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                                                                     Daily Compliance News

Daily Compliance News, your source for the latest international news and headlines related to compliance and regulatory world.

FTC Returns Money to Consumers Harmed By Phantom Debt Collector

The Federal Trade Commission is returning $772,512 to consumers who were targeted by a debt collector who unlawfully brokered and collected fake debts that the consumers did not owe.

According to the complaint filed by the FTC and the New York Attorney General, Hylan Asset Management, LLC, and its owners, Andrew Shaevel and Jon E. Purizhansky, bought, placed for collection, and sold lists of phantom debts, including debts that were fake or imposed on consumers without their knowledge or consent.

Hylan referred the fake debts to several collection agencies, including Worldwide Processing Group, LLC, which then illegally collected on them. Hylan continued to buy the portfolios and distribute them to third parties for collection even though it was repeatedly notified that consumers did not owe many of the debts, the FTC alleged.

The defendants agreed to settle the case in 2019. As part of the settlement, they agreed to be banned permanently from the debt collection industry and surrendered funds to the FTC. The agency is using that money to send checks averaging $539 to 1,432 consumers.

People who receive checks should deposit or cash them within 90 days, as indicated on the check. Recipients who have questions about their checks should call the refund administrator, JND Legal Administration at 1-888-691-3554. The FTC never requires people to pay money or provide account information to cash a refund check.

The FTC’s interactive dashboards for refund data provide a state-by-state breakdown of FTC refunds. In 2020, FTC actions led to more than $483 million in refunds to consumers across the country, but the United States Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that the FTC lacks authority under Section 13(b) to seek monetary relief in federal court going forward. The Commission has urged Congressto restore the FTC’s ability to get money back for consumers.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to 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). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Contact For Consumers:
Refund Administrator
888-691-3554

Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2656

FTC Approves Updated Energy Efficiency Descriptors for Central Air Conditioning Units

Following a public comment period, the Federal Trade Commission has approved a Federal Register notice (FRN) announcing final amendments to the agency’s Energy Labeling Rule (Rule). The amendments update the comparability ranges and sample labels for central air conditioning (AC) units.

The Rule, issued in 1979 under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, requires energy labeling for major home appliances and other consumer products to help consumers compare the energy usage and costs of competing models. The Rule requires manufacturers to attach yellow EnergyGuide labels to many of the products it covers and prohibits retailers from removing or altering these labels.

The Commission vote authorizing publication of the Federal Register notice announcing the updated comparability ranges and sample labels for central AC units was 4-1, with Commissioner Christine S. Wilson voting no and issuing a separate statement.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to 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). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Contact For Consumers:
Hampton Newsome
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2889

Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2161

FTC Targets False Claims by For-Profit Colleges

Commission resurrects use of legal tool to trigger steep penalties against lawbreaking colleges

The Federal Trade Commission put 70 for-profit higher education institutions on notice that the agency is cracking down on any false promises they make about their graduates’ job and earnings prospects and other outcomes and will hit violators with significant financial penalties.

The Commission is resurrecting its Penalty Offense Authority, found in Section 5 of the FTC Act, to ensure that bad actors pay a price when they break the law. By sending a Notice of Penalty Offenses to the institutions, which represent the largest for-profit colleges and vocational schools across the country, the companies operating these colleges will be on notice that they could incur significant sanctions for engaging in certain unlawful practices. The notice outlines a number of practices that the FTC has previously found to be unfair or deceptive, and notes that these practices could lead to civil penalties of up to $43,792 per violation.

“For too long, unscrupulous for-profit schools have preyed on students with impunity, facing no penalties when they defraud their students and drive them into debt,” said FTC Chair Lina M. Khan. “The FTC is resurrecting a dormant authority to deter wrongdoing and hold accountable bad actors who abuse students and taxpayers. Working closely with our state and federal partners, we’ll be monitoring this market carefully.”

This broad-based initiative to deter for-profit college fraud marks the agency’s first use of its Penalty Offense Authority to protect students and their families. The Notice of Penalty Offenses allows the agency to seek civil penalties against a company that engages in conduct that it knows has been found unlawful in a previous FTC administrative order, other than a consent order.

Many of the practices outlined in the Notice relate to claims made by institutions about the career outcomes of their graduates, including whether a particular career field is in demand, the percentage of graduates who get jobs in their chosen field, whether the institution can help a graduate get a job, the amount of money a graduate can expect to earn and other related practices. Complaints to the FTC around education-related issues surged roughly 70 percent between 2018 and 2020, and the Commission is committed to rooting out practices that harm students and their families.

