On August 1, 2016, The FTC’s inflation increases for maximum civil penalty amounts go into effect. You can find the Federal Register Notice containing all of the statutes and amounts here. With penalties increasing, from $16,000 to $40,000 in some instances, it’s time again to look at your business objectively and determine what risks you are willing to take. Here are some areas, business owners and caretakers of brands need to evaluate for exposure.
Police Those Who Try to Exploit Your Brand
Your business is not responsible for what others do if you are not affiliated with them. Unfortunately, that’s not enough to keep us off the regulator radar these days. Whether you are the advertiser or the lead generator, understand the pitfalls that can occur when using third parties. Objectively ask yourself, do you know everything your affiliates or publishers are doing to market on your behalf? Take it a step further and question if you think they know everything their network is doing. No one is 100% error free online, all the time. The mere appearance of not “playing by the rules” could shine a spotlight on your business where infractions could be uncovered.
An unauthorized publisher can put you at risk for regulatory scrutiny or lead to an investigation. If a consumer can’t spot a fraudulent representation of your brand online, then regulators won’t be able to notice at first glance either. It’s critical right now to monitor and enforce standards for your brand’s presence on the Internet. Create a paper trail documenting your efforts to discover and remediate infractions.
Every business is unique, but here some things you can do internally:
- Keep an inventory in a database or even a spreadsheet of your proprietary and authorized third party URLs.
- Set up a monthly audit process to review all URLs for brand, regulatory, and consumer consent compliance.
- Review the user path to ensure nothing was misleading up to the form and consumer consent was collected in the correct places.
- Take screen shots with time/date of infractions.
- Email the screen shots along with a request for remediation to the third party.
- Store all emails back and forth concerning the remediation.
- Schedule a quarterly Internet audit looking for domains and URLs not authorized by your brand and follow the same paper trail and remediation process.
Be Proactive Against Those Who Seek and Exploit Violations
From consumer disclosures and consent language online to contact strategies and database maintenance, leave no stone unturned when it comes to ensuring compliance. There are opportunistic individuals who target certain industries and put themselves in a position to file a complaint or take legal action. You need to get ahead of them.
Look for and monitor all forms of disclosures, consent, privacy policies, terms and conditions, and any other industry specific data or content required. It’s a common mistake to only search for where it exists on the web. Yes, we want to make sure what we know and see is unaltered, but don’t forget to look for instances where these forms have been omitted—which is a tougher search.
Contact maintenance strategies need to be reviewed and followed. Reactive responses to violations will result in fines and suits. It may surprise you how easy it is for individuals to create the exact scenarios that equip them to file a civil suit against a business. Do Not Call (DNC) violations under section 5 of the FTC Act have increased to $40,000 per instance. If you weren’t following DNC best practices, it’s time.
Despite your efforts to maintain industry compliance on a daily basis you may feel exposed on many fronts. The regulatory scrutiny has found its way into many business operations and expense columns with seemingly no reprieve. To help mitigate risks everyone must take an active role and reduce exposure. Lead generation as an industry is strong. Remember, you are not only equipped to be successful while being compliant, but you are in a good position to write the narrative.
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You could be missing tens of thousands in missed revenue every year.
Unauthorized publishers are taking advantage of your brand and your inquiries. Put a stop to it. Watch the clip below to discover what this “free” advertising is really costing you.
Your company is liable for what others do on your behalf. When your business hires an advertising agency, you might very well be paying for a third-party marketer too—even if nobody told you.
That’s because many agencies will subcontract with third-party firms to handle Internet advertising, landing pages and the digital side of promoting your company. These marketers can help you obtain a huge number of client leads very quickly. https://integrishield.com/fraudulent-advertising-what-nobody-tells-you/ https://integrishield.com/fraudulent-advertising-what-nobody-tells-you/ https://integrishield.com/fraudulent-advertising-what-nobody-tells-you/ https://integrishield.com/fraudulent-advertising-what-nobody-tells-you/They can position your business in front of literally millions of consumers. In most cases you and the third-party are not responsible to each other because a direct contractual relationship doesn’t exist.
So what happens when this third party marketer misrepresents your brand through fraudulent advertising? Click here to continue reading the full article on demystifying third party marketers and what you can do to protect your business.
Do you use bloggers and social media to promote your company, school or products? The FTC has released new monitoring method requirements.
Watch as our president, Jennifer Flood, explains how that may impact your organization:
Institutions are under strict scrutiny surrounding their online advertising efforts. But, it’s also imperative for the institution’s website to be in compliance with the standards and regulations set forth by the Department of Education (DOE), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), your accrediting body and industry standards. Below is a checklist of points to consider when reviewing the information provided on your website.
