We wrote previously that for payment processors the death of Operation Choke Point was greatly exaggerated.  We also noted that a prior challenge to the FTC’s ability to impose joint and several liability on an executive for his former employer’s actions had failed. A recent appellate victory for the FTC reinforces both these points.  In FTC v. Universal Processing Services, 11th Circuit affirmed the district court’s imposition of joint and several liability on a payment processor for substantially assisting the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) violations of its merchants.

Simply put, the court’s ruling affirmed that a payment processor can be held responsible for the total volume of sales processed for a merchant when the processor’s conduct amounts and unfair or deceptive practice under the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act).  A violation of the TSR constitutes a violation of the FTC Act, which allows for penalties including equitable monetary relief.


Continue Reading The Joint (And Several Liability) is Jumpin’

healthcare and fitness appsLast week, in an ironic twist of fate, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged the operators of the Pact Mobile App, which paid consumers for keeping their fitness promises and charged consumers who missed their goals, for failing to honor its promises to consumers.

According to the FTC’s complaint, when consumers signed up for the Pact App (formerly GymPact), consumers provided the app with their payment card information and set a workout or fitness goal. When signing up, users specified an amount of money the app could deduct if the user missed a workout or fitness goal for the week. The charges ranged from $5 to $50 per missed activity. If, on the other hand, the user achieved the goal, Pact would pay them. To track consumers’ compliance with their goals, Pact required users to check in at gyms using their phones’ GPS. Pact also allowed consumers to set other goals, using the app’s VeggiePact and FoodLoggingPacts options.


Continue Reading Mobile App Settles Charges with FTC that it Broke Pact with Consumers

prepaid cardsFor those of us who are regular readers of FTC press releases, the allure of last week’s announcement that the FTC settled its lawsuit against prepaid card company NetSpend Corporation may be more in the substance – or lack thereof – of the announcement itself. In four sentences, the FTC simply stated that the advertiser agreed to settle, that the Commission vote approving the final order was 2-1, and that Acting Chairman Ohlhausen issued a dissenting statement.

No details were provided about the claims at issue or the monetary relief imposed on the advertiser. And the FTC did not, as it often does, publish an ancillary blog on the FTC Business Center website to educate us (albeit entertainingly) on all of the terrible things that must not be done. Is this a sign of how case announcements will be handled under the Ohlhausen administration? For companies that settle with the FTC to avoid the expense and distraction of litigating with the government, a departure from condemnatory FTC press releases would be welcome.


Continue Reading FTC Settles Major Prepaid Card Advertising Case and Doesn’t Say Much about It

The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) has just released its Annual Summary of Consumer Complaints, and debt collection (29%), identity theft (16%), and imposter scams (11%) top the list of the most common categories of consumer complaints.

The Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book is produced every year from complaints received by the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network, including consumer complaints and complaints forwarded from state and federal law enforcement agencies, national consumer protection organizations, and non-governmental organizations. While the data book consists of unverified complaints, it is a useful tool for tracking developments and issues important to consumers.

The FTC’s summary overall shows little change from last year.  There were a few categories that changed places; for example debt collection complaints traded places with identity theft to claim the top spot, but the FTC also noted that the spike in debt collection complaints was due in large part to one data contributor employing a new mobile app to collect such complaints.  Internet Services, which had been number 10 fell out of the top ten to be replaced by Credit Bureaus, information furnishers and report users.
Continue Reading Debt Collection Tops 2015 List of Most Common Consumer Complaints

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released new amendments to the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) that the FTC first proposed in July 2013 and that will go into effect in 2016.  As expected, the new amendments make a number of substantial changes, including a ban on the use four types of payment methods in telemarketing.  It also clarifies certain issues relating to the FTC’s Do Not Call enforcement policies and their application to business-to-business calls, demonstrating the existence of an “established business relationship,” and the sharing of the cost of Do Not Call (DNC) Registry fees. 
Continue Reading FTC Amends Telemarketing Sales Rule: Amendments Include a Ban on the Use of Certain Payment Mechanisms in Telemarketing and Clarification on Existing Provisions, Including the Business-to-Business Call Exemption

By Petr Kratochvil [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

What if your chargebacks increased by 40%, practically overnight?  This is one estimate by payments industry experts of the potential impact on card-not-present (CNP) merchants that could result from the October 2015 shift to EMV chip technology in the U.S. market.  Payments companies are worried that many CNP merchants, including Internet retailers, aren’t prepared to absorb the onslaught of new fraud that will move to the CNP environment when fraudsters are shut out of card present retail.  The payments industry expects a direct correlation between the increase in fraud resulting from the EMV shift and an increase in chargebacks.

EMV is a security standard designed to protect in-store card swipes from card replication and counterfeit by use of a chip embedded in the card and in card acceptance terminals.  EMV, which stands for its three original creators (EuroPay, MasterCard, and Visa), is now run by a joint consortium of the major card networks.  The U.S. market is the last major market to deploy EMV.  When the U.K. market adopted EMV chip technology several years ago, analysts calculated that fraud in the card present retail environment dropped by almost half while fraud in the CNP environment doubled.  It is that lesson that has many in the U.S. worried, notwithstanding advancements in card authentication and other fraud detection tools in the CNP environment developed since then. 
Continue Reading Payment Processing Alert for Internet Retailers: The October 2015 EMV Shift Will Complicate Your Chargeback Management Efforts