FOR THE CONSUMER
The FTC's monthly newsletter for the Congressional community
It's the news you - and your constituents - can use.
Volume 8- Number 4
IN THIS ISSUE
NEW FTC CHAIR. The President has named Jon Leibowitz as Chairman of the FTC. Leibowitz, who became an FTC Commissioner in 2004, was formerly the Democratic chief counsel and staff director for the U.S. Senate Antitrust Subcommittee from 1997 to 2000. Leibowitz was chief counsel and staff director for the Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism and Technology from 1995 to 1996 and for the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Justice from 1991 to 1994. He served as chief counsel to Sen. Herb Kohl from 1989 to 2000, and worked for Sen. Paul Simon from 1986 to 1987. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/03/chairman.shtm.
ANNUAL REPORT. The FTC has issued its annual report, which describes the agency’s competition and consumer protection accomplishments since last March. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/03/annualrpt.shtm .
HOPE-LESS. At the FTC’s request, a U.S. district court has ordered two companies to stop claiming to be part of a government-endorsed mortgage assistance network. According to the FTC, New Hope Modifications and Hope Now Modifications said they could successfully modify mortgages for almost all their clients or give refunds. The FTC alleged that in reality they often diverted one month’s mortgage payment as a fee from distressed homeowners, failed to help them modify their mortgages, and then denied them refunds. They are not affiliated with the legitimate HOPE NOW Alliance, a mortgage assistance network that offers free help to homeowners who need it while working with their mortgage company or loan services. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/03/newhope.shtm.
$7.5 MILLION SETTLEMENT. QVC, Inc., a TV home shopping channel and one of the world’s largest multimedia retailers, has agreed to settle FTC charges and pay $7.5 million ($6 million for consumer redress and a $1.5 million civil penalty). According to the FTC, QVC made false and/or unsubstantiated claims about three types of dietary supplements and an anti-cellulite skin cream. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/03/infomercials.shtm .
ROES WOES. Roes, Inc. and its principals, marketers of dietary supplements and health-related devices, will pay $3 million in consumer redress to settle FTC charges that they lied about their products’ ability to treat or prevent a wide variety of serious conditions, including cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, strokes, heart attacks, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and arthritis. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/03/roex.shtm .
CREDIT REPORTS. The FTC has settled its charges against a consumer reporting agency that failed to properly screen prospective customers and, as a result, sold at least 318 credit reports to identity thieves. Rental Research Services, Inc. and its principal must ensure that they provide credit reports only to legitimate businesses for lawful purposes, use a comprehensive information security program, and obtain independent audits every other year for 20 years. The settlement imposes a $500,000 penalty, which has been suspended because of inability to pay. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/03/rrs.shtm .
WRONG NOTE. The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) settled FTC charges that it encouraged members to share confidential pricing information at trade meetings, leading to higher retail prices for musical instruments. The trade association --- 9000 musical instrument makers, distributors, and dealers --- organized events for members to discuss strategies to jointly raise the prices of instruments. The FTC order bars NAMM from coordinating member discussions on pricing. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/03/namm.shtm.
In March, the FTC testified twice before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
PREDATORY LENDING. The FTC will continue protecting consumers from predatory lending and other illegal practices through all stages of the credit life-cycle, from credit advertising through debt collection. The FTC also recommended ways to enhance the agency’s effectiveness. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/03/financialhouse.shtm.
USED CARS. The three significant consumer protection issues in the used car market are: giving customers important information about the used cars so they can make sound purchasing decisions; preventing deception in the financing of used cars; and helping people avoid debt cycles that can lead to the repossession of their car. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/03/autotest.shtm.
MORTGAGE LENDING MARKET. In a statement to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the FTC described its efforts to protect people from unfair, deceptive, and discriminatory practices in the mortgage lending market. Since the late 1990s, the Commission has focused on the most egregious illegal lending practices of nonbank lenders, particularly in the subprime market, bringing 26 law enforcement actions that resulted in almost $345 million being returned to consumers. The agency also has brought dozens of cases alleging discriminatory lending practices, distributed extensive education materials, and recommended making federal mortgage disclosure documents clearer and more useful for people. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/03/crcommission.shtm.
