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Online At The Federal Trade Commission Website


by Glen Emerson Morris

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The recent conviction of Martha Stewart should serve as a reminder that American business is regulated by a variety of complex and sometimes obscure laws, and failure to understand and follow those laws can have serious consequences.

Fortunately, the Internet has made if far easier for businesses to find out what laws apply to them and to understand what it takes to comply with those laws. One of the best Websites to obtain this kind of information is the Federal Trade Commission Website (www.ftc.gov).

The FTC Webiste is for both businesses and consumers. The site not only explains trade laws to businesses, but also to consumers, and the FTC Website makes it easy for consumers to report violations of those laws. (Exactly how easy filing complaints against businesses has become is worth remembering.)

Some of the sections at the Federal Trade Commission Website are:

Business Publications: The FTC Website offers one of the largest selections of publications useful to businesses of any government Website There are 18 categories of publications (at www.ftc.gov/ftc/businessinfo/consumer.htm)., including, but not limited to, advertising, e-commerce and the Internet, privacy and telemarketing. Each category has dozens of well written reports which can not only explain current law but also explain how businesses can protect themselves against a variety of scams. Titles include: "Advertising and Marketing on the Internet: The Rules of the Road," "Frequently Asked Advertising Questions: A Guide for Small Business," "Complying with the Telemarketing Sales Rule" and "What's Dot and What's Not: Domain Name Registration Scams."

Congressional Relations: The FTC section "Congressional Relations" (www.ftc.gov/ftc/congress.htm) offers a number of links which can help businesses understand pending laws and regulations. "The Office of Congressional Relations works closely with members of Congress and their personal and committee staff. The office informs Commissioners and FTC staff of Congressional issues and policies and helps provide information on legislation of interest to the Commission. It also coordinates the preparation of both Congressional testimony and responses to Congressional inquiries concerning FTC policies and programs." Some of the sections included are "Advisory Opinions Advocacy Filings," "A Brief Overview of FTC Investigative and Law Enforcement Authority" and "Case List, Commission and Staff Reports and Congressional Testimony." If you want to follow the progress of a pending law this is a good place to start.

Reports & Congressional Hearings: These sections offer reports and congressional hearings summaries about current issues (http://www.ftc.gov/reports/index.htm for reports and www.ftc.gov/ftc/hearings.htm for hearings). Recent reports include, "The Use of Slotting Allowances in the Retail Grocery Industry," "To Promote Innovation: The Proper Balance of Competition and Patent Law and Policy," "Federal Trade Commission Report to Congress, Pursuant to the Do Not Call Implementation Act, on Regulatory Coordination in Federal Telemarketing" and "False Claims in Spam:
A Report By the Division of Marketing Practices, Bureau of Consumer Protection, Federal Trade Commission."

Workshops: The FTC Website also has a section on the workshops it provides (www.ftc.gov/ftc/workshops.htm) . One example: "Monitoring Software on Your PC: Spyware, Adware and Other Software (April 19, 2004) On April 19, 2004, the Federal Trade Commission will host a one-day public workshop to explore the issues associated with the distribution and effects of software that aids in gathering information about a person or organization without their knowledge and which may send such information to another entity without the consumer's consent, or asserts control over a computer without the consumer's knowledge."

Seminars: The seminar section (www.ftc.gov/be/seminars.htm) contains publications based on seminars offered through the FTC, so businesses not able to attend the actual seminar (which is most businesses outside Washington, D.C.) will still be able to make use of the information presented. Future seminars include, "Cooperative Marketing Agreements Between Competitors: Evidence from Patent Pools" and "Economic Insights from Internet Auctions: A Survey."

Do Not Call Registry: Since the FTC is responsible for operating the national
"Do Not Call Registry," (www.donotcall.gov). it's not surprising that the FTC Website is the best place to go for information about the "Do Not Call" law. While a number of businesses disagree with the laws constitutionality, there is no way to avoid the law's effect. The FTC is taking the "Do Not Call" list very seriously and offers a prominent link on the FTC homepage for consumers to report violations of the DNC law.

Frequently Requested Records: This section (www.ftc.gov/foia/frequentrequest.htm) offers documents which are primarily summaries of complaints filed against specific companies and are provided to help consumers decide if a company is safe to do business with. The documents only summarize the complaints filed by consumers, but the number and kind of complaints filed can say a lot about a company. Companies on the list include Equifax, Citigroup, Herbalife, At-Home Professions, and American Family Publishing.

The Nigerian Scam: While the FTC Website offers information on how to avoid many scams, this may be the most important one to know about (www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/alerts/nigeralrt.htm). By now, nearly everyone one with an Internet email address has received a letter claiming to be from a barrister in Nigeria asking for help getting several million dollars in, or out, of Nigeria, and promising a significant percentage of the amount in exchange for the help. While most people immediately see this for the con job it is, enough people don't that a major industry has developed in Nigeria to support it. People who take the bait are invited to Nigeria where they are introduced to people appearing to be in the Nigerian government who assure them that millions are waiting for them if they just provide a little more money upfront. According to the US State Department, which also has a Web page on the Nigerian scam, people who go to Nigeria for this are always fleeced, sometimes beaten up and occasionally murdered. The scam has become such an industry that a section of hotels near the Nigerian capitol's airport have become largely dedicated to supporting the scam. Avoid this scam like your life depended on it.

Ultimately, there are too many sections of the FTC Website to cover in one column. The only way to fully appreciate the site is to visit it online at www.ftc.gov. It will be time well spent. What you can learn there could help you avoid some very expensive mistakes, and if nothing else, you can add your name to the "Do Not Call:" list.

Glen Emerson Morris has worked as a technology consultant for Network Associates, Yahoo!, Ariba, WebMD, Inktomi, Adobe, Apple and Radius, and is the developer of the Advertising & Marketing Review Data CD.

Copyright 1994 - 2010 by Glen Emerson Morris All Rights Reserved

' keywords: Internet advertising, Internet marketing, business, advertising, Internet, marketing. For more advertising and marketing help, news, resources and information visit our Home Page.


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