Ensuring a Level Playing Field for Women Consumers

The following post originated on the White House Council on Women and Girls' website.

Women represent a significant force as consumers. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, I would like to share some recent accomplishments by the FTC that have helped to empower women in the marketplace.

Here at the Federal Trade Commission, a key part of our mission is to stop false, deceptive or unfair practices. Whether consumers are shopping for cars, appliances or computers and apps, they can count on the FTC to lead the fight for truth in advertising.

Women are nearly fifty percent of the workforce and an increasing number of breadwinners in American families. They tend to make the majority of household spending decisions and yield great consumer power. And this likely holds true for car purchases as well. Some studies suggest that the majority of car buyers in the U.S. are women, and, according to the Boston Globe, over 500,000 women every month plan to buy a car soon.

In January, the FTC announced “Operation Steer Clear,” ten law enforcement actions, including nine settlements in cases charging auto dealers with misrepresenting the facts about buying, leasing, and financing cars. The FTC filed a complaint, commencing litigation in the tenth case.

Among the sales tactics challenged by the FTC were ads that touted low monthly payments, but failed to disclose they were only temporary teaser payments that later increased significantly; promises of low monthly payments that hid a sizeable balloon payment due at the end of the financing term; and “zero down” deals that required consumers to pay substantial upfront fees and other amounts.

Settlements in the cases will change how those dealers advertise from here on in, and send a message to dealers around the nation that deceptive advertising is not acceptable. That is good news for women navigating the car buying and financing process.

Other recent actions have included combatting bogus business opportunities, a particularly pernicious form of fraud for women entrepreneurs.

In one instance, the FTC went to court to shut down a telemarketing scheme that allegedly targeted Latino consumers with false promises that they could make money by reselling high-end, brand-name merchandise.

The agency’s investigation uncovered that would-be business owners paid hefty up-front fees, but received shoddy, off-brand products. When they tried to stand up for their rights, the defendants threatened them with arrest or lawsuits.

And in “Operation Failed Resolution,” the FTC stopped national marketers who used deceptive advertising claims to peddle fad weight loss products. Some of the marketers involved will pay millions of dollars in refunds to consumers who bought their products.

These are just a few examples of the many cases we bring to ensure a level playing field for consumers across the country.

Women are a powerful force in the marketplace. The FTC will continue to work to protect America’s consumers, including women, from fraud and to hold companies to their advertised promises.

Click here for a fuller list of accomplishment by the Federal Trade Commission.

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