The Notice cites a number of administrative cases brought by the FTC against for-profit institutions in which the Commission found practices like those outlined in the Notice unlawful.

A full list of the institutions that received the Notice from the FTC is available on the FTC’s website.  A school’s presence on this list does not reflect any assessment as to whether they have engaged in deceptive or unfair conduct.

The Commission vote to authorize the Notice and its distribution was 5-0.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to 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). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2656

Staff Contact:
Wendy Miller
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2571

FTC Finalizes Settlement with Operators of MoviePass Related to Allegations They Blocked Subscribers from Using Movie Service as Advertised

The Federal Trade Commission has given final approval to a settlement with the operators of MoviePass over allegations they took steps to block subscribers from using the service as advertised, while also failing to secure subscribers’ personal data.

In a complaint and proposed settlement first announced in June 2021, the FTC alleged that MoviePass Inc.—along with CEO Mitchell Lowe, MoviePass parent company Helios and Matheson Analytics, Inc., and its CEO Theodore Farnsworth —deceptively marketed its “one movie per day” service, then deployed deceptive tactics aimed at preventing subscribers from using the service as advertised —actions the FTC alleged violated both the FTC Act and the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act. The FTC also alleged MoviePass’s operators left a database containing large amounts of subscribers’ personal information unencrypted and exposed, leading to unauthorized access.

Under the settlement, MoviePass, Inc., Helios, and their principals will be barred from misrepresenting their business and data security practices. In addition, any businesses controlled by MoviePass, Helios, or Lowe must implement comprehensive information security programs. MoviePass’s operators also are required to notify the FTC of any future data breaches, and a senior executive must certify annually that MoviePass’s operators are complying with the data security requirements of the settlement. If they violate the terms of the order, they could face monetary penalties of up to $43,792 per violation, per day.

After receiving two comments, the Commission voted 4-1 to give final approval to the complaint and order and send responses to the commenters. Commissioner Noah Joshua Phillips voted no.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to 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). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2924

FTC To Host Press Conference Announcing New Steps To Combat False Claims by For-Profit Colleges

WHAT:The Federal Trade Commission will host a press conference to announce new steps to stop deceptive and unfair practices in for-profit higher education.
WHEN:Wednesday, October 6, 2021, 11 a.m. ET
WHO:FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra and Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Samuel Levine will speak about the new initiative.
WHERE:The press conference will be held via Zoom. Members of the media interested in attending should e-mail Jay Mayfield in the FTC’s Office of Public Affairs for access at jmayfield@ftc.gov.

 

CONTACT INFORMATION

Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2656

FTC Returns $1.1 Million to Consumers Who Lost Money to Alleged Scammers Selling Bogus Income Opportunities

The Federal Trade Commission is returning more than $1.1 million to consumers who paid for an allegedly bogus money-making opportunity that called itself “8 Figure Dream Lifestyle.”

The FTC sued 8 Figure Dream Lifestyle LLC and nine co-defendants in 2019 as part of a crackdown on robocallers across the country. In its complaint, the FTC alleged that the defendants used a combination of illegal robocalls, live telephone calls, text messaging, internet ads, emails, social media, and live events to market and sell consumers fraudulent money-making opportunities.

According to the FTC’s lawsuit, the defendants consistently made false or unsubstantiated claims in their marketing about how much consumers could earn using their programs. In reality, the lawsuit says, consumers who bought the programs rarely earned substantial income, typically lost their entire investment, and often incurred significant loans and credit card debt—tens of thousands of dollars, in some cases.

Under two stipulated court orders, the defendants agreed to settle the FTC charges last year. As a result, they are banned from selling money-making or business coaching programs, and nine of the defendants are banned from using robocalls for most purposes, including marketing or advertising. In addition, three defendants are banned from selling any investment opportunities. The defendants also surrendered funds to the FTC, which the agency is using to provide these refund payments to consumers.

Payments averaging $460 will be sent to 2,506 consumers, including 1,498 checks and 1,008 PayPal payments. People who receive checks should deposit or cash them within 90 days, as indicated on the check. Recipients who have questions about their checks or the refund program can call JND Legal Administration at 1-888-691-3551. The FTC never requires people to pay money or provide account information to cash a refund check.

