FTC Fraud Actions

January

January 17, 2016 — The FTC filed a complaint in federal district court charging Qualcomm Inc. with using anticompetitive tactics to maintain its monopoly in the supply of a key semiconductor device used in cell phones and other consumer products. Qualcomm is the world’s dominant supplier of baseband processors – devices that manage cellular communications in mobile products. The FTC alleges that Qualcomm has used its dominant position as a supplier of certain baseband processors to impose onerous and anticompetitive supply and licensing terms on cell phone manufacturers and to weaken competition.  FTC

January 13, 2016 — The FTC today announced a crackdown on two massive robocall telemarketing operations, both of which have been blasting robocalls to consumers on the National Do Not Call Registry since at least 2012. Many of the defendants in the two cases, FTC v. Justin Ramsey, et al. and FTC v. Aaron Michael Jones, et al., have agreed to court orders that permanently ban them from making robocalls, making any calls to numbers listed on the Do Not Call Registry, violating the TSR, and/or assisting others in doing so. The settling defendants also will pay the Commission a total of more than $500,000.  FTC

January 10, 2016 — The FTC is mailing checks to nearly 350,000 people who lost money running Herbalife businesses. The checks are the result of a July 2016 settlement with the FTC that required Herbalife to pay $200 million and fundamentally restructure its business. This represents one of the largest redress distributions the agency has made in any consumer protection action to date. FTC

January 9, 2016 — The FTC and New York State Attorney General have charged the marketers of the dietary supplement Prevagen with making false and unsubstantiated claims that the product improves memory, provides cognitive benefits, and is “clinically shown” to work. The extensive national advertising campaign for Prevagen, including TV spots on national broadcast and cable networks such as CNN, Fox News, and NBC, featured charts depicting rapid and dramatic improvement in memory for users of the product.  The FTC alleges that the defendants enticed consumers to spend anywhere from $24 to $68 for bottles of 30 supplement pills by touting the product’s active ingredient – a protein derived from jellyfish – to improve memory and reduce memory problems associated with aging.  In fact, the complaint alleges, the marketers relied on a study that failed to show that Prevagen works better than a placebo on any measure of cognitive function.  FTC

December

December 22, 2016 — The defendants who operated a Florida-based tech support scheme that the FTC and State of Florida charged deceived thousands of consumers, will pay $10 million for consumer redress to settle the action. According to the complaint, defendant Inbound Call Experts, doing business as Advanced Tech Support along with other defendants, used high-pressure sales pitches to telemarket tech support products and services falsely claiming to find viruses and malware on consumers’ computers. FTC

December 20, 2016 — Turn Inc., a Redwood City, California company that enables sellers to target digital advertisements to consumers, has agreed to settle FTC charges that it deceived consumers by tracking them online and through their mobile applications, even after consumers took steps to opt out of such tracking. According to the FTC’s administrative complaint, Turn’s privacy policy represented that consumers could block targeted advertising by using their web browser’s settings to block or limit cookies. In fact, the complaint alleges that Turn used unique identifiers to track millions of Verizon Wireless customers, even after they blocked or deleted cookies from websites.   FTC

December 16, 2016 — CarMax Inc. and two other major used auto retailers have agreed to settle FTC charges that they touted how rigorously they inspect their used cars, yet failed to adequately disclose that some of the cars were subject to unrepaired safety recalls. The proposed consent orders will prohibit them from making unqualified inspection or safety-related claims about their used vehicles if any are subject to open, or unrepaired, safety recalls. Also, following a public comment period, the Commission has approved final consent orders in similar cases against General Motors Company, Jim Koons Management, and Lithia Motors Inc. that were settled earlier this year. Despite highlighting their inspections, the FTC alleges that CarMax failed to adequately disclose that some of the cars had open recalls. These recalls included defects that could cause serious injury, including the GM key ignition switch defect, as well as the Takata airbag defect.  FTC

December 15, 2016 — DeVry University and its parent company have agreed to a $100 million settlement of a FTC lawsuit alleging that they misled prospective students with ads that touted high employment success rates and income levels upon graduation. The FTC settlement secures significant financial redress for tens of thousands of students harmed by DeVry’s conduct. Under the settlement resolving the FTC charges, DeVry will pay $49.4 million in cash to be distributed to qualifying students who were harmed by the deceptive ads, as well as $50.6 million in debt relief. The debt being forgiven includes the full balance owed—$30.35 million—on all private unpaid student loans that DeVry issued to undergraduates between September 2008 and September 2015, and $20.25 million in student debts for items such as tuition, books and lab fees. FTC

December 14, 2016 — The operators of the Toronto-based AshleyMadison.com dating site have agreed to settle FTC and state charges that they deceived consumers and failed to protect 36 million users’ account and profile information in relation to a massive July 2015 data breach of their network. The settlement requires the defendants to implement a comprehensive data-security program, including third-party assessments. In addition, the operators will pay a total of $1.6 million to settle FTC and state actions. FTC

December 12, 2016 — The FTC has granted summary decision against California Naturel, Inc., for falsely advertising its sunscreen product as “all natural” in violation of Sections 5 and 12 of the FTC Act.  In its opinion, written by Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, the Commission states that the company promotes its “all natural” sunscreen on its website as containing “only the purest, most luxurious and effective ingredients found in nature.”  But California Naturel admitted that eight percent of its sunscreen formula is in fact dimethicone, a synthetic ingredient.  The Commission’s final order prohibits California Naturel from misrepresenting the ingredients or composition of its products; whether a product is “all natural” or “100% natural;” the extent to which a product contains any natural or synthetic ingredient or component; or the environmental or health benefits of such a product. It also requires the company to have competent and reliable evidence to support any of the four foregoing claims it makes about any of its products.  FTC

December 12, 2016 — The marketers of a mobile app designed to measure blood pressure have agreed to settle FTC charges that they deceived consumers with claims that their Instant Blood Pressure app was as accurate as a traditional blood pressure cuff. In addition, the Commission alleged that the owner provided a positive review of the app, rating it “five stars” in the app stores, without disclosing his connection to the company. Under the terms of the FTC settlement, Aura Labs, Inc., doing business as AuraLife and AuraWare, and its founder and co-owner, Ryan Archdeacon, are barred from making such unsupported claims in the future and must disclose any material connections between Aura and people who endorse its products.  FTC

December 8, 2016 — The FTC is providing over $88 million in refunds to more than 2.7 million AT&T customers who had third-party charges added to their mobile bills without their consent, a tactic known as “mobile cramming.” The refunds to consumers relate to 2014 settlements with AT&T, and the companies behind two of the cramming schemes, Tatto and Acquinity.  According to the FTC’s complaint, AT&T placed unauthorized third-party charges on its customers’ phone bills, usually in amounts of $9.99 per month, for ringtones and text message subscriptions containing love tips, horoscopes, and “fun facts.” The FTC alleged that AT&T kept at least 35 percent of the charges it imposed on its customers.  FTC

November

November 30, 2016 — The FTC has closed the book on a data broker operation that the agency alleges got personal information from people who thought they were applying for payday loans online, and sold it to a scam that tapped consumers’ bank accounts and credit cards without their consent.  A stipulated order against Jason A. Kotzker resolves charges the FTC brought in August 2015, alleging that he and his co-defendants, instead of passing the information to legitimate payday lenders, sold it to companies like Ideal Financial Solutions Inc., which raided consumers’ accounts for at least $7.1 million. The order prohibits Kotzker from selling or disclosing consumers’ sensitive personal information, making misrepresentations about any financial or other product or service, and profiting from consumers’ personal information and failing to dispose of it properly. FTC

November 21, 2016 — Following a public comment period, the FTC has approved a final consent order with Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Inc., settling charges that the company failed to adequately disclose that it paid online influencers to post gameplay videos.  According to the FTC’s complaint, Warner Bros. deceived consumers during a marketing campaign for the video game Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, by failing to adequately disclose that it paid online “influencers” thousands of dollars to post positive gameplay videos on YouTube and social media. Over the course of the campaign, the sponsored videos were viewed more than 5.5 million times. The FTC also alleged Warner Bros. gave influencers a free advance-release version of the game and told them how to promote it. Warner Bros. also allegedly required the influencers to promote the game in a positive way and not to disclose any bugs or glitches they found. Under the final order, Warner Bros. is barred from failing to make such disclosures in the future and cannot misrepresent that sponsored content, including gameplay videos, are the objective, independent opinions of video game enthusiasts or influencers.  FTC

November 15, 2016 — The Federal Trade Commission today announced a new “Enforcement Policy Statement on Marketing Claims for Over-the-Counter (OTC) Homeopathic Drugs.” The policy statement was informed by an FTC workshop held last year to examine how such drugs are marketed to consumers. The FTC also released its staff report on the workshop, which summarizes the panel presentations and related public comments in addition to describing consumer research commissioned by the FTC. The policy statement explains that the FTC will hold efficacy and safety claims for OTC homeopathic drugs to the same standard as other products making similar claims. That is, companies must have competent and reliable scientific evidence for health-related claims, including claims that a product can treat specific conditions. FTC

