The Federal Trade Commission has been earning their keep lately. Hearings, investigations and workshops, oh my! One of its latest efforts is a report and recommendations on mobile payment and coupon apps/plugins. While the commission didn’t announce a new, formal mobile payment app law, it did make strong regulation suggestions — suggestions with which online marketers are legally bound to comply.
The commission’s two main conclusions:
- Developers and app companies aren’t doing enough to alert consumers about the liabilities associated with payment apps; and
- Consumers should stop using mobile payment apps that don’t feature clear and concise disclosures that appear before they download the program.
The FTC’s 2014 Review of Mobile Payment Apps and Plugins
The Federal Trade Commission concentrated on three categories of apps in both the Google Play and iTunes App stores:
- Price comparison apps,
- Deal and coupon redemption apps, and
- Mobile payment apps.
What were Federal Trade Commission staffers reviewing about these apps?
- Whether or not the app had pre-download disclosures on:
- Procedures for fraudulent transactions,
- Billing errors, and
- Payment-related disputes.
- Privacy Policies – Since multiple users can participate in a group buy via some mobile payment apps, FTC investigators examined the privacy policies of the reviewed applications / plugins.
What Did The FTC Discover After Reviewing Mobile Payment Apps?
- Most mobile payment apps didn’t feature pre-download disclosures about “issues that are important to consumers.”
- Nearly all of the reviewed apps had “strong security promises and linked to privacy policies.”
- Most of the apps’ privacy policies used “vague language” and allowed for the collection and third-party use of consumer data.
What The FTC Wants Mobile Payment App Developers To Do Moving Forward; A New Mobile Payment App Law?
- Create pre-download disclosures regarding “consumers’ rights and liability limits for unauthorized, fraudulent or erroneous transactions.”
- Clean up the language in their privacy policies and use plain English to explain, clearly, what data is collected and what is done with it.
- “Companies should ensure that their strong data security promises translate into strong data security practices.”
What The FTC Wants Consumers To Do Regarding Mobile Payment Apps
- Start “asking questions” about the mobile payment apps they use.
- “Consumers should look for services that tell them upfront how the payment service works and what they can do if they encounter a problem. If the information is not available, consumers should consider taking steps to minimize their liability by choosing a different payment app or funding such payments with low-dollar amounts.”
So there you have it folks, after months of researching, debating, analyzing and then writing a 40-page report on the top 25 most downloaded mobile payment apps, the FTC says:
Do not try to cheat people! Follow the Dot Com Disclosures! Oh, and consumers, start asking more questions!
And this concludes our latest installment of “How the FTC Turns.”
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Do you have a mobile payment app law question? Get in touch with Internet law attorney, Aaron Kelly, with all your questions.
Impersonating someone on the Internet: Is it perfectly legal to set up a Twitter or Facebook account using another person’s name? Or, can doing so land you on the losing side of a lawsuit? What about parody? Is it legal to pretend to be someone else, on social media, for satirical purposes?
Below, we’ll answer these questions and explore the legal intersection of libel, humor, and impersonating someone on the Internet.
First Things First: Parody, Satire and Defamation: What is the Difference?
I won’t bore you with a diatribe on the finer points of satire versus parody; suffice it to say that works of both satire and parody are meant to be witty – if not poignant – commentaries on issues of public concern.
Defamation, on the other hand, is a free speech boundary that protects a person or company from harmful, malicious, negligent lies.
In the United States, satire and parody are acceptable, but defamation is not.
Is it legal to Parody a private citizen By Co-Opting Their Name On Social Media?
Is it legal to make a fake Twitter or Facebook account using another person’s name, with the purpose of humiliating them?
It’s not an easy question to answer. A lot depends on the circumstances. The chances of being sued do skyrocket, however, if the posts under review fall into one of the four categories.
Threatening to harm or hurt someone is almost never OK — or legal. If genuinely threatening content is published on a fake Twitter or Facebook account, authorities will sniff out the people behind it hold them accountable.
Maliciously spreading false statements of fact about another person or business is against the law — in every corner of the United States — and beyond. But in order for a statement to be legally defamatory, the defendant, at the very least, has to act negligently and cause harm to befall the victim.
Impersonating a law enforcement official, or other type of public servant, in a professional capacity, is illegal. Getting caught means serious ramifications — unless, of course, the content is clearly a work of satire or parody.
