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FTC Upgrades IT to Protect Consumer Privacy, Data Security
April 8, 2015
The FTC, which is at the forefront of regulating the impact of information technology on consumers, is bolstering its technical resource capabilities through a new Office of Technology Research and Investigation. The FTC is concerned about the failure of commercial entities to make adequate disclosures or to properly address data breaches and privacy issues.
Banks' Arbitration Clauses May Hurt Consumers: Report
March 16, 2015
Tens of millions of American consumers use consumer financial products or services governed by predispute arbitration clauses that may put them at an unfair disadvantage, suggests a CFPB report released last week. In some cases, the arbitration clauses are mandatory. Larger banks often include arbitration clauses in their consumer checking account and credit card contracts.
FTC Goes to Bat for Duped DirecTV Customers
March 16, 2015
The Federal Trade Commission last week charged DirecTV with deceptive advertising practices in a complaint filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco Division. DirecTV, which has been in discussions over a potential merger with AT&T, currently has more than 20 million subscribers across the United States.
We Done Good, Consumer Protection Chief Tells Lawmakers
March 5, 2015
The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has made great strides in carrying out its mission, which is to ensure consumers are fairly treated in the financial marketplace, Director Richard Cordray said Tuesday at a House Financial Services hearing. The bureau's qualified mortgage rule put new measures in place to prevent the sloppy underwriting that led to the subprime mortgage problem.
FTC, Private Sector Lock Horns Over Consumer Data Protection
February 25, 2015
The major headline hacking event of 2014 involved data theft at a highly visible enterprise: Sony Pictures. Perhaps just as significant in e-commerce security was a 2014 federal court ruling which allows the FTC to continue penalizing commercial firms for failure to protect consumer data from hackers. That decision has been challenged, and in early March the FTC and its opponent will square off in court.
A Little Dab of Credit Card Data Can ID Customers
February 2, 2015
Credit card users may be dismayed by findings MIT Researchers reported last week in the journal Science: Just four pieces of vague non-identifying information were enough to identify 90 percent of people in a data set of 1.1 million credit card users. When the researchers went to work with three pieces of less vague information, they achieved 94 percent success.
CFPB Shifts Some Power to Mortgage Shoppers
January 13, 2015
The CFPB on Tuesday introduced Owning a Home, a set of online tools designed to make it easier for consumers to comparison shop for the best deal in mortgage financing. With one tool, users can plug in a credit score and ZIP code to get a sense of the current interest rates being offered within a particular area. There is also a guide that walks consumers through various loan options.
Data Breach Law Tops Obama Privacy Initiatives
January 12, 2015
A proposed national data breach reporting law, aimed primarily at protecting consumer privacy, headlined several initiatives the Obama administration announced Monday. The Personal Data Notification & Protection Act clarifies the obligations of companies when there's been a data breach. It includes a requirement to notify customers within 30 days of the discovery of a breach.
CFPB May Rein In Payday Lending
January 5, 2015
The CFPB reportedly is considering various approaches to reforming the payday loan industry. The bureau is concerned about the short-term, high-rate debt consumers take on. States typically have been responsible for regulating payday loan company practices. If the CFPB should take action, it would be the first time federal regulations were applied to this financial niche.
Feds Pounce on Sprint for Phone Bill Cramming
December 18, 2014
The United States government is delivering a one-two punch to Sprint over the practice of cramming -- allowing third parties to place unauthorized charges on customers' bills. The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau on Thursday filed a civil suit against Sprint over the issue. Meanwhile, the Federal Communications Commission reportedly is planning to hit Sprint with a $105 million fine.
Iowa to Lead Digital Driver's License Movement
December 12, 2014
Iowa plans to issue digital drivers' licenses in the form of a smartphone app by next year, Paul Trombino, director of the Iowa Department of Transportation, said earlier this week at a public state agency budget hearing. The digital license will be accepted by Iowa law enforcement officers conducting traffic stops, as well as by security officers who screen travelers at Iowa's airports.
Snail Mail Surveillance: Rules Are Weak - and Routinely Broken
October 30, 2014
The U.S. Postal Service didn't adequately follow its own rules last year, when it secretly recorded and shared information about some 49,000 pieces of mail to further criminal and national security investigations, according to an audit report from the Office of Inspector General. Information recorded under the service's longstanding mail cover program is limited to what's written on the exterior.
