The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced last week that it is settling investigations against American International Mailing, Inc. and TES Franchising LLC alleging that each were misrepresenting to consumers that they complied with the U.S.-European Union Safe Harbor Program and the U.S.-Swiss Safe Harbor Program. The Consent Orders are open for comment until May 7, 2015.
The FTC alleges that both companies were not in compliance with the safe harbor programs and that they misrepresented to consumers that they were certified when in fact, their certifications had expired years before the investigation.
Both companies have been presented with proposed Consent Orders by the FTC agreeing not to misrepresent safe harbor status or certification in “advertising, marketing, promotion, offering for sale, or sale of any product of service, in or affecting commerce” or that they are a member of, adheres or complies with, is certified or participates in any privacy or security program sponsored by a government or self-regulatory or standard setting organization. The companies must also provide the FTC with all advertising and promotional material that make any representations about safe harbor status over the next five (5) years. In standard FTC fashion, the Order would be effective for twenty (20) years.
The message is clear: anyone representing to consumers that it complies with safe harbor status or has self-certified to compliance on its website or otherwise, may wish to consider periodically checking that certification is current and that it is reviewed and updated on a yearly basis.