In some states, impersonating someone on a social media account or email could invite false light charges – especially since a U.S. court, in the not too distant past, ruled that “everyone is famous on Facebook.” While the public figure distinction may work against average Janes and Joes in IP lawsuits, the status could help in certain false light and defamation lawsuits.
Do You Have A Legal Question About Impersonating Someone On The Internet?
Are you dealing with an impersonation situation? Considering legal action? If yes, get in touch with Kelly Warner Law. We handle all manners of online libel and impersonation litigation.
The perfect legal solution may not be as costly or long as you think. Give us a call today to start weighing your options.
Talk with an attorney about your legal issue involving impersonating someone on the Internet.
Can a Canadian sue an American, in a Canadian court, for defamation? Yes. If the Canadian wins, will the American be forced to pay damages? Because of the SPEECH Act, probably not.
Securing the Protection of Our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage Act (SPEECH Act)
It’s a law with a long name and a big job. The Securing the Protection of Our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage (SPEECH) Act is the regulation workhorse that materially safeguards U.S. citizens’ free speech rights in foreign jurisdictions.
How does the SPEECH Act work?
The paperwork particulars are nuanced and better left for a lawyer.
But, in basic terms, the SPEECH Act works thusly:
When a ruling is handed down in an overseas court, the foreign party seeking restitution must ask a “state-side” court to force the U.S.-based “losing party” to pay up. The SPEECH Act, however, says judges can refuse to issue a court order to the U.S. party, on the grounds that the case would’ve probably turned out differently in an American court.
U.S. Defamation Laws v. Canadian Defamation Laws
Since the U.S. has the most defendant-friendly libel laws in the English-speaking world, and Canada has the most plaintiff-friendly libel laws in the same demographic, U.S. courts don’t often recognize a libel judgment, in favor of the plaintiff, handed down in a Canadian Court. (Quebec courts are sometimes exceptions to the rule.)
The Notable Exception: If the facts of the case are such that the Canadian plaintiff would have won in both a U.S. and Canadian court, then the American party will be forced to turn over the duckets.
SPEECH ACT Case Study: Blogger v. Canadian B&B Owners
Dissing Innkeepers and Politicians On Slabb.org
Some time ago, Mr. Doug Handshoe of Mississippi posted a missive on Slabb.org. The focus of his prose was the former president of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana – a fallen area politician who plead guilty to theft and bribery. Handshoe compared the disgraced official with the owners of a guest house in Nova Scotia, Canada, quipping that both the politician and the innkeepers “had champagne taste on a beer budget” and “worked as a unit to grift their way through life.”
Canadian Innkeepers Sue for Online Libel
Probably perplexed about how they got dragged into the machinations of a Mississippi political melee, the owners of the Nova Scotia inn filed an online libel lawsuit against Handshoe – in a Nova Scotia court – and they won a judgment of about $430,000.
But can the Canadians collect the money?
The Canadian innkeepers petitioned a federal Mississippi court, asking it to force Handshoe to pay up. But Handshoe argued the SPEECH Act. Chief Judge Guirola agreed and ruled that Handshoe didn’t owe squat because he probably would have won the defamation lawsuit had it been tried in the United States.
The innkeepers appealed, but were once again denied, the Fifth Circuit explaining in their opinion:
A party may enforce a foreign defamation judgment in a domestic court if either (A) the law of the foreign forum . . . provides free-speech protection that is coextensive with relevant domestic law, or (B) the facts . . . are sufficient to establish a defamation claim under domestic law.
The higher court found that the Nova Scotia libel standards used to decide this case did not mesh with point (A), nor did the judges feel that the Canadian innkeepers would have won in a U.S. court, rendering point (B) unfulfilled as well.
Another blow to the Trout Point executives, they had to pay Handshoe’s legal fees.
Canadian-U.S. Defamation Litigation and Lawyers
Kelly / Warner Law has successfully handled many cross-border, Canadian-U.S. libel cases. If you are facing a foreign defamation judgment and want to exercise your SPEECH ACT rights, we can help. If you want to sue a non-U.S. citizen for defamation, we can also help. If you are being sued for defamation and need defense counsel, we do that too.
Kelly / Warner is a top-rated, full-service law firm – with an excellent track record in cases involving the SPEECH Act.
Get in touch today to begin the conversation.