AT THE FTC
PATENTLY INTERESTING. The FTC will host a free workshop April 17 about buying, selling and licensing patents. The workshop will be held at the agency’s conference center at 601 New Jersey Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. and is open to the public. A government-issued photo ID is required for entry. A live webcast will be available at www.ftc.gov. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/03/iphearing.shtm.
FREE WORKSHOP FOR BUSINESS. The FTC, the Center on Law and Information Policy of Fordham Law School and local partners will sponsor a free workshop for businesses in New York City on April 29. The morning session focuses on how businesses can implement best practices for developing an appropriate data security program. The afternoon session addresses a new regulation that requires creditors and financial institutions to develop an identity theft prevention program for certain covered accounts. Both sessions feature business people, attorneys, government officials, privacy officers, or other experts who will provide practical guidance for businesses of all sizes. The workshop takes place in Pope Auditorium on the Lincoln Center campus of Fordham University. Members of the New York Bar may earn five transitional or non-transitional professional CLE practice credits at a cost of $75. A live webcast of the workshop will be available at www.ftc.gov . Learn more at www.ftc.gov/infosecurity .
USING A CREDIT CARD: YOUR RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES. Discusses how people can get a better grip on the safe use of credit cards and avoid credit troubles. www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt137.shtm.
COOL AND CALCULATED. The FTC has a new calculator that gives people an estimate of how long it will take them to pay off their credit card balance. The Federal Reserve Board developed the calculator in connection with the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005. Check it out at www.ftc.gov/creditcardcalculator.
FIGHTING FRAUD WITH THE RED FLAGS RULE: A HOW-TO GUIDE FOR BUSINESS. Booklet explains the “Red Flags” Rule, which requires many businesses and organizations to implement a written Identity Theft Prevention Program designed to detect the warning signs --- or “red flags”--- of identity theft in their day-to-day operations, take steps to prevent the crime, and mitigate the damage it inflicts.
It’ s become an all-too-familiar headline --- lay-offs and furloughs, falling housing prices, rising consumer debt, declining retail sales, and increasing costs of living. Money --- and the lack of it --- is a source of stress and frustration. The FTC has some new resources for you to share with your constituents to help them weather tough economic times.
www.ftc.gov/MoneyMatters can help people dealing with debt or looking to learn more about creating a budget, saving, and spending wisely in a challenging economic climate. Money Matters offers short, practical tips, videos, and links to reliable resources for more information on topics like credit repair, debt collection, job scams, vehicle repossession, managing mortgage payments, and foreclosure rescue scams. Visitors also can learn how to recognize and avoid a host of scams and rip-offs.
The FTC also has developed two new videos to remind people that the only authorized source to get a free annual credit report under federal law is AnnualCreditReport.com. The new videos highlight the differences between AnnualCreditReport.com and those other sites that claim to provide “free” credit reports. Other sites require users to pay fees or agree to additional services to get the free report the law entitles them to. Watch the videos at www.ftc.gov/freereports and www.youtube.com/FTCVideos .
We encourage you to embed the videos on your Member’s site, link to www.ftc.gov/MoneyMatters or post its content on your site or blog, use the information in your constituent newsletters or town hall meetings, or hand out print copies of the information in your offices. To discuss using Money Matters or the videos in your constituent programs, contact Derick Rill at (202) 326-3007 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Take a look around at www.ftc.gov/moneymatters and www.ftc.gov/freereports .
FTC'S OFFICE OF CONGRESSIONAL RELATIONS: 202-326-2195.
Check out the CONGRESSIONAL RESOURCES portion of our website at
www.ftc.gov/ocr/index.shtml. No password needed to access.
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