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March 18, 2013

FTC Warns Against Mouse Print in Online Ads

Filed under: Business,Computers,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:37 am

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) revised its guidelines for disclosures in online advertising, including new guidance for ads that appear on cellphone screens.

One of the most important points made by the new “rules” is that when practical “advertisers should incorporate relevant limitations and qualifying
information into the underlying claim, rather than having a separate disclosure qualifying the claim.” That means don’t advertise “all books* on sale” with a disclaimer that says “*hardcover only”, when you could have clearly advertised “All Hardcover Books on Sale” to start with.

Some of the other basic principles include:

  • Required disclosures should be clear and conspicuous;
  • They should be close to the claim to which it relates;
  • Only in rare circumstances should a hyperlink lead to the disclosure;
  • You shouldn’t have to scroll to find the disclosure;
  • Even small banner ads and tweets need appropriate disclosures.

Here are some sample ads created by the FTC to demonstrate some of their new principles:


cell ad

In this ad, 3/4 Ct. is a link that goes to a disclosure that reveal that the diamonds actually may weigh between .72 and .78 carats. The FTC wants to see that disclosure right on this screen, near the 3/4 carat claim.


cold box

There is a health disclaimer at the bottom of this ad which warns that when temperatures are over 80 degrees, this cooler is not capable of keeping foods cold enough to prevent the growth of bacteria which could cause a foodborne illness. The FTC says that something this important should be right in the ad, and in close proximity to the claim that the box keeps food “fresh and cold.”


banner ad

The FTC has separate testimonial rules that require people who are paid to express their opinion to disclose that fact. In this case, “JuliStarz” was a paid endorser. In addition, also in that set of guidelines is the requirement that the average benefit to be derived from a weight loss program be disclosed if the example given is atypical. In this case, the average person will much less than 30 pounds in six weeks, so the disclosure has to say, for example, avg weight loss = 3-lbs/wk.

Don’t hold your breath waiting to see online ads follow all these rules.

• • •

March 4, 2013

PC World: Thanks for Subscribing?

Filed under: Business,Computers — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:51 am

Recently, MrConsumer’s PC World subscription was running out, and he had no intention of resubscribing. Then comes this surprising letter:

PC World envelope

What? Thank you for what? This says you are confirming my order. What order? I didn’t place an order? Did you charge my credit card without my permission?

Inside is a “new order confirmation” which says…


PC World confirmation

“Thank you for your previous subscription….”

What a bunch of crap.

Mouse Print* wrote to the publisher, IDG, asking why they would stoop to using this type of deception, and whether they would now discontinue such a misleading practice.

Their response: they sent none.

• • •

December 24, 2012

FreedomPop Weasels on Refund Rights

Filed under: Computers,Electronics,Internet — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:28 am

In October, a new wireless Internet service popped onto the scene, promising up to 500 megabytes of free 4G data each month, and even a free modem to pull down their service if you paid a fully refundable security deposit of $49 – $89. (See c|net story.)

Two months later, the Internet is buzzing with a variety of troubling complaints.

1. Some users are saying that the company is rounding up data usage to the nearest whole megabyte, when the terms and conditions state they will round up to only the nearest tenth. This might greatly increase usage for checking email every 10 minutes, for example, and could result in overage charges.


“At the end of each broadband session we will calculate your broadband data usage rounded up to the nearest 0.1 megabyte. “

The company denies that it is rounding up data usage. However, their spokesperson admitted to Mouse Print*, “We round on site for display purposes.” After suggesting to the company that this practice could very easily give their customers the impression they are being overcharged, the spokesperson conceded, “that could result in perception we’re overcharging so I’ve raised expanding out a couple decimal places for greater accuracy.”

2. The “fully refundable security deposit” may not be fully refundable. According to some complaints, the company keeps changing its terms and conditions.

The August 2012 terms which were in effect when many people signed up in early October stated:



Brief translation: they will refund your money within 90 days after returning the equipment, but they will subtract any money you owe above the free data allowance. They also say if you breach their agreement, they owe you nothing.

Complainants say the company changed the agreement [which the company grants itself the right to do], now imposing a variety of additional conditions and limitations on the “full refund.”