November 14, 2016 — At the request of the FTC, a U.S. district court judge issued a summary decision and $30 million judgment against the pitchman behind a product called Pure Green Coffee, who deceived consumers using false weight-loss claims, bogus testimonials, and fake news websites.  The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, ruled that Nicholas Scott Congleton deceptively marketed Pure Green Coffee for weight loss through NPB Advertising, Inc. and a web of other companies under his control. The court order permanently bars him from the deceptive advertising practices challenged by the Commission.  FTC

November 10, 2016 — The FTC has charged that in numerous instances, prepaid card company NetSpend Corporation deceived consumers, many of whom do not have bank accounts, about access to funds deposited on defendants’ debit cards.  According to the FTC’s complaint, NetSpend tells consumers that its reloadable prepaid debit cards offer an alternative way to store and immediately access their funds. But once people have loaded funds onto the cards, many of them find they cannot access their money, either because NetSpend denies or delays activation of the card, or because it blocks consumers from using it. The FTC seeks to return consumers’ funds and ensure that NetSpend provides them with promised access to their funds in the future.  FTC

November 8, 2016 — The FTC is mailing checks totaling more than $3.7 million to people who lost money to Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing, a pyramid scheme whose operators were banned from multi-level marketing under a settlement with the FTC and the states of Illinois, Kentucky and North Carolina.  In January 2013, the FTC and the states charged the Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing defendants with deceiving consumers by claiming they would earn significant income through selling various products and services if they signed up as FHTM representatives.  Participants were required to pay substantial start-up costs and monthly fees to retain their positions with the company.  FTC

November 4, 2016 — The FTC has charged a Pittsburgh-based manufacturer, Innovative Designs, Inc., with making false and unsubstantiated claims that its Insultex House Wrap would save consumers money by providing significant insulation without using much space.  According to the FTC, Innovative Designs claims its thinner, less-expensive, house wrap has an insulation value of R-3 and its thicker, more expensive product has an R-6 value, and that its advertised R-values are based on valid scientific testing. In fact, the FTC’s complaint alleges that the R-value of both products is substantially less than one, and the test results and a certificate touted by the company are flawed and invalid.  The FTC charges Innovative Designs with failing to substantiate its claims that the purported insulation value of Insultex House Wrap saves consumers money. FTC

October

October 31, 2016 — the FTC has approved a modified final order settling charges that the $28 billion merger of Koninklijke Ahold and Delhaize Group, which together own five well-known U.S. grocery store chains, would likely be anticompetitive.  Under the proposed order, first announced in July 2016, the companies are required to sell 81 stores to seven divestiture buyers.  The proposed order calls for prior Commission approval before one of the divestiture buyers, Supervalu, transfers or sells an ownership interest in an acquired store to another party. This modified final order approves Supervalu’s proposed joint venture transaction with Donstekim Enterprises, LLC, regarding its acquired stores.  FTC

October 28, 2016 — The FTC has charged Blue Saguaro Marketing LLC, MarketingWays.com LLC, Amazon.com Associates Program; Max Results Marketing LLC, Grant Strategy Solutions, and Oro Canyon Marketing II LLC, among others, with bilking money from seniors, veterans, and debt-laden consumers by selling them a worthless money-making opportunity purportedly linked to Amazon.com, and luring them with a phony grants program.  According to the FTC’s complaint, the defendants’ telemarketers falsely tell people they represent Amazon and offer, for hundreds or thousands of dollars, to create a website for them linked to Amazon.com, claiming they will earn thousands of dollars every month in commissions for sales via the website. They also falsely offer to advertise the consumer’s website and use search engine optimization to drive customers to it. FTC

October 17, 2016 — A federal judge has granted the FTC request for a preliminary injunction against two people and their companies for allegedly tricking small commercial trucking businesses into paying them for federal and state motor carrier registrations by impersonating government transportation agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Transportation.  According to the FTC’s complaint, James P. Lamb, Uliana Bogash, DOTAuthority.com Inc., DOTFilings.com Inc., Excelsior Enterprises International Inc. and JPL Enterprises International Inc. have taken in more than $19 million from thousands of small businesses by sending misleading robocalls, emails, and text messages that create and reinforce the false impression that they are, or are affiliated with, the USDOT, the UCR system, or another government agency.  As noted in the FTC’s complaint, the defendants used official-sounding names, official-looking websites, warnings of $1,000 in civil penalties or fines for non-compliance, and threats of imminent law enforcement to trick consumers into using their registration services instead of using official government website services. FTC

October 13, 2016 — Twenty-nine defendants who sold Auravie, Dellure, LéOR Skincare, and Miracle Face Kit branded skincare products have agreed to court orders with the FTC or had default orders entered against them.  Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said “these defendants tricked people into paying for skin care products and abused the credit card system to extend their scheme.” The agency’s original complaint, filed in June 2015, charged seven individuals and 15 companies with selling their skincare products through false advertisements for “risk-free trials.” According to the FTC, the defendants convinced consumers to provide their credit card information, purportedly to pay nominal shipping fees. However, the defendants allegedly used consumers’ credit card information to impose unauthorized recurring monthly charges of up to $97.88 per month for unordered products.  FTC

October 6, 2016 — The FTC will require CentraCare Health, a healthcare provider in St. Cloud, Minnesota, to release some physicians from “non-compete” contract clauses, allowing them to join competing practices, under a settlement mitigating likely anticompetitive effects from CentraCare’s proposed merger with St. Cloud Medical Group.  The FTC alleges that by eliminating SCMG as a potential alternative in the St. Cloud area, the acquisition is likely to increase CentraCare’s bargaining power vis-à-vis commercial health plans, allowing it to raise reimbursement rates and secure more favorable terms. The acquisition may also result in a loss of quality and service benefits to patients.  The proposed consent order will permit the acquisition to proceed, but lessens its potential anticompetitive effects by requiring CentraCare to allow a number of adult primary care, pediatric, and OB/GYN physicians to leave the health system and work for other local providers or establish a new practice in the area and to provide certain financial incentives to a number of departing physicians.  FTC

October 5, 2016 — Following a public comment period, the Federal Trade Commission has approved a final order settling charges that ON Semiconductor Corporation’s $2.4 billion acquisition of Fairchild Semiconductor International, Inc. is likely anticompetitive.  Under the order, first announced in August 2016, the companies are required to sell ON’s Ignition IGBT business to Chicago-based manufacturer Littelfuse, Inc. within 10 days of the close of the transaction.  FTC

October 4, 2016 — A federal court has found that racecar driver Scott A. Tucker and several corporate defendants in a Kansas City-based payday lending scheme violated Section 5 of the FTC Act and has ordered them to pay $1.3 billion for deceiving consumers across the country and illegally charging them undisclosed and inflated fees.  The $1.3 billion order represents the largest litigated judgment ever obtained by the FTC.  It stems from a complaint filed in 2012 by the agency, which alleged that the operators of AMG Services Inc. falsely claimed they would charge borrowers the loan amount plus a one-time finance fee. Instead, the defendants made multiple withdrawals from consumers’ bank accounts and assessed a new finance fee each time, without disclosing the true costs of the loan. The judgment represents the difference between what consumers actually paid on the loans and what they were told they would have to pay. FTC

September

September 27, 2016 —  The FTC will return almost $20 million to more than 145,000 consumers across the country who were victimized by One Technologies LP and its two partner companies, in an online scheme that lured consumers with “free” access to their credit scores and then billed them a recurring $29.95 monthly fee for credit monitoring they never ordered.  The FTC alleged that the defendants violated the FTC Act and the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act (ROSCA), which prohibits charging consumers for goods or services sold online via a negative option unless the seller clearly discloses all material terms before obtaining the consumer’s billing information, obtains the consumer’s express informed consent before making the charge, and provides a simple way to stop recurring charges.  FTC

September 22, 2016 — The operators of an alleged mortgage relief scam that preyed upon distressed homeowners are banned from the mortgage loan modification and debt relief business under a court order obtained by the FTC. The order stems from a case the FTC brought in July 2014 against five defendants as part of a federal-state law enforcement effort called Operation Mis-Modification.  According to the FTC, the defendants, operating under the fictitious names “2Apply” and “UW Solutions,” falsely claimed they could lower consumers’ mortgage payments and interest rates or prevent foreclosure, pretended to be affiliated with a government agency or consumers’ lenders or servicers, and illegally charged advance.  The final orders impose a judgment of more than $1.7 million and bans defendants from selling secured or unsecured debt relief products or services.  FTC

September 15, 2016 — The FTC alleged that business directory companies Construct Data Publishers a.s., also doing business as Fair Guide, tricked retailers, home-based businesses, local associations and others into thinking they had a preexisting business relationship with them.  The defendants falsely suggested that consumers had to return a form confirming or updating their contact information for a trade show they had attended or planned to attend.  Many recipients did not notice a statement, buried in fine print at the bottom of the form, that by signing and returning it they were agreeing to pay $1,717 annually to the company for a listing on its website.  A court entered an order against Construct Data Publishers imposing a $7 million default judgment and banning them from the business directory business.  FTC

