The FTC cracked down on bogus medical discount plans and a tech support scheme. It also participated in the G7 Competition Authorities and Policymakers’ Summit. These stories and more after the jump.

November 6, 2023

Bureau of Consumer Protection: Health, Deceptive/Misleading Conduct

  • The FTC will be issuing nearly $7 million worth of refunds to 47,166 consumers who paid for health insurance but instead got medical discount plans after being pitched by Consumer Health Benefits Association (CHBA). The $7 million was recovered pursuant to the terms of six final orders after the FTC alleged that CHBA, related entities, and their owners targeted consumers who searched online for information about affordable health insurance plans. The FTC further alleged that CHBA telemarketers misled consumers into believing that the plans were widely accepted, would provide the same cost savings as legitimate health insurance companies, and provided inaccurate information about the company’s refund policies.

November 7, 2023

Bureau of Consumer Protection: Technology, Deceptive/Misleading Conduct

  • The FTC is providing full refunds to 272 consumers who provided victim statements in a case against NTS IT Care, Inc. and its CEO, Jagmeet Singh Virk. The settlement imposed a $4.9 million judgment relating to a tech support scheme perpetrated by the defendants who claimed to be affiliated with Microsoft, Apple and other well-known tech companies and who tricked consumers into buying expensive and unnecessary tech support services. According to the complaint, defendants lured consumers, primarily older Americans and those unfamiliar with computer security, by using deceptive pop-up warnings that looked like a security alert from the computer’s operating system and falsely claimed that the consumer’s computer had been compromised by a virus or spyware. The complaint further alleged that the pop-ups instructed the consumers to call a toll-free number for help, and when consumers called the number, NTS ran bogus diagnostic scans to convince consumers that repairs to their computers required the purchase of multi-year technical support packages costing up to $499. The Commission vote authorizing staff to file the complaint and stipulated final order was 5-0.

Bureau of Consumer Protection: Advertising and Marketing, Credit and Finance, Deceptive/Misleading Conduct

  • As a result of a law enforcement action by the FTC and the State of Florida, Chargebacks911 and its owners have agreed to a settlement order prohibiting them from working with certain high-risk clients and using deceptive tactics to prevent consumers from attempting to dispute credit card charges through the chargeback process. The chargeback process allows a consumer to dispute a charge with their credit card company when they see a charge they did not authorize, or for which the promised goods or services didn’t arrive. The settlement follows a complaint filed in April 2023 where the FTC and Florida alleged that Chargebacks911 and its owners used multiple unfair techniques to prevent customers from winning chargeback disputes by sending materials that it knew or should have known were misleading or inaccurate to credit card companies on behalf of their clients. The FTC’s proposed order also prohibits Chargebacks911 from using techniques like their Value-Added Promotions service to help clients evade fraud-monitoring programs, and will require them to pay $100,000 in civil penalties and $50,000 in legal costs to the State of Florida.

November 8, 2023

Bureau of Consumer Protection: Consumer Sentinel Network

  • In an ongoing effort to combat scammers and protect consumers, the FTC is now providing the ability to report frauds, scams, and deceptive practices in English, Spanish, Mandarin, Tagalog, Vietnamese, French, Arabic, Russian, Korean, Portuguese, and Polish. The FTC is also offering online and print guidance on how to spot, stop, and avoid scams to consumers and businesses in additional languages.

Bureau of Competition: Office of International Affairs

  • The FTC and Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division participated in the G7 Competition Authorities and Policymakers’ Summit in Tokyo, Japan on November 8, 2023, to discuss how members are addressing competition concerns in digital markets, including in artificial intelligence (AI). G7 competition authorities and policymakers issued a statement on digital competition at the conclusion of the Summit that highlighted competition concerns arising from emerging technologies and described the ways in which G7 members are enhancing their ability to better understand and anticipate the challenges to competition when dealing with new technologies such as generative AI. In preparation for the Summit, G7 members contributed to the Compendium of Approaches to Improving Competition in Digital Markets, which describes competition agency efforts in digital markets.