The FTC’s interactive dashboards for refund data provide a state-by-state breakdown of FTC refunds. In 2020, FTC actions led to more than $483 million in refunds to consumers across the country, but the United States Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that the FTC lacks authority under Section 13(b) to seek monetary relief in federal court going forward. The Commission has urged Congress to restore the FTC’s ability to get money back for consumers.

The FTC’s interactive dashboards for refund data provide a state-by-state breakdown of FTC refunds. In 2020, FTC actions led to more than $483 million in refunds to consumers across the country, but recently the United States Supreme Court ruled the FTC lacks authority under Section 13(b) to seek monetary relief in federal court going forward. The Commission has urged Congress to restore the FTC’s ability to get money back for consumers.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to 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). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Contact For Consumers:
JND Legal Administration
Refund Administrator
888-691-3551

Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2656

FTC Returns $2M to Consumers Who Paid High Upfront Fees to Get “Funding” for Expensive, Ineffective Training Programs

The Federal Trade Commission is sending 8,843 checks totaling more than $2 million to consumers who were harmed by a company that charged them money for “funding” to pay for expensive and often ineffective training programs, but instead opened multiple credit card accounts in their names.

Explore Data with the FTC: Learn more about FTC refunds to consumersAccording to the FTC’s complaint, Seed Consulting, LLC (which also operated under the names Seed Capital and Foundation Funding) was pitched by training companies as a way to get “funding” to people who wanted to start a business or become a real estate investor. The complaint alleged that Seed didn’t actually provide any funds to consumers but instead charged them $3,000 or more to apply for numerous credit cards on their behalf, with total credit lines of more than $50,000, a practice known as “credit card stacking.”

To obtain these credit lines, the suit alleges, Seed often inflated consumers’ annual incomes on credit card applications by approximately $100,000, telling consumers they could expect to make that much when they completed their training programs. Often, the consumers used the credit cards Seed obtained for them to pay for expensive programs sold by the training companies.

Seed agreed to settle the FTC’s case in January 2021. Each check recipient will receive $232.12.

People who receive checks should deposit or cash them within 90 days, as indicated on the check. Recipients who have questions about their checks, as well as anyone who paid Seed Consulting for business training and real estate investment programs, should call the refund administrator, JND Legal Administration at 1-833-823-0045. The FTC never requires people to pay money or provide account information to cash a refund check.

The FTC’s interactive dashboards for refund data provide a state-by-state breakdown of FTC refunds. In 2020, FTC actions led to more than $483 million in refunds to consumers across the country, but recently the United States Supreme Court ruled the FTC lacks authority under Section 13(b) to seek monetary relief in federal court going forward. The Commission has urged Congress to restore the FTC’s ability to get money back for consumers.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to 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). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Contact For Consumers:
JND Legal Administration
Refund Administrator
833-823-0045

Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2656

FTC Issues Final Rule Establishing Process for Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority’s Submission of Proposed Rules

Changes to FTC Rules of Practice establish processes under 2020 horseracing safety law

The Federal Trade Commission has made updates to its Rules of Practice, establishing a formal process by which the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority can submit its draft rules and procedures to the FTC for review and an approval decision.

Under the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act of 2020, the FTC is required to review and decide whether to approve or disapprove rules proposed by the Authority in a number of areas, such as anti-doping and racetrack safety. The new procedural rules establish requirements applicable to the Authority for its submission of proposed rules to the Commission for review.

The new procedural rules identify what the Authority must submit to the Commission for the Commission to evaluate and decide whether to approve or disapprove the Authority’s proposed rules. The Authority’s proposed rules will be published in the Federal Register for public comment.

Consistent with the Act, the new procedural rules require the Commission to approve or disapprove of any proposed rules or rule modifications submitted by the Authority within 60 days of their being published in the Federal Register.

The Commission vote to approve the changes to the FTC Rules of Practice was 5–0. The changes will be published in the Federal Register shortly.

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). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2656

Alabama Board of Dental Examiners Agrees to Settle FTC Charges that It Unreasonably Excluded Lower Cost Online and Teledentistry Providers from Competition

To settle FTC charges that its actions violated the antitrust laws, the Board of Dental Examiners of Alabama has agreed to stop requiring on-site supervision by licensed dentists of alignment scans of prospective patients’ mouths seeking to address misaligned teeth or gaps between teeth. These scans are routinely administered by dental hygienists and other non-dentist practitioners; the Dental Board’s decision limited consumer choice and excluded new providers in the state of Alabama.         