September 7, 2016 — The FTC is mailing 6,192 refund checks totaling more than $1.3 million to people defrauded by Oro Marketing, Inc., a telemarketing scheme that targeted Spanish-speakers with false promises that they could make money by reselling high-end goods such as Gucci and Ralph Lauren. The FTC alleged the company charged more than $400 per package but delivered only shoddy, off-brand products. Defrauded consumers will get nearly a third of their money back, with the average check totaling $216.  FTC

September 1, 2016 — The principals of a mortgage relief operation and their companies, Edward William Rennick III, Surety Law Group LLP and Redstone Law Group LLC, are banned from the mortgage loan modification and debt relief business under court orders obtained by the FTC. The orders resolve charges that the scheme falsely promised financially distressed homeowners they would receive legal representation to prevent foreclosure or lower their mortgage payments and interest rates, and illegally charged thousands of dollars in advance. FTC

August

August 29, 2016 — The ringleader and two other defendants in the massive IWorks online billing scheme have agreed to settle FTC charges that they took more than $280 million from consumers via deceptive “trial” memberships for bogus government-grant and money-making products. In addition, the wife and parents of IWorks’ owner and CEO Jeremy Johnson have agreed to settle FTC charges that they received assets and funds as gifts from Johnson that came from the unlawful scheme.  FTC

August 8, 2016 — The FTC has sued 1-800 Contacts, the largest online retailer of contact lenses in the United States, alleging that it unlawfully orchestrated and now maintains a web of anticompetitive agreements with rival online contact lens sellers that suppress competition in certain online search advertising auctions and that restrict truthful and non-misleading internet advertising to consumers, resulting in some consumers paying higher retail prices for contact lenses.  According to the FTC’s complaint, 1-800 Contacts entered into bidding agreements with at least 14 competing online contact lens retailers that constitute unfair methods of competition in violation of federal law.  FTC

August 4, 2016 — Mars Petcare U.S., Inc., has agreed to settle FTC charges that it falsely advertised the health benefits of its Eukanuba brand dog food. Specifically, the FTC alleges that the company claimed, but could not prove, that a 10-year study found that dogs fed Eukanuba could extend their expected lifespan by 30 percent or more.  “Two-thirds of all Americans have pets at home, and they spend billions of dollars to ensure that their pets are healthy and well-fed,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Pet owners count on ads to be truthful and not to misrepresent health-related benefits. In this case, Mars Petcare simply did not have the evidence to back up the life-extending claims it made about its Eukanuba dog food.” FTC

July

July 27, 2016 — Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. has agreed to sell the rights and assets related to 79 pharmaceutical products to settle FTC charges that its proposed $40.5 billion acquisition of Allergan plc’s generic pharmaceutical business would be anticompetitive. The remedy requires Teva to divest the drug portfolio to eleven firms, and marks the largest drug divestiture order in an FTC pharmaceutical merger case. FTC

July 14, 2016 — Following a public comment period, the FTC has approved a final consent order against Progressive Chevrolet Company and Progressive Motors Inc., of Massillon, Ohio, which the FTC charged with deceiving consumers by using advertising that touted low monthly car lease payments and down payments but failed to disclose other key terms of the offers.  FTC

July 11, 2016 — Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Inc. has settled FTC charges that it deceived consumers during a marketing campaign for the video game Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, by failing to adequately disclose that it paid online “influencers,” including the wildly popular “PewDiePie,” thousands of dollars to post positive gameplay videos on YouTube and social media. Over the course of the campaign, the sponsored videos were viewed more than 5.5 million times. FTC

June

June 28, 2016 — In two related settlements, one with the United States and the State of California, and one with the FTC, German automaker Volkswagen AG and related entities have agreed to spend up to $14.7 billion to settle allegations of cheating emissions tests and deceiving customers. Volkswagen will offer consumers a buyback and lease termination for nearly 500,000 model year 2009-2015 2.0 liter diesel vehicles sold or leased in the U.S., and spend up to $10.03 billion to compensate consumers under the program. In addition, the companies will spend $4.7 billion to mitigate the pollution from these cars and invest in green vehicle technology.   FTC

June 22, 2016 — The Federal Trade Commission is mailing checks totaling approximately $6.3 million to consumers who bought Kevin Trudeau’s book, “The Weight Loss Cure ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About.” In 2009, a federal judge ordered Trudeau to repay millions of dollars to consumers after he violated a 2004 FTC stipulated order by misrepresenting the book’s content. FTC

June 20, 2016 — The defendants behind a tech scam have agreed to settle FTC and State of Florida charges that they scammed thousands of consumers out of millions of dollars by selling them bogus technical support services. Under the settlement, Vast Tech Support, LLC and OMG Tech Help, LLC and their chief operating officer, Mark Donohue are prohibited from misleading consumers about the nature of the products they sell or market, as well as from deceptive telemarketing.  The FTC’s complaint alleges that the defendants used software designed to trick consumers into thinking there were problems with their computers, and directed consumers to telemarketers who subjected those consumers to high-pressure deceptive sales pitches for tech support products and services.  FTC

June 14, 2016 — The FTC is mailing 191,748 refund checks totaling $9,190,842.68 to consumers who bought Pure Health or Genesis Today green coffee bean extract weight-loss supplements. Consumers who purchased the products online will receive a full refund, with the average check totaling $47.93.  Consumers who bought the supplements in a retail store such as Walmart did not receive a check in this mailing. These consumers can file a claim form with the FTC, and may be eligible for a partial refund. FTC

June 3, 2016 — The FTC charged a nationally advertised gold and silver marketing operation with bilking millions from consumers.  According to the FTC’s complaint, the defendants marketed gold and silver as investments, but often failed to deliver the goods. Operating as Discount Gold Brokers, the defendants offered gold and silver “at discounted prices,” with “zero commissions, fees, or expenses,” and at “zero percent above dealer cost.”  In response, many consumers used their retirement savings to buy the precious metals, with individual orders ranging from $1,000 to $300,000.  FTC

May

May 25, 2016 — The FTC and the State of Florida have taken action against the Consumer Assistance LLC, Consumer Assistance Project Corp. and Palermo Global LLC with running phony student loan debt relief schemes, and defendants in a similar FTC action brought earlier this year have agreed to a ban on participating in any debt relief business, as part of a consumer protection crackdown to combat such frauds. “The FTC is not going to stand on the sidelines when it uncovers evidence of fraudsters targeting students,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Consumers should be wary of any company that claims it can eliminate or greatly reduce debt, especially if they ask for money in advance.”  FTC

May 20, 2016 — Lunada Biomedical, Inc. and its three principals have settled FTC charges that they deceptively marketed Amberen, a dietary supplement, to women over 40 who are perimenopausal or menopausal, making a range of unsupported claims about its ability to help users lose weight and belly fat, and relieve menopause-related symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. “The Lunada defendants made strong claims about the effectiveness of their supplement without the scientific evidence to back them up,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The relief provided by this court order is intended to prevent the defendants from making unsupported health benefit claims in the future.”  FTC

May 18, 2016 — The developers and marketers of the LearningRx “brain training” programs have agreed to stop making a range of false and unsubstantiated claims and pay $200,000 under a settlement with the FTC.  According to the FTC’s complaint, LearningRx Franchise Corp. and its CEO, Dr. Ken Gibson, deceptively claimed that their programs were clinically proven to permanently improve serious health conditions like ADHD, autism, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, strokes, and concussions and that the training substantially improved school grades and college admission test scores, career earnings, and job and athletic performance. FTC

May 2, 2016 — At the FTC’s request, a federal court has found BlueHippo Funding LLC, BlueHippo Capital LLC and BlueHippo’s CEO Joseph Rensin in contempt for operating a deceptive computer financing scheme in violation of a federal court order that the defendants agreed to in 2008. The court also entered judgment against Rensin for $13.4 million, the harm consumers suffered as a result of the scheme.  FTC

FTC

April

April 25, 2016 — Star Pipe Products, Ltd., a supplier of ductile iron pipe fittings, will pay $120,000 in civil penalties to resolve FTC allegations that it violated a 2012 Commission order prohibiting it from sharing competitively sensitive information. It also has agreed to an order modification that adds training and notification obligations to prevent future violations. FTC

April 12, 2016 — Four companies that market skin care products, shampoos, and sunscreens online — ShiKai, Rocky Mountain Sunscreen, EDEN BodyWorks, and Beyond Coastal — have agreed to settle FTC charges that they falsely claimed that their products are “all natural” or “100% natural,” despite the fact that they contain synthetic ingredients. The proposed consent orders bar the four settling respondents from misrepresenting the following when advertising, promoting, or selling a product: 1) whether the product is all natural or 100 percent natural; 2) the extent to which the product contains any natural or synthetic components; 3) the ingredients or composition of a product; and 4) the environmental or health benefits of a product. FTC

April 6, 2016 — The FTC is mailing 474 checks totaling more than $33,000 to consumers who lost money to a scheme that charged homeowners an up-front fee for mortgage relief services they promised but never provided.  In September 2015, a federal court banned Wealth Educators and Veronica Sesma from the debt collection business.  FTC