Compliant Website Checklist:
- Visibility of accreditation statement
- Representation of accreditation – full and complete accreditation information – acronyms and banned terms omitted
- Easily navigable – at least within one click of the homepage
- Provide all required criteria expected to be completed prior to enrollment
- Include all educational requirements
- Contact information provided for prospective students
- Detailed and clear explanation of offerings that the Career Services department provides
- No job placement guarantees
- Omission of banned terms, such as “career placement”
Gainful Employment Disclosures
- Clear presence of disclosure information
- Disclosure information is in the required Gainful Employment Disclosure Template developed by the DOE
- Qualification rules
- How applicants can learn about qualifying
- Financial aid eligibility disclaimer present
- Timeframe for completion listed correctly
- Program length disclaimer
- Listings are accurate and approved by the DOE
- Acceptable states for admissions
- Citations provided for statistics listed on the page
- Consent language present on lead form
- Language must include all components within the FCC definition
- Must be actual statements
- Some accreditors do not allow institutions to use testimonials from current students on their website
Stay tuned for our next webinar where we’ll cover this topic in more depth! Get early access to webinar information. (opens in a new window)
Since it’s onset in 1995, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has amended the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) (opens in a new window) several times in order to respond to developments in telemarketing schemes. The amendments allow for liability for third parties. For example, education lead generators that have provided “substantial assistance or support” to any seller while knowing, or consciously avoiding knowing, that the seller or telemarketer is engaged in activity in violation of the TSR.
What do these amendments mean for lead educators and for-profit schools?
- The TSR covers calls made with multiple purposes, if one of the purposes is the sale of goods or services. So, companies who use robocalls to sell goods or services risk violating the TSR.
- Liability is broad under the TSR. Liability is not limited to the company that made the calls. It’s also illegal to “provide substantial assistance or support” to a seller or telemarketer when you know or consciously avoid knowing they’re violating the Rule. The TSR makes it clear that “but I wasn’t the one doing the dialing” isn’t a defense.
- The states and feds are united in the fight against illegal telemarketing. The FTC, Department of Justice, and State Attorney Generals remain committed to working together to protect consumers from illegal telemarketing.
How can you avoid a violation?
- Make sure the prospective inquiry gives the educational lead generator company express written permission to call, even if their telephone number is on the national Do Not Call Registry.
- The educational lead generator or school will not require any purchase of goods or services in order to obtain student consent.
- Written consent must include the student’s telephone number and signature.
- The student will receive phone calls as a result of submitting the Request for Information (RFI) form on the educational lead generator’s website (or other collateral) and checking the box that gives express permission.
The FTC joined forces this week with the Obama administration’s fight against private sector colleges. The agency released new guidelines this week in hopes to crack down on deceptive advertising, promotions, marketing and sales made by private sector colleges featuring vocational programs.
The new guidelines followed the tip sheet recently released by the FTC to help veterans better scrutinize private sector colleges, in hopes the same guidelines can help all students.
Seven of the eight comments received by the FTC submitted by numerous accrediting agencies were in favor of retaining the guidelines noting, “Many instances of fraud in the industry and urged that the guides be strengthened and enforced more vigorously.” APSCU however commented against retaining all guidelines, suggesting rather retain the guidelines only for unaccredited or unlicensed institutions stating that the guidelines were unnecessary, “and would create additional burdens for institutions that are licensed by a stat or accredited by a DOE recognized accrediting agency.”
Overall the Commission proposed four modifications to the guidelines including:
- Guides addressing misrepresentations of salaries, job placement, completion rates and time frames.
- Guides addressing misleading statements indicating that a program would render a student eligible to take a licensing exam.
- Guides stating that misrepresenting a student’s admissions test score as a deceptive practice, hindering their success to complete the program.
- Guides to address transfer of credits, assistance to language barriers, source of funding for student loans and crime statistics.
The FTC’s new guidelines went effective November 18th 2013. Contact IntegriShield today and make sure your institution is in compliance with the new guidelines.
Accreditation agencies are cracking down on inaccurate job placement figures and claims made by private sector colleges. Just in the last few months numerous colleges have fallen victim in Federal Trade Commission and Department of Education accusations. Resulting in large fines and loss of accreditation needed for federal financial aid. In August 2013 Career Education Corp. settled a $10.25 million settlement with the New York attorney general for allegedly inflating job placement rates. Are your institution’s job placement rates accurate and up-to-date? Avoid the large penalties and ensure your figures meet accrediting agency standards by utilizing a third-party unbiased employment verification service.
IntegriShield’s Employment Verification service seeks and contacts all graduates to verify employment and provide up-to-date and accurate post-graduation employment information for clients. IntegriShield’s verification experts collect all information based on client needs and accrediting body standards, to guarantee the correct information is provided for annual accreditation audits. Tracking graduates is a time consuming task that is crucial for accurate reporting. IntegriShield provides weekly and monthly reports tracking the number of employed students, unemployed students, reasons for unemployment and number of waived placements to save your Career Service Department time and money.
Providing inflated or inaccurate graduate employment information is detrimental to your school’s accreditation standings, reputation and finances. Contact IntegriShield today to ensure your graduate employment information meets the expected standards.