The payments industry has been in the sights of the Federal Trade Commission on two fronts recently: for the processing of payments for alleged illegal activities and the potential restriction of innovation in the mobile payments realm.
On June 4, 2013, the FTC filed an amendment to a complaint filed Jan. 10, 2013, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida Tampa Division against Clearwater, Fla.-based credit card debt relief firm Innovative Wealth Builders Inc. and its three owners.
The amended complaint contains eight counts against IWB, from misrepresenting services to performing unauthorized billing, in violation of Sections 13(b) and 19 of the FTC Act and provisions of the Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act.
In the amended complaint, the FTC additionally named Westbury, New York-based payment processor Independent Resources Network Corp., which is also doing business as IRN Payment Systems. The FTC alleged that in providing credit card processing services to IWB from at least August 2009 to January 2013, IRN also violated the Telemarketing Act.
"Despite knowing, or consciously avoiding knowing, the illegal nature of the IWB Defendants' business, IRN processed millions of dollars of credit card transactions for IWB, thereby earning considerable fees for itself while allowing the IWB Defendants to harm thousands of consumers who purchased the IWB Defendants' bogus credit card interest rate reduction services," the FTC alleged in its complaint. It also accused IRN of ignoring IWB's "alarmingly high chargeback rates." As the plaintiff, the FTC requested the court grant injunctive and other relief deemed appropriate to halt and redress violations of any provision of the law enforced by the FTC.
On June 12, FTC staff submitted comments to the District of Columbia Taxicab Commission on proposed rules for district taxicabs. The comments expressed concerns that certain rules proposed by the DCTC to regulate mobile applications for scheduling and payment of rides "may unnecessarily impede competition." The FTC advised against unwarranted regulatory restrictions on competition, except those necessary to address public safety and consumer protection.
Regarding the DCTC's proposal to restrict how software applications can affiliate with taxicab operators, the FTC suggested the "DCTC allow for flexibility and experimentation and avoid unnecessarily limiting how consumers can obtain taxis." Appropriate security practices were also recommended by the FTC.
In addition, FTC Commissioner and Chairwoman Edith Ramirez presented opening remarks at the FTC Mobile Security Forum held on June 4. "The FTC's interest in mobile security is an outgrowth of our broad mandate to protect consumers, including from threats to the use and enjoyment of new technologies," Ramirez stated, adding that education, policy work and law enforcement are the FTC's best tools for advocating best practices.
She said the FTC now offers online guidelines for app developers and has created a forensic mobile lab for FTC staff research and investigations. More information about the dispute over D.C. taxi payments was published in "D.C. taxis at payments crossroads," The Green Sheet, June 24, 2013, issue 13:06:02.
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