March 2016

March 31, 2016 — The FTC filed a complaint in federal district court alleging that Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc. and several other drug companies violated antitrust laws by using pay-for-delay settlements to block consumers’ access to lower-cost generic versions of Opana ER and Lidoderm.  Following more than a decade of FTC challenges to pay-for-delay settlements, the enforcement action is the first FTC case challenging an agreement not to market an authorized generic – often called a “no-AG commitment” – as a form of reverse payment. FTC

March 30, 2016 – Sham charities Cancer Fund of America Inc., Cancer Support Services Inc., and their leader, James Reynolds, Sr., agreed to settle charges that they claimed to help cancer patients, but instead, spent the overwhelming majority of donations on their operators, families and friends, and fundraisers.  These sham charities, run by Reynolds and his family members, allegedly bilked more than $187 million from donors. FTC

March 29, 2016The FTC has charged that Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. deceived consumers with the advertising campaign it used to promote its supposedly “clean diesel” VWs and Audis, which Volkswagen fitted with illegal emission defeat devices designed to mask high emissions during government tests. The FTC is seeking a court order requiring Volkswagen to compensate American consumers who bought or leased an affected vehicle between late 2008 and late 2015, as well as an injunction to prevent Volkswagen from engaging in this type of conduct again. FTC

March 18, 2016The FTC is mailing 2,172 partial refund checks totaling nearly $210,000 to consumers who bought Nano-UV “disinfectant” devices from a company called Zadro Health Solutions, Inc.  The refunds stem from an FTC settlement with over allegations that Zardo’s ads falsely claimed that their devices “safely kill 99.99% of targeted bacteria – E. Coli, Salmonella and the H1N1 (swine flu) virus in 10 seconds.”  FTC

March 15, 2016National retailer Lord & Taylor has agreed to settle FTC charges that it deceived consumers by paying for native advertisements, including a seemingly objective article in the online publication Nylon and a Nylon Instagram post, without disclosing that the posts actually were paid promotions for the company’s 2015 Design Lab clothing collection. FTC

March 10, 2016 — The FTC and the DOJ brought a federal court action against KFJ Marketing, LLC; Sunlight Solar Leads, LLC; Go Green Education; and Francisco J. Salvat to stop a telemarketing operation that allegedly made illegal robocalls promising consumers energy savings, in an effort to generate leads to sell to solar panel installation companies. According to the complaint, defendants Francisco Salvat and his companies placed more than 1.3 million illegal pre-recorded telemarketing calls to consumers with phone numbers on the national Do Not Call Registry. The defendants allegedly claimed to be attempting to help consumers with their energy costs.  FTC

March 3, 2016 –A Utah man and three companies he controls have agreed to settle FTC charges that they assisted a deceptive work-at-home scheme that the FTC charged, in February 2014, with conning millions of dollars from consumers. The scheme, which did business as Coaching Department and Apply Knowledge, among other names, falsely promised consumers they could earn thousands of dollars a month by purchasing business coaching services.  Under the settlement order, Ken Sonnenberg, Apply Knowledge LLC, eVertex Solutions LLC, and Supplier Source LLC are prohibited from making claims, or assisting others in making claims, about likely earnings without reliable, written substantiation. The order imposes a $500,000 judgement against the companies.  FTC

February 2016

February 24, 2016The FTC has charged a debt relief operation with falsely representing to financially distressed homeowners and student loan borrowers that it would help get their mortgages and student loans modified.  According to the FTC’s complaint, Good EBusiness LLC, using the name The AAP Firm, and Tobias West deceptively marketed home loan modification services and illegally charged an advance fee of between $1,000 to $5,000. The agency alleges that the defendants falsely claim that they can lower consumers’ monthly mortgage payments, often quoting a specific amount, and reduce their mortgage interest rates, usually within a few months, and falsely promise full refunds if they fail. FTC

February 19, 2016The FTC has charged online distance education school Stratford Career Institute with misleading consumers about its high school equivalency program that the agency alleges failed to meet the basic requirements set by most states.  In its complaint, the FTC alleges that Stratford’s extensive advertising for its high school program included multiple references to a “high school diploma” leading to an increase in earning potential, access to better jobs and promotions, and the ability to apply for higher education. The FTC’s complaint alleges that Stratford’s high school program fell short of its promises, meaning thousands of students nationwide paid as much as $989 for a diploma that could not meet their educational or career needs. FTC

February 11, 2016 —  The FTC has charged two separate office supply operations with targeting non-profit organizations and small businesses, such as child care centers, educational institutions, churches, and hospitals, and tricking them into paying for overpriced office and cleaning supplies they never ordered.  In the California case, Telestar Consulting Inc., also doing business as Kleritec and United Business Supply, and Karl Wesley Angel, allegedly used a variety of tactics to persuade consumers to pay for unordered merchandise.  The defendants in the Maryland case are American Industrial Enterprises LLC, Easton Chemical Supply Inc., Lighting X-Change Company LLC, LMS Lighting & Maintenance Solutions LLC, Werner International Enterprises Inc., Benjamin Cox, Vincent Stapleton and John Tharrington.  The complaint also names a relief defendant, TBC Companies Inc., that profited from the scheme.  FTC

February 5, 2016 — Two Maine-based marketers of weight-loss supplements and their owners will surrender substantial personal and business assets and will be prohibited from making deceptive claims about health products and engaging in deceptive marketing practices under a settlement reached with the FTC and the State of Maine’s Office of the Attorney General.  The agencies’ joint complaint charges Anthony Dill, his wife Staci Dill, and their two companies, Direct Alternatives and Original Organics LLC, with violating the FTC Act and Maine consumer protection laws in connection with their promotion and sale of weight loss supplements AF Plus and Final Trim. In total, the defendants sold more than $16 million worth of the two products over the past four years. The companies have ceased all sales. FTC

February 2, 2016 — The FTC filed suit against Chemence, Inc., an Ohio corporation, alleging that the company is deceiving consumers by making Made in USA claims for their strong, fast-acting glues such as Kwik Frame, Kwik Fix, and Krylex, which are produced using a significant amount of imported chemicals. “For many shoppers, a claim that a product is made in the USA is a big selling point,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Companies should not overstate the amount of U.S. content their products actually contain.” FTC

January 2016

January 28, 2016General Motors Company, Jim Koons Management and Lithia Motors Inc. have agreed to settle separate FTC administrative complaint allegations that each touted how rigorously they inspect their cars, yet failed to disclose that some of the used cars they were selling were subject to unrepaired safety recalls. Jim Koons Management, which has 15 dealerships in the Mid-Atlantic region, and Oregon-based Lithia Motors Inc., which has more than 100 stores in the West and Midwest, are two of the nation’s largest used car dealers.  FTC

January 27, 2016 –The FTC has filed suit against the operators of DeVry University, alleging that DeVry’s advertisements deceived consumers about the likelihood that students would find jobs in their fields of study, and would earn more than those graduating with bachelor’s degrees from other colleges or universities.  “Millions of Americans look to higher education for training that will lead to meaningful employment and good pay,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. “Educational institutions like DeVry owe prospective students the truth about their graduates’ success finding employment in their field of study and the income they can earn.”   FTC

January 8, 2016 — After a public comment period, the FTC approved a final order resolving the Commission’s complaint against Craig Brittain, alleging he used deception to acquire and post intimate images of women, then referred them to another website he controlled, where they were told they could have the pictures removed if they paid hundreds of dollars.  Under the terms of the settlement, Brittain is required to permanently delete all of the images and other personal information he received during the time he operated the site.  He will also be prohibited from publicly sharing intimate videos or photographs of people without their affirmative express consent, as well as being prohibited from misrepresenting how he will use any personal information he collects online.  FTC

January 5, 2016 — The creators and marketers of the Lumosity “brain training” program have agreed to settle FTC charges alleging that they deceived consumers with unfounded claims that Lumosity games can help users perform better at work and in school, and reduce or delay cognitive impairment associated with age and other serious health conditions.  As part of the settlement, Lumos Labs, the company behind Lumosity, will pay $2 million in redress and will notify subscribers of the FTC action and provide them with an easy way to cancel their auto-renewal to avoid future billing. FTC

December 2015

December 22, 2015 — Participants in an alleged credit card “laundering” scheme have agreed to settle FTC charges that they illegally helped provide access to payment networks, thereby enabling scammers to place bogus charges on consumers’ credit cards. According to the FTC’s complaint, PayBasics, Todd Hatch and Jimmy Shin helped the defendants behind the Tax Club fraud to open and maintain merchant accounts used to process credit card payments for sales made by a number of different third-party scammers. The defendants in the Tax Club work at home scheme settled FTC charges last year.  FTC

December 17, 2015 — LifeLock will pay $100 million to settle FTC contempt charges that it violated the terms of a 2010 federal court order that requires the company to secure consumers’ personal information and prohibits the company from deceptive advertising.  This is the largest monetary award obtained by the Commission in an order enforcement action.  FTC

December 9, 2015 – The FTC announced complaints and proposed court orders barring four national retailers from mislabeling and advertising rayon textiles as made of “bamboo,” and requiring them to pay civil penalties totaling $1.3 million.  Under the court orders settling the FTC’s charges, Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. will pay $500,000; Nordstrom, Inc. will pay $360,000; J.C. Penney Company, Inc. will pay $290,000; and Backcountry.com LLC will pay $150,000 for allegedly violating the FTC Act and the agency’s Textile Rules. FTC