From time-to-time, FreedomPop may permit you to lease Equipment from FreedomPop instead of purchasing it. In such case, we may require you to pay a deposit when you place your order for leased Equipment. If we collect a deposit from you and you terminate your subscription to the Broadband Service (or we terminate your subscription other than for your breach of these Terms), we will refund the deposit (less any amounts that you owe to us) to your registered payment method within 90 days after the date on which you return the Equipment to us, on condition that: (a) FreedomPop is still actively providing the same Equipment to users of the Broadband Service; (b) you (or we) terminate your subscription to the Broadband Service within 1 year of the start date of your subscription; and (c) you return all Equipment to us (at your expense) within 30 days of the date on which either: (i) you notify us that you wish to terminate your subscription to the Broadband Service; or (ii) we notify you that we are terminating your subscription to the Broadband Service. For the avoidance of doubt, if we terminate your subscription to the Broadband Service as a result of your breach of these Terms, including without limitation, your use of the Site or Services in a manner not permitted by these Terms, in which case you will, to the extent permitted by applicable law, be deemed to have forfeited your deposit. When returning your Equipment and as a condition of receiving any deposit refund to which you are entitled, you must follow the Equipment Return Procedures below.

To the extent you are entitled to a refund of your deposit, we will deduct from your deposit refund all amounts owed and unpaid for any Services and for any Equipment you return that is damaged due to neglect, misuse, liquid damage or non-standard wear and tear. You will not receive a refund of your deposit if you do not meet all the refund conditions specified in the previous paragraph. Shipping and handling charges are not refundable. Restocking fees may apply. Any amounts withheld by us from your deposit become the property of FreedomPop to use as it wishes. If applicable law requires us to handle deposits, or any other matter relating to Equipment, differently than described in these Terms, we will adjust our procedures accordingly to ensure that we comply with applicable law.” — Nov. 13, 2012 terms [highlighting added]

In short, now they say they will only refund your security deposit within one year and only if they are still issuing the same equipment. They also added a restocking fee.

FreedomPop’s spokesperson defended the company’s actions:

“we do not “continually” update the T&C’s but have updated them two times since launch. … deposits cause a ballooning liability that could bankrupt [the]company … 2, 3 or 10 years from now we can’t get inundated with millions of dollars of refunds and more importantly we don’t carry some $10 million liability on books forever … [with respect to adding a restocking fee:] we have real costs associated with returns from our logistics partner – we can’t eat those.”

The company also said that it is applying the changes only to customers who signed up after the changes were implemented. However, some complaints seem to suggest that the restocking fee was being applied to them despite signing up early for the devices.

3. Some consumers say they decided to contact their credit card company and dispute the equipment deposit because they were having difficulty getting a refund.

FreedomPop, in its latest terms statement (as well as the original) addresses how and where disputes must be filed:



If you think that there has been an error in any charge associated with your FreedomPop Account, you must notify us within 30 days after the date on which the disputed amount has been charged to the your registered payment method. You must submit your payment dispute notification through our online Support feature and one of our advisors will investigate your claim. If you do not notify us within 30 days, and unless otherwise provided by applicable law, you hereby waive any right to dispute the charge in the future, including in arbitration or a court proceeding. If we determine in our sole discretion that the disputed charge was incorrectly charged and was raised by you in a timely manner, we will credit or refund the amount to you. If we credit or refund the disputed charge, you hereby agree that to the fullest extent permitted by applicable law, the dispute is fully and finally resolved and not subject to further proceedings.


If we have charged your registered payment method for a charge that we deem is authorized and valid under these Terms, and your credit card company or other payment provider subsequently withholds or revokes such payment to us because the charge has been disputed by you (a “Chargeback”), we reserve the right to suspend your access to the affected Services until the Chargeback is reversed or in the case of a billing dispute, the billing dispute is resolved as set forth in these Terms.

Brief translation: Customers have to file all disputes with the company within 30 days, or lose any other dispute rights, including even arbitration. And if you file a credit card dispute, the company reserves the right to turn off your service. Ho, ho, ho.

Some people have been very happy with the service, while some other complaints are surfacing. Amongst the not very happy customers are some who pre-ordered a FreedomPop sleeve for their iPhone last April, but still have not received it. On the other hand, some people report that other types of modems are being delivered by FEDEX within a day or two.

For an inside look at the good and bad, read the comments posted on the company’s Facebook page, and the nearly 100 pages of posts in Slickdeals.