AT&T: We Told Our Customers 'Unlimited' Doesn't Mean 'Unlimited'
October 29, 2014
The Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday filed a complaint in a California federal court against AT&T, seeking compensation for customers who were told they had unlimited data plans but in reality did not. The legal action stemmed from a practice AT&T began in 2011 of throttling data delivery to customers with unlimited data plans when their data usage reached a specified amount during a billing period.
California Lays Down the Kill-Switch Law
August 27, 2014
Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed into law a bill requiring that anti-theft measures be incorporated into all smartphones sold within California. It doesn't specify the particular technologies used to enable that capability, but it does require that the feature, also known as a "kill switch," give smartphone users the ability to remotely disable their devices in the event they're lost or stolen.
Banks Bemoan Feds' Plan to Publish Complaining Consumers' Stories
August 20, 2014
The banking industry is up in arms over the United States Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's plan to publish consumer complaint narratives about financial institutions on the Web. Consumers would have to opt in to have their complaints published. The CFPB would strip out all personally identifiable information. The idea is to expand the existing database to include the customer's narrative.
The Bitcoins Are Coming, the Bitcoins Are Coming
August 13, 2014
The United States Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has issued an advisory warning consumers about the risks of bitcoin and other virtual currencies. The bureau "is working to identify and understand potential consumer protection concerns raised by these emerging technologies to determine what action, if any, may be necessary to protect consumers," said spokesperson Moira Vahey.
Smartphone Kill Switch Law Reaches California Governor's Desk
August 12, 2014
California is poised to enact a consumer-friendly law requiring smartphone manufacturers to install "kill switches" -- that is, antitheft technology that would be activated by the carrier when a consumer alerts it that a device has been stolen or lost. The technology not only wipes the device of personal data but also renders it inoperable. The state legislature passed the bill on Monday.
EU Rides Apple Over Weak In-App Purchase Policies
July 23, 2014
The EU last year adopted a "common position" on how purchases made within mobile and online applications should be treated by operators of app stores. Now Google is drawing praise for striving to comply with EU guidance, while Apple is being rebuked for dragging its feet. Google announced specific steps it's taking, including removal of the word "free" from any app that enables in-app purchases.
Amazon Risks Customer Loyalty in Fight Over Kids' In-App Purchases
July 11, 2014
Amazon's reputation for stellar customer service could become tarnished if its current flap with the FTC gets out of hand. The FTC is suing Amazon for permitting children to make millions of dollars in unauthorized purchases through its Appstore. Similar accusations have been circulating for years. Other companies, including Apple, have been targeted, said Strategic Vision CEO David Johnson.
FTC Goes After Amazon for Fleecing Kids
July 11, 2014
The FTC has filed suit against Amazon over billing kids for unauthorized in-app purchases that in many cases they did not know they had made. The suit accuses Amazon of violating Section 5(a) of the FTC Act, which prohibits unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce. The FTC is seeking a court order requiring Amazon to refund victims for the unauthorized charges.
Can I Get My Reputation Back?
July 9, 2014
Ray Donovan was U.S. Labor Secretary under Ronald Reagan and a colorful figure. During his tenure he was indicted by a Bronx, N.Y., grand jury on corruption charges stemming from a contract to build a subway line. The trial involved unions and the mob and was automatically sensational. The verdict turned on whether a construction company got a contract due to mob influence.
Shame on Facebook
July 3, 2014
Do you remember those snotty little kids who didn't seem to understand the difference between right and wrong? You know, the little brats who thought the rules didn't apply to them. The kids who thought they could get away with whatever they wanted -- rules were for somebody else. Well, that seems to be a fitting description of Facebook, as it repeatedly breaks customer trust.
Card Fraud Hits 1 in 4 Consumers Worldwide: Report
June 25, 2014
As many as a quarter of the world's consumers were victimized by card fraud in the past five years, and financial institutions are losing customers as a result, suggests a new study. ACI Worldwide and the Aite Group, which jointly surveyed more than 6,100 customers in 20 countries, found that 23 percent of consumers hit by card fraud changed financial institutions because they were dissatisfied.
AT&T, DirecTV Merger Could Hamper Cord-Cutting
June 13, 2014
AT&T's planned merger with DirecTV is far from a done deal. Among the objections that have been raised is one stemming from a filing this week with the FCC. There is now concern that the merger would make it more difficult for consumers to cut their cable-TV cords. The companies told the FCC in a public interest statement that the merger is the only way they would be able to compete.

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