December 1, 2015 — Athletic apparel company Tommie Copper, Inc. and its founder have agreed to pay $1.35 million to settle FTC charges that they deceptively advertised the company’s copper-infused compression clothing would relieve severe and chronic pain and inflammation caused by arthritis and other diseases.  Tommie Copper’s proposed settlement with the FTC also requires the company and its founder and chairman Thomas Kallish to have competent and reliable scientific evidence before making future claims about pain relief, disease treatment, or health benefits.  FTC

November 2015

November 11, 2015The FTC filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop a dietary supplement marketer from making misleading claims that its product can help treat and even cure people who are addicted to opiates, including prescription pain medications and illegal drugs such as heroin. According to the FTC’s complaint against Sunrise Nutraceuticals, LLC, the company, based in Boca Raton, Florida, deceptively claims that its dietary supplement Elimidrol, a “proprietary blend” of herbs and other compounds, alleviates opiate withdrawal symptoms and increases a user’s likelihood of overcoming opiate addiction. FTC

November 13, 2015 — A federal court granted a request by the FTC to shut down a tech support scam that allegedly bilked consumers out of more than $17 million by pretending to represent Microsoft, Apple and other major tech companies.  According to a complaint filed by the FTC, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General and State of Connecticut Office of Attorney General, the defendants in the case used internet advertisements and popups that appeared to be from well-known technology companies to lure consumers into calling them.  FTC

November 2, 2015 — Following a public comment period, the FTC has approved a final consent order with Nice-Pak Products, Inc., requiring it to stop advertising moist toilet tissue and cloth as flushable or safe for sewer or septic systems unless it can substantiate those claims.  FTC

October 2015

October 26, 2015 — The operators of an advance fee recovery scheme that falsely claimed it could recover money for consumers that they had lost to telemarketing scams will be banned from selling recovery services, and from telemarketing, under a court order.  The court order resolves a 2014 FTC complaint that charged Consumer Collection Advocates and Michael Robert Ettus with illegally collecting money from consumers, many of them elderly people harmed by timeshare resale and precious metal investment frauds.  FTC

October 20, 2015 — The operators of an alleged tech support scam, Pairsys, Inc., agreed to settle FTC charges that they tricked consumers into paying millions of dollars for technical support services they did not need and software that was otherwise free.  Under the settlement, the company and its owners, Tiya Bhattachara and Uttam Saha, are required to turn over multiple real estate properties as well as the contents of numerous bank accounts, and to give up the leases on two luxury cars.   FTC

October 15, 2015 — An orthopedic practice in Berks County, Pennsylvania, Keystone Orthopaedic Specialists, LLC, has agreed to settle FTC charges that a merger created through a combination of six independent orthopedic practices in 2011 was anticompetitive.  The FTC alleged that the merger combined 19 of the 25 orthopedists in Berks County into a single practice, giving Keystone a 76 percent share of the market for orthopedic physician services and substantially reducing competition for such services in Berks County.  FTC

October 5, 2015 — The head of a sham debt relief operation agreed to a judgment of more than $7.9 million to settle FTC charges that he deceived consumers and charged them thousands of dollars while providing nothing in return. In a complaint filed in May 2014, the FTC alleged that the DebtPro 123 LLC defendants falsely told consumers their programs would settle all of their debts and repair their credit. Then they told them to stop paying and communicating with creditors, which led to more debt and worse credit because of accrued interest, late charges, creditor lawsuits, garnished wages, and sometimes bankruptcy.  FTC

October 1, 2015 — The FTC is mailing 23,406 checks totaling more than $3.7 million to consumers who lost money after buying LeanSpa, a supplement whose marketers allegedly made deceptive weight-loss claims. 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 ended up paying $79.95 for the trial, and for recurring monthly shipments of the product that were hard to cancel. FTC

September 2015

September 29, 2015 — The FTC is mailing 6,832 checks totaling more than $1.1 million to consumers who lost money to a health insurance scam.  In 2012, the FTC charged the Independent Association of Businesses and Health Service Providers defendants with violating the FTC Act and the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule by deceiving consumers seeking comprehensive health insurance. Instead of health coverage, consumers received membership in IAB, an obscure trade association that provided purported discounts on services such as identity-theft protection, travel, and roadside assistance, and some healthcare related benefits that were subject to broad exclusions and limitations.  FTC

September 16, 2015 — The operators of a fraudulent debt collection scheme will be banned from the debt collection business under a settlement with the FTC, resolving charges that they illegally processed more than $5.2 million in payments from consumers for payday loan debts they did not owe.  The settlement resolves a complaint the FTC filed against Kirit Patel, Broadway Global Master Inc., and In-Arabia Solutions Inc.  In 2012, alleging that callers working with the defendants harassed consumers into paying on bogus debts, often pretending to be agents of law enforcement or fake government agencies such as the “Federal Crime Unit of the Department of Justice.” FTC

September 16, 2015 —  The loan-servicing arm of Texas-based auto dealer Tricolor Auto Group will pay $82,777 in civil penalties as part of a settlement to address FTC charges that it failed to have written policies and procedures regarding the accuracy of reported credit information, and failed to properly investigate disputed consumer credit information. The FTC’s complaint alleges that the company’s loan-servicing group, Tricolor Auto Acceptance, LLC violated the Furnisher Rule, which was implemented under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  FTC

September 3, 2015 — the FTC has approved a final order resolving the Commission’s complaint against Nomi Technologies for misleading consumers about the available choices to opt-out of the company’s mobile device tracking program.  The settlement was first announced in April 2015.  In its complaint, the FTC alleged that Nomi misled consumers with promises that it would provide an in-store mechanism for consumers to opt out of tracking and that consumers would be informed when locations were using Nomi’s tracking services. FTC

August 2015

August 24, 2015 — The FTC is mailing refund checks to consumers who lost money buying dietary supplements, Speak and Speak Smooth, deceptively marketed as proven effective at treating childhood speech disorders, including those associated with autism. The refunds are from money collected through a settlement, under which the NourishLife, LLC defendants agreed to stop making allegedly deceptive claims that their products develop and maintain normal, healthy speech and language capabilities in children.  FTC

August 18, 2015 — Pharmaceutical companies Concordia Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Par Pharmaceutical, Inc. have settled FTC charges that they entered into an unlawful agreement not to compete in the sale of generic versions of Kapvay, a prescription drug used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. As part of the settlement, the companies agreed not to enforce the anticompetitive provisions of their agreement, in which Concordia agreed not to sell an authorized generic version of Kapvay in exchange for a share of Par’s revenues. FTC

August 7, 2015 — The FTC charged a data broker operation, including Sequoia One LLC and Gen X Marketing Group LLC, with illegally selling payday loan applicants’ financial information to a scam operation that took millions of dollars from consumers by debiting their bank accounts and charging their credit cards without their consent.  According to the FTC’s complaint, the data broker enterprise bought loan applications from the operators of payday loan websites, and got others directly from consumers via their own payday loan websites.  Instead of passing on those applications to legitimate payday lenders, the defendants sold the information to companies that raided the consumers’ accounts for at least $7.1 million.  FTC

August 4, 2015 — The operators of a bogus credit repair scheme that allegedly tricked Spanish-speaking consumers into paying thousands of dollars each to supposedly improve their credit will be banned from offering credit repair services and subject to a monetary judgment under settlements with the FTC.  According to a federal court complaint filed by the Commission in March 2015, the defendants did business using the name FTC Credit Solutions, misleading consumers not only about the nature of the alleged credit repair services they offered, but also claiming an affiliation with the Commission that did not exist.  FTC

July 2015

July 27, 2015 — A group of scammers who falsely promised consumers new Medicare cards in order to obtain their bank account numbers and debit their accounts will be banned from selling healthcare-related products and services under FTC settlements.  The settlements resolve charges the FTC filed last year against Benjamin Todd Workman and Glenn Erikson and their companies. Their telemarketers falsely told consumers they needed their bank account numbers to verify their identities before sending a new Medicare card, promising they would not take money from the accounts. In fact, they took several hundred dollars from each consumer’s account and provided nothing in return. In some cases, their telemarketers falsely promised to provide consumers with identity theft protection services.  FTC

July 8, 2015 — The marketers of a dietary supplement called Procera AVH will relinquish $1.4 million under settlements resolving FTC charges that they deceived consumers with claims that the supplement was clinically proven to significantly improve memory, mood, and other cognitive functions.  Under the terms of the settlements, the defendants will pay $1 million to the FTC, and another $400,000 to satisfy a judgment in a case brought by local California law enforcement officials. They also will be barred from making similar deceptive claims in the future and from misrepresenting the existence, results, or conclusions of any scientific study. FTC