• • •

December 10, 2012

Apple iPad Version Changes Confuse Buyers

Filed under: Computers,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:20 am

Last week, one retail chain was offering the iPad “3” for only $399.99 — $100 off the regular price. [Hint: if you run to Micro Center, you might get one. Ends 12/12.] MrConsumer’s friend who had just purchased an iPad 2 for the same price was not too happy, but he wondered how in the world this chain could be selling the iPad “3” for $100 less than the full list price knowing that Apple closely controlled advertised retail prices.

As it turns out, Apple had recently discontinued the iPad “3” and had quietly introduced an iPad “4”, which might explain the discount. Much of the confusion, however, has to do with Apple’s decision not to explicitly name each new iPad by number. There was the original iPad, then iPad 2, then iPad (no number, but referred to by retailers as “third generation”), and now iPad with Retina Display (again no number, but referred to by retailers as “fourth generation”).

So if you are looking for the latest “iPad”, you might wind up with either the “iPad 3″ or the “iPad 4″ because they are both just called iPad (sans number). What is the difference between the two? You have to look at the fine print.


iPad 3 and 4

They both have the same gorgeous Retina display. The primary differences are three for the iPad 4: the Facetime camera is better, the processor they say goes twice as fast, and iPad 4 has that new obnoxious connector that makes all your old i-accessories obsolete.

So, if you are shopping for an iPad, and you pick up a box, how do you know if it is an iPad 3 or 4? You have to look at the tiny label to find the model number.


ipad 3 label

One 16-gig white iPad 3 has a model number of MD336LL/A for example, while a similar iPad 4 has a model number of MD513LL/A.

In our view, Apple made a big mistake to not clearly identify iPads after the iPad 2 by number to avoid consumer confusion.

• • •

September 3, 2012

HP Warranty Surprises

Filed under: Computers — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:37 am

HP does not make finding its product warranty easy, and when you find it, it can contain a surprise or two.

Right in the middle of printing his tax return last April, MrConsumer’s HP laser printer konked out. Luckily, he had purchased a replacement HP several years earlier when it was on sale. Upon opening the box, I was curious about the warranty that came with the new printer. The warranty card or statement was nowhere to be found.

I had a vague memory that the law may allow a manufacturer of an electronic item to provide the warranty on a CDROM. Sure enough, when scouring the FTC’s website, an 2009 opinion letter popped up in which a lawyer who represented a computer and printer manufacturer asked whether his company could fulfill the requirements of the law by including the warranty either on the hard drive or on a disk instead of on paper.

The opinion stated in part:


“In passing the Act, Congress’s intent was to ensure that consumers receive clear and complete information about warranty coverage pre-sale, and that consumers be able to retain a copy of the warranty post-sale for reference in case of product failure. In the opinion of FTC staff, those purposes are sufficiently accomplished by providing, in electronic form, a copy of a written consumer product warranty that otherwise complies with the requirements and prohibitions of the Warranty Act and Rules – provided the warranted consumer products include clear, conspicuous, and easy-to-follow instructions on how to access the warranty information provided on the consumer product’s internal drive or on an accompanying CD or DVD [color added] and that a consumer can print out a paper copy of the warranty if needed.”

Popping the included CD into the computer did not produce any message of where on the CD one could read the warranty. Browsing the CD’s file contents revealed dozens of files and subdirectories, with no file labeled as “warranty”. Even the readme file made no mention of the warranty.

In short, HP did not provide clear and easy instructions on how to find the warranty required to be included in the box. But then again, this was a 2006 printer, packaged three years before the FTC gave its opinion that it was now okay not to include a printed warranty. Hmmm.

When the warranty was finally found online, it contained a most unusual disclosure:


“HP products may contain remanufactured parts equivalent to new in performance or may have been subject to incidental use.”

What? This brand new printer may be made with used and then reconditioned parts? This is supposed to be a brand new printer from the most well known printer company in the world. And why would such a disclosure not be on the outside of the box rather than be hidden in one file on the disk inside the box?

If any Mouse Print* readers have an HP printer purchased in 2010 or later, it would be interesting to see if there are instructions on how to find the warranty in the box or on the CD, and whether it comes up as a menu item when popping in the disk.

• • •
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