware even if there wasn't any, the anti-spyware product didn't remove all spyware and files, and didn't prevent any future breaches. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2005/03/maxtheater.shtm
IT'S PRIVATE. An Internet service provider who supplied online merchants with shopping cart software settled the FTC's charges that it rented personal information about merchants’ customers to marketers, knowing that the disclosure contradicted merchant privacy policies. The company allegedly released the personal information of one million customers. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2005/03/cartmanager.shtm
GREEN LIGHTS AND RED FLAGS. The FTC and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill will host "Green Lights & Red Flags: FTC Rules of the Road for Advertisers" in Chapel Hill on April 19. "Green Lights" is a one-day "back to basics" workshop about complying with truth-in-advertising laws, featuring speakers from the FTC, the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office, and private practitioners who will inform marketing executives, business owners, and in-house counsel about the latest developments in advertising compliance. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2005/03/greenred.shtm
SMALL WORLD. The FTC will host an OECD workshop to examine approaches to dispute resolution and consumer redress around the world. The workshop will be held on April 19-20 at the FTC’s Conference Center, 601 New Jersey Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC. It's free and open to the public, but requires advance registration with the OECD. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2005/03/oecdworkshop.shtm
NEW & REVISEDCONSUMER EDUCATION
NEGATIVE CREDIT CAN SQUEEZE A JOB SEARCH. Explains consumers' rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, as well as how bad credit can affect the ability to get more credit, and to get or keep a job. www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt053.shtm
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION HAS BEEN COMPROMISED. Informs consumers of actions to take if their personal information is compromised, putting them at risk of identity theft. www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt150.shtm
FUNERALES: UNA GUÍA PARA EL CONSUMIDOR (Funerals: A Consumer Guide) Spanish publication offers information on how to plan a funeral for a loved one or family member and a review of consumer rights under the Funeral Rule. http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/products/spro19.shtm
TIP OF THE MONTH -- Debt Management Plans
A legitimate credit counseling organization provides education and counseling to consumers who may need help with managing their credit, debt, money and budgeting. But not all credit counseling organizations provide these services. Some charge high fees, but may not disclose that. Some misrepresent their nonprofit status or fraudulently obtain their nonprofit status by misrepresenting their business practices.
If you're considering using the services of a credit counseling organization, the FTC encourages you to choose carefully. When researching credit counselors, ask:
1. what services they offer. An initial counseling session usually lasts an hour, with an offer of follow-up sessions. Look for an organization that offers a range of services -- for example, budget counseling, savings and debt management -- and counselors who are able to discuss your entire financial situation.
2. if they're licensed to offer their services in your state. Many states require a license before credit counseling services can be offered.
3. if they offer free information. Avoid organizations that charge for information about the nature of their services.
4. if you'll have a formal written agreement with them.
For more information on debt or credit counseling, visit: www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre38.shtm.
NUMBERS TO KNOW
FTC'S OFFICE OF CONGRESSIONAL RELATIONS: 202-326-2195.
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