July 7, 2015 — The operators of a payday lending scheme that allegedly bilked millions of dollars from consumers by trapping them into loans they never authorized will be banned from the consumer lending business under FTC settlements.  The settlements stem from charges the FTC filed last year alleging that Timothy A. Coppinger, Frampton T. Rowland III, and their companies targeted online payday loan applicants and, using information from lead generators and data brokers, deposited money into those applicants’ bank accounts without their permission. The defendants then withdrew reoccurring “finance” charges without any of the payments going to pay down the principal owed.  FTC

June 2015

June 30, 2015 — The FTC is mailing checks totaling approximately $4 million to consumers who lost money to a debt collection operation that extorted payments from them using false threats. In May 2014, the FTC settled charges against Asset Capital and Management Group, which, under various names, illegally extracted payments from consumers for credit card debt the defendants had purchased from creditors. The settlement order banned the defendants from the debt collection industry.  FTC

June 26, 2015 — The FTC has approved a final consent order involving Network Solutions, LLC, which misled consumers who bought its web hosting services by falsely promising a full refund if they canceled within 30 days.  In an administrative complaint announced in April 2015, the FTC alleged that Network Solutions, a domain name registrar and web hosting provider, offered web hosting packages with a “30 Day Money Back Guarantee,” but did not adequately disclose that it withheld up to 30 percent of the refund from customers who cancelled within 30 days of buying an annual or multi-year package and registering an included domain name.  FTC

June 15, 2015 — The FTC is mailing checks totaling almost $1.9 million to consumers who lost money to a pyramid scheme that pretended to be a legitimate multi-level marketing program selling opportunities to operate online digital music stores.  In June 2014, the FTC won an appeals court ruling upholding a district court finding that BurnLounge had operated a pyramid scheme. FTC

June 5, 2015 — The FTC is mailing checks totaling more than $467,000 to consumers who lost money to a scheme that charged large up-front fees for mortgage relief services that were not provided.  The FTC won a court action against Jackson, Crowder & Associates and Crowder Law Group, in which the FTC alleged that the defendants falsely promised to modify consumers’ mortgages and substantially reduce their monthly payments, exaggerated the role an attorney would play, and pretended to be affiliated with a government agency.   FTC

May 2015

May 28, 2015 — The FTC has reached a settlement resolving the Commission’s antitrust suit charging Cephalon, Inc. with illegally blocking generic competition to its blockbuster sleep-disorder drug Provigil. The settlement ensures that Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Ltd., which acquired Cephalon in 2012, will make a total of $1.2 billion available to compensate purchasers, including drug wholesalers, pharmacies, and insurers, who overpaid because of Cephalon’s illegal conduct. FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said, “today’s landmark settlement is an important step in the FTC’s ongoing effort to protect consumers from anticompetitive pay for delay settlements, which burden patients, American businesses, and taxpayers with billions of dollars in higher prescription drug costs.” FTC

May 26, 2015 — Ashworth College has agreed to settle FTC charges it misrepresented to students that they would get the training and credentials needed to switch careers or get a new job, and that the course credits they earned would transfer to other schools. In reality, many programs offered by the for-profit institution did not meet state requirements for desired careers, and the claims made about credit transfers were often not true. Jessica Rich, Director, FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said “when schools promise students they can transfer course credits or get a better job after completing their programs, they’d better be able to back up those claims.” FTC

May 21, 2015 — At the request of the FTC, a federal court has temporarily halted a sweepstakes operation based in Fort Lauderdale that took more than $28 million from consumers throughout the United States and other countries, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom. The FTC seeks to permanently end the allegedly illegal practices and return money to victims. FTC

May 15, 2015 — The FTC mailed checks totaling approximately $3 million to consumers who lost money to TriVita, diet supplement marketers who made unsupported claims that their cactus-based fruit drink, Nopalea, would treat a variety of health problems. FTC

May 12, 2015 — The FTC charged Lunada Biomedical with misleading claims about weight loss. The FTC has filed a federal court complaint seeking to prohibit the company and its principals from advertising that their dietary supplement Amberen causes substantial weight loss for women over 40, and that the weight loss is clinically proven. Between 2010 and 2013, Lunada sold almost $65 million worth of Amberen nationwide. Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said “Lunada marketed Amberen to women over 40 as ‘clinically proven’ to cause weight loss, but their own studies didn’t support those claims.” FTC

April 2015

April 21, 2015 — National mortgage servicing company Green Tree Servicing LLC agreed to pay $63 million to resolve FTC charges that it harmed homeowners with illegal loan servicing and debt collection practices. The FTC alleged that Green Tree made illegal and abusive debt collection calls to consumers, misrepresented the amounts people owed, and failed to honor loan modification agreements between consumers and their prior servicers, among other charges.  Green Tree has also agreed to create a home preservation plan for some distressed homeowners and take rigorous steps to ensure that it collects the correct amounts from consumers.  FTC

April 20, 2015 – The FTC announced that Cardinal Health, Inc. has agreed to resolve charges that it illegally monopolized 25 local markets for the sale and distribution of low-energy radiopharmaceuticals and forced hospitals and clinics to pay inflated prices for these drugs.  The proposed stipulated order requires Cardinal to pay $26.8 million of ill-gotten gains and represents the second largest monetary settlement the FTC has obtained in an antitrust case.  The order also includes provisions to prevent future violations and restore competition in six markets where Cardinal remains the dominant radiopharmacy.  FTC

April 20, 2015 — The FTC has approved a final consent order with AmeriFreight, an automobile shipment broker, which stops the company from touting its highly rated online reviews while failing to disclose that the company compensated consumers to write them.  According to the FTC’s complaint, AmeriFreight represented that its online reviews were those of satisfied customers, but failed to disclose that AmeriFreight compensated the reviewers with discounts and incentives.  AmeriFreight gave consumers $50 discounts to write favorable reviews, and offered consumers the chance to win an additional $100 if their review was selected for a monthly prize.   FTC

April 7, 2015 — Network Solutions LLC has agreed to settle FTC charges that it misled consumers who bought its web hosting services by promising a full refund if they canceled within 30 days.  In reality, the company withheld substantial cancellation fees from most refunds.  In an administrative complaint, the FTC alleged that Network Solutions offered web hosting packages with a “30 Day Money Back Guarantee,” but did not adequately disclose that it withheld part of the refund – up to 30 percent – from customers who cancelled within 30 days of buying an annual or multi-year package and registering an included domain name.  FTC

April 6, 2015 — A U.S. district court has ruled that LeadClick Media, an affiliate marketing network, and its parent company, CoreLogic, Inc., must turn over $16 million in ill-gotten gains they received from a deceptive marketing scheme that sold purported weight-loss products.  In granting the FTC’s request for summary judgment, the court ruled that LeadClick was responsible for the false claims made by affiliate marketers it recruited on behalf of LeanSpa, LLC, a company that sold acai berry and “colon cleanse” weight-loss products.  According to the FTC’s Complaint, LeanSpa used a “free trial” ploy to enroll consumers into its recurring purchase program that cost $79.99 a month and that was difficult to cancel.  FTC

May 28, 2015 — The FTC has reached a settlement resolving the Commission’s antitrust suit charging Cephalon, Inc. with illegally blocking generic competition to its blockbuster sleep-disorder drug Provigil. The settlement ensures that Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Ltd., which acquired Cephalon in 2012, will make a total of $1.2 billion available to compensate purchasers, including drug wholesalers, pharmacies, and insurers, who overpaid because of Cephalon’s illegal conduct. FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said, “today’s landmark settlement is an important step in the FTC’s ongoing effort to protect consumers from anticompetitive pay for delay settlements, which burden patients, American businesses, and taxpayers with billions of dollars in higher prescription drug costs.” FTC

May 26, 2015 — Ashworth College has agreed to settle FTC charges it misrepresented to students that they would get the training and credentials needed to switch careers or get a new job, and that the course credits they earned would transfer to other schools. In reality, many programs offered by the for-profit institution did not meet state requirements for desired careers, and the claims made about credit transfers were often not true. Jessica Rich, Director, FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said “when schools promise students they can transfer course credits or get a better job after completing their programs, they’d better be able to back up those claims.” FTC

May 21, 2015 — At the request of the FTC, a federal court has temporarily halted a sweepstakes operation based in Fort Lauderdale that took more than $28 million from consumers throughout the United States and other countries, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom. The FTC seeks to permanently end the allegedly illegal practices and return money to victims. FTC

May 15, 2015 — The FTC mailed checks totaling approximately $3 million to consumers who lost money to TriVita, diet supplement marketers who made unsupported claims that their cactus-based fruit drink, Nopalea, would treat a variety of health problems. FTC

May 12, 2015 — The FTC charged Lunada Biomedical with misleading claims about weight loss. The FTC has filed a federal court complaint seeking to prohibit the company and its principals from advertising that their dietary supplement Amberen causes substantial weight loss for women over 40, and that the weight loss is clinically proven. Between 2010 and 2013, Lunada sold almost $65 million worth of Amberen nationwide. Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said “Lunada marketed Amberen to women over 40 as ‘clinically proven’ to cause weight loss, but their own studies didn’t support those claims.” FTC