According to the complaint, the Board is a state agency comprised of six licensed dentists and one licensed dental hygienist, who administer dental licensing in Alabama. In 2017 – after startups such as SmileDirectClub, Candid Co., and SmileLove LLC had begun offering lower cost clear aligner therapy through teledentistry platforms – the board amended a rule to prohibit dental hygienists and other non-dentist practitioners from performing scans inside a patient’s mouth without on-site dentist supervision. After the Board sent a letter to SmileDirectClub demanding it stop using non-dentist personnel to take scans of patients’ mouths, SmileDirectClub abandoned plans to open additional locations in Alabama.

The complaint alleges that the Board unreasonably excluded from competition providers of teledentistry-based teeth alignment products and services, and that it did this without adequate active supervision from neutral state officials, in violation of the FTC Act. Under the terms of the proposed settlement, the Board must no longer impede clear aligner platforms, or dental professionals affiliated with them, from providing clear aligner therapy through remote treatment.

Braces and removable, fabricated molds called clear aligners are used to straighten teeth, and in recent years, several new firms have launched platforms that provide clear aligners using teledentistry. These firms typically offer clear aligner therapy at significantly lower prices than those charged for braces or clear aligners that are supplied by a dentist or orthodontist in a traditional office setting, the complaint states. For reasons of price and convenience, many consumers prefer clear aligner therapy supplied through a teledentistry model.                       

According to the complaint, state regulatory boards comprised of active market participants can violate antitrust law by publicizing and enforcing rules that harm competition in the industry in which board members participate. Because the Board is controlled by active market participants, they must be actively supervised by the state, and they were not, the complaint alleged.    

Further details about the proposed consent order – which the Board is required to share with members, employees, certain dentists, and clear aligner platforms – are set forth in the analysis to aid public comment for this matter. The proposed order also requires the Board to notify the FTC about any changes to its rules related to intraoral scanning or clear aligner platforms.

 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 Federal Register shortly. Instructions for filing comments appear in the published notice. Comments must be received 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. Once processed, comments will be posted on Regulations.gov.

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.  For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blog.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-3707

Staff Contact:
Philip Kehl
Bureau of Competition
202-326-2559

FTC Chair Lina M. Khan Appoints Directors of Bureau of Competition and Bureau of Consumer Protection

Holly Vedova will serve as Director of Bureau of Competition; Samuel A.A. Levine will serve as Director of Bureau of Consumer Protection

Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina M. Khan announced that she has appointed Holly Vedova as Director of the agency’s Bureau of Competition and Samuel A.A. Levine as Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. Ms. Vedova and Mr. Levine have been serving in their roles in an acting capacity since June of this year.

“Already in their roles as Acting Directors of the Bureau of Competition and Bureau of Consumer Protection, Holly Vedova and Sam Levine have taken important steps to ensure the FTC is working vigorously on behalf of the people we serve,” said Chair Khan. “Now as permanent directors of the FTC’s enforcement bureaus, their mission will be to guide this agency as we work to safeguard fair competition and check unfair or deceptive practices. I look forward to continuing our work together.”

Vedova joined the FTC in 1990 and served most recently as an attorney advisor to Commissioner Rohit Chopra. She has been an attorney advisor to four other FTC commissioners, and also served as counsel to the Director of the Bureau of Competition. Prior to joining Commissioner Chopra’s office, Vedova was a staff attorney in the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, Mergers III Division, where she investigated mergers in various industries. She also spent two years in private practice as in-house antitrust counsel to a large pharmaceutical corporation. Vedova holds a J.D. from George Mason University School of Law and a B.A. from Earlham College.

Levine moves to lead the Bureau of Consumer Protection following work first in the FTC’s Midwest Regional office and then as an attorney advisor to Commissioner Rohit Chopra in the Washington, DC office. Before joining the FTC, Levine worked for the Illinois Attorney General, where he prosecuted predatory for-profit colleges and participated in rulemaking to expand income-driven repayment options for student borrowers. Levine also clerked with The Honorable Milton I. Shadur in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. He holds a J.D. from Harvard University Law School and a B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis. Levine received the 2012 Gary Bellow Public Service Award in recognition of his commitment to social justice.

The Commission votes approving the appointments of Vedova and Levine were 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). For the latest news and resources, follow the FTC on social media, subscribe to press releases and read our blogs.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Media Contact:
Lindsay Kryzak
Office of Public Affairs
202-677-0998

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