March 31, 2015 — The FTC has entered into a settlement with Phoebe Putney Health System, Inc., the Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County, and HCA Inc. resolving the Commission’s charge that the Hospital Authority’s acquisition of Palmyra Park Hospital, Inc. from HCA Inc. – which created an effective hospital monopoly in the Albany, Georgia area – was anticompetitive.  This consent agreement follows a significant Supreme Court victory in 2013 that reaffirmed the narrow scope of state action immunity and allowed the Commission to challenge this transaction.  Due to the unavailability of structural relief, the consent does not require a divestiture.  FTC

March 27, 2015 — The FTC mailed 358 refund checks totaling $939,207 to consumers who lost money after paying performance deposits to become business or sales consultants to National Business Consultants, Inc. and its owner, Robert Namer.  According to the FTC, the company falsely told consumers, among other things, that they provide consulting assignments, so consumers do not have to market their own services, that their consultants and sales consultants were likely to earn between $35,000 and $100,000 per year through their program, and that the company would refund deposits to consultants who earn a specific amount of money within a certain time frame.  FTC

March 20, 2015 — The FTC mailed 10,620 refund checks totaling more than $416,000 to consumers who lost money buying two skin creams marketed by L’Occitane, Inc., which falsely claimed the creams had “body slimming” capabilities.  The refunds are being made from money collected under a January 2014 settlement order with the company, which also agreed to stop making deceptive claims that its Almond Beautiful Shape and Almond Shaping Delight skin creams have body-slimming capabilities and are clinically proven.  FTC

March 18, 2015 — The FTC mailed 17,606 refund checks totaling $954,828 to consumers who lost money buying a supposedly superior calcium supplement, AdvaCAL, marketed by Lane Labs-USA Inc.  The refunds are being made from money collected under a 2010 U.S. Court of Appeals ruling and 2011 district court decision finding Lane Labs in contempt of a 2000 order, based on the company’s false and unsubstantiated claims for the supplement.  Lane Labs claimed that AdvaCAL was the only calcium supplement that could increase bone density, and was on par or superior to prescription drugs used to treat osteoporosis.  FTC

March 11, 2015 — The FTC charged DIRECTV, the country’s largest provider of satellite television services, with deceptively advertising a discounted 12-month programming package because it failed to clearly disclose that the package requires a two-year contract.  In addition, DIRECTV did not clearly disclose that the cost of the package will increase by up to $45 more per month in the second year, and that early cancellation fees of up to $480 apply if consumers cancel the package before the end of the two-year period.  FTC

March 10, 2014 — The FTC has sent more than $2.4 million in refund checks to just over a hundred consumers harmed by the Premier Precious Metals scheme, which bilked millions of dollars from investors, including many senior citizens.  The scheme worked by conning consumers into buying precious metals on credit without clearly disclosing significant costs and risks, including the likelihood that consumers would subsequently have to pay more money or lose their investments.  FTC

March 5, 2015 — A direct marketing company, Allstar Marketing Group, LLC, selling “as-seen-on-TV” type products such as Snuggies and the Magic Mesh door cover, has agreed to pay $7.5 million to the FTC for consumer restitution to settle charges in connection with its deceptive “buy-one-get-one-free” promotions. The FTC’s settlement was reached alongside a separate action by the New York State Office of the Attorney General.  FTC

February 2015

February 27, 2015 — Identity theft topped the FTC’s national ranking of consumer complaints for the 15th consecutive year, while the agency also recorded a large increase in the number of complaints about so-called “imposter” scams, according to the FTC’s 2014 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book.  FTC

February 23, 2015 – The FTC has challenged marketers of “melanoma detection” apps, MelApp and Mole Detective, for deceptively claiming their mobile apps could detect symptoms of melanoma, even in its early stages, without scientific evidence to back up its claims.  FTC

February 13, 2015 – The FTC approved a final order against Dallas auto dealer TXVT Limited Partnership (doing business as Trophy Nissan) involving deceptive advertising charges.  Under the settlement, Trophy is prohibited from misrepresenting in any advertisement the material terms of any promotion or other incentive, including that it will pay off a consumers’ trade-in or the cost of leasing or purchasing a vehicle. Trophy is also prohibited from failing to clearly and conspicuously disclose material terms of its promotions or other incentives and must comply with the Consumer Leasing Act and Regulation M and the Truth in Lending Act and Regulation Z.  FTC

February 11, 2015 The FTC named Sereika Savariau and Lawrence Goodison in a case against a phony debt relief and credit repair scheme that allegedly deceived consumers about non-existent federal programs to pay off their bills and fix poor credit. The case was originally brought in August 2014 against the American Bill Pay and American Benefits Foundation.  The amended complaint was accepted by the court, and the case remains in litigation. The FTC is seeking to have the scam permanently shut down, and obtain refunds for consumers who paid for the scammers’ bogus debt and credit services.  FTC

February 9, 2015 – The FTC obtained a $9.5M  judgment against sweepstakes promoter Crystal Ewing for deceptively enticing consumers in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom to send money to collect large cash prizes that, in fact, did not exist.  FTC

February 5, 2105A group of Utah-based defendants led by Philip J. Danielson and his company, Danielson Law Group, settled FTC charges that they broke the law by conning consumers into paying hefty fees for worthless mortgage relief services. The five proposed orders settling the FTC’s charges ban the defendants from offering mortgage assistance relief services and from participating in the debt relief industry.  According to the FTC, defendants lured consumers into paying $500 to $3,900 by falsely promising that attorneys would negotiate loan modifications that would substantially reduce the consumers’ mortgage payments.  The complaint also alleged that the defendants used the name Danielson Law Group and other attorney or law firm names to look like they had lawyers all over the country, even though many consumers never met or spoke to an attorney.  FTC

January 2015

January 30, 2015 — The FTC reached settlements with First American Title Lending and Finance Select, two car title lenders, that will require them to stop their use of deceptive advertising to market title loans.  The FTC charged that the companies advertised, both online and in print, zero percent interest rates for a 30-day car title loan without disclosing important loan conditions or the increased finance charge imposed after the introductory period ended. “This type of loan is risky for consumers because if they fail to pay, they could lose their car – an asset many of them can’t live without,” said Jessica Rich, director, FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.  “Without proper disclosures, consumers can’t know what they’re getting, so when we see deceptive marketing of these loans we’re going to take action to stop it.”   FTC

January 28, 2015 — TracFone, the largest prepaid mobile provider in the U.S., has agreed to pay $40 million to the FTC to settle charges that it deceived millions of consumers with hollow promises of “unlimited” data service.  The FTC’s complaint alleges TracFone  advertised prepaid monthly mobile plans for about $45 per month with “unlimited” data under various brands, including Straight Talk, Net10, Simple Mobile, and Telcel America.  But despite emphasizing unlimited data in its advertisements, TracFone drastically slowed or cut off consumers’ mobile data after they used more than certain fixed limits in a 30-day period.  FTC

January 26, 2015 — Lindsey Duncan, Pure Health LLC, and Genesis Today, Inc. have agreed to settle FTC charges that they deceptively touted the supposed weight-loss benefits of green coffee bean extract through a campaign that included appearances on The Dr. Oz Show, The View, and other television programs.  Under the settlement, the defendants are barred from making deceptive claims about the health benefits or efficacy of any dietary supplement or drug product, and will pay $9 million for consumer redress.  “Lindsey Duncan and his companies made millions by falsely claiming that green coffee bean supplements cause significant and rapid weight loss,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “This case shows that the Federal Trade Commission will continue to fight deceptive marketers’ attempts to prey on consumers trying to improve their health.” FTC

January 20, 2015 —  Focus Education, a Texas company that makes a computer game, Jungle Rangers, settled FTC charges that require them to stop making unsubstantiated claims that the game permanently improves children’s focus, memory, attention, behavior, and school performance, including for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). “This case is the most recent example of the FTC’s efforts to ensure that advertisements for cognitive products, especially those marketed for children, are true and supported by evidence,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection.  “Many parents are interested in products that can improve their children’s focus, behavior, and grades, but companies must back up their brain training claims with reliable science.” FTC

January 16, 2015 — Two payday lending companies, AMG Services, Inc. and MNE Services, Inc., have settled FTC charges that they violated the law by charging consumers undisclosed and inflated fees. Under the proposed settlement the companies will pay $21 million – the largest FTC recovery in a payday lending case – and will waive another $285 million in charges that were assessed but not collected.  The FTC noted that “the settlement requires these companies to turn over millions of dollars that they took from financially-distressed consumers, and waive hundreds of millions in other charges.”  FTC

January 6, 2015 — The FTC has approved a final amendment to its Cooling-Off Rule that increases the exclusionary limit for certain “door-to-door” sales. The Cooling-Off Rule previously provided that it is unfair and deceptive for sellers engaged in “door-to-door” sales valued at more than $25 to fail to provide consumers with disclosures regarding their right to cancel the sales contract within three business days of the transaction.  Under the final rule, the revised definition of “door-to-door sales” distinguishes between sales at a buyer’s residence and those at other locations.  The revised definition retains coverage for sales made at a buyer’s residence that have a purchase price of $25 or more, and it increases the purchase price to $130 or more for all other covered sales at temporary locations.  FTC

December 2014

December 31, 2014 — The FTC has approved a final order settling charges that Snapchat deceived consumers with promises about the disappearing nature of messages sent through the service.  According to the FTC’s complaint, Snapchat also deceived consumers over the amount of personal data it collected and the security measures taken to protect that data from misuse and unauthorized disclosure.  The settlement prohibits Snapchat from misrepresenting the extent to which it maintains the privacy, security, or confidentiality of users’ information.  In addition, the company will be required to implement a comprehensive privacy program that will be monitored by an independent privacy professional for the next 20 years.  FTC

December 23, 2014 — The FTC charges data broker LeapLab with selling the sensitive personal information of hundreds of thousands of consumers – including Social Security and bank account numbers – to scammers who allegedly debited millions from their accounts.  According to the FTC’s complaint, the company bought payday loan applications of financially strapped consumers, and then sold that information to marketers whom it knew had no legitimate need for it. At least one of those marketers, Ideal Financial Solutions – a defendant in another FTC case – allegedly used the information to withdraw millions of dollars from consumers’ accounts without their authorization.  FTC

December 22, 2014 — The FTC charged Your Yellow Book Inc., Brandie Michelle Law, Dustin Robert Law, and their father, Robert Ray Law with defrauding small businesses and nonprofits by charging them for online business directory listings they had not ordered or received – their deceptive tactics included unsolicited telemarketing calls and bogus invoices with the walking fingers image often associated with local yellow page directories. Defendants are banned from telemarketing, and they will pay $1.7 million to reimburse consumers who lost money to the scam.  FTC

December 11, 2014 — A federal court has entered orders against 22 mortgage company defendants who offered financially strapped consumers fake home-loan modification services that the FTC claims violated the FTC Act and the Mortgage Assistance Relief Services Rule.  The FTC alleged the defendants operated as two loan modification enterprises, each of which falsely claimed it would provide legal help to save consumers’ homes from foreclosure and lower their mortgage payments. The enterprises then charged up-front fees of between $2,500 and $3,500, but delivered little or no help, deepening the consumers’ financial distress.  The orders impose monetary judgments in varying amounts to remedy the almost $51 million of consumer injury from the defendants’ activities and collectively ban the defendants from advertising, promoting, or selling unsecured debt relief products and services; misrepresenting any material facts related to financial products or services; misrepresenting material facts related to any other types of services; and benefiting from any consumer information they collected through the scheme.  FTC 

December 5, 2014 — The settlement involving Google unfairly billing for in-app purchases receives final approval.  The order resolves allegations that Google billed consumers millions of dollars for charges incurred by children without consent from account holders. When Google first introduced in-app charges to the Google Play store in 2011, the FTC’s complaint alleged, Google billed for such charges without any password requirement or other method to obtain account holder authorization.  FTC

December 3, 2014 — PaymentsMD, LLC settled FTC charges alleging they misled thousands of consumers who signed up for an online billing portal by failing to adequately inform them that the company would seek highly detailed medical information from pharmacies, medical labs and insurance companies.  The FTC alleges the companies used the sign-up process for a “Patient Portal” — where consumers could view their billing history — as a pathway to deceptively seek consumers’ consent to obtain detailed medical information about the consumers to create patient profiles. FTC 

November 2014

November 20, 2014 — Consumer Collection Advocates, Corp. agreed to stop operating an advance fee recovery scheme for the duration of the on-going litigation with the FTC. The FTC seeks to permanently stop the operation, which in the past year took close to $1.3 million from consumers, many of them elderly people who had lost money to timeshare resale and precious metal investment frauds.  According to the FTC’s complaint, telemarketers for the company called consumers and falsely guaranteed that, for an up-front fee, typically 20 percent of the amount they lost, the defendants would recover substantial amounts of money for them – 60 percent or more – within 30 to 180 days.  The FTC alleges few, if any, consumers received any money.  FTC

November 19, 2014 — One Technologies group settles with the FTC for running an online scheme that allegedly lured consumers with “free” access to their credit scores and then billed them a recurring fee of nearly $30 dollars for a credit monitoring program they never ordered.  The credit monitoring programs, MyCreditHealth and ScoreSense, were marketed through at least 50 websites, including FreeScore360.com, FreeScoreOnline.com and ScoreSense.com.  According to the FTC, they bought advertising on search engines such as Google and Bing so that ads for their websites appeared near the top of search results when consumers looked for terms such as “free credit report.”  The FTC alleges the defendants failed to clearly disclose that consumers who accessed their credit score through their websites would be enrolled in a credit monitoring program and incur monthly charges until they called the defendants to cancel.  FTC

November 17, 2014 —  TRUSTe, Inc., a major provider of privacy certifications for online businesses, has agreed to settle FTC charges that it deceived consumers about its recertification program for company’s privacy practices, as well as perpetuated its misrepresentation as a non-profit entity.  The FTC alleges that from 2006 until January 2013, TRUSTe failed to conduct annual recertifications of companies holding TRUSTe privacy seals in over 1,000 incidences, despite providing information on its website that companies holding TRUSTe Certified Privacy Seals receive recertification every year.  FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said “TRUSTe promised to hold companies accountable for protecting consumer privacy, but it fell short of that pledge.”   FTC

November 10, 2014 — Norm Thompson Outfitters. Inc., and Wacoal America, Inc. agreed to pay to pay $230,000 and $1.3 million, respectively, to settle charges that their marketing claims for their caffeine-infused products were false and not substantiated by scientific evidence.  In settling the charges, the companies are banned from claiming that any garment that contains any drug or cosmetic causes substantial weight or fat loss or a substantial reduction in body size. The companies also are prohibited from making claims that any drug or cosmetic reduces or eliminates cellulite or reduces body fat, unless they are not misleading and can be substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence.  FTC

November 6, 2014 — MPHJ Technology Investments, LLC, and its law firm agreed to settle charges that they used deceptive sales claims and phony legal threats in letters that accused thousands of small businesses around the United States of patent infringement.  According to the FTC,  the company bought patents relating to network computer scanning technology, and then told thousands of small businesses that they were likely infringing the patents and should purchase a license.  In more than 9,000 letters sent under the names of numerous MPHJ subsidiaries falsely represented that many other companies had already agreed to pay thousands of dollars for licenses.  FTC

October 2014

October 30, 2014 —  FTC charges Gerber Products Co., also doing business as Nestlé Nutrition, with deceptively advertising that feeding its Good Start Gentle formula to infants with a family history of allergies prevents or reduces the risk that they will develop allergies.  The FTC also alleges that Gerber has falsely advertised Good Start Gentle’s health claims as FDA-approved. The FTC is seeking to prohibit Gerber from making the alleged false and unsubstantiated allergy-prevention claims.  FTC

October 29, 2014 — JDI Dating Ltd., an England-based company, and its owner William Mark Thomas, agreed to settle charges alleging the company used fake, computer-generated profiles  to trick users into upgrading to paid memberships and charging these members a recurring monthly fee without their consent.  The settlement prohibits the defendants from misrepresenting material facts about any product or service and requires that, before obtaining consumers’ billing information for a product with a negative-option feature, the defendants clearly disclose the name of the seller or provider, a product description and its cost, the length of any trial period, the fact that charges will continue unless the consumer cancels, the deadline for canceling, and the mechanism to stop recurring charges. The order also requires the defendants to pay $616,165 in redress.  FTC

October 28, 2014 – FTC charges AT&T Mobility, LLC with misleading millions of its smartphone customers by charging them for “unlimited” data plans while reducing their data speeds, in some cases by nearly 90 percent.  The FTC’s complaint alleges that the company failed to adequately disclose to its customers on unlimited data plans that, if they reach a certain amount of data use in a given billing cycle, AT&T reduces – or “throttles” – their data speeds to the point that many common mobile phone applications – like web browsing, GPS navigation and watching streaming video –  become difficult or nearly impossible to use.  FTC

October 24, 2014 —  HealthyLife Sciences, LLC and its former CEO settle charges that they deceived consumers with promises that their Healthe Trim supplements would burn fat, increase metabolism, and suppress appetite and made false and unsubstantiated claims that Healthe Trim supplements would cause rapid and substantial weight loss.   Advertisements for Healthe Trim, which used the tagline “Get High School Skinny,” relied heavily on consumer testimonials that portrayed losing weight as easy.   The settlement bans the former CEO from the weight-loss industry and HealthyLife Sciences is banned from making any of the seven weight-loss claims that the FTC has publicly advised are scientifically infeasible, with respect to any supplement, over-the-counter drug, or any product rubbed into or worn on the skin.  FTC

October 23, 2014 – A court shut down Centro Natural Corp. and Sumore L.L.C., at the FTC’s request, on allegations that they operate a phantom debt collection operation that deceived and abused thousands of Spanish-speaking consumers across the country in an attempt to collect money they did not even owe.  According to the FTC, the companies bilked consumers out of at least two million dollars by cold-calling consumers and threatening them with harsh consequences, such as arrest, legal actions, and immigration status investigations, if they failed to make large payments on bogus debts.  The defendants’ telemarketers also pressured and deceived consumers into paying for unwanted products by telling consumers it would “settle” their debt.  The FTC is seeking a court order permanently stopping the defendants’ scam.  FTC