On November 28, a Florida business and its owner, who marketed purported height-enhancing pills for kids and young adults, agreed to pay $375,000 to settle charges that their advertising claims were deceptive. The Federal Trade Commission charged the defendants with making false and unsubstantiated claims for HeightMax, as well as for two other supplements, Liposan Ultra Chitosan Fat Blocker and Osteo-Vite.
Court Allows Department of Justice Antitrust Lawsuit Against National Association of Realtors to Proceed
On November 28, 2006, the U.S. District Court in Chicago issued a 29-page opinion allowing the Department of Justice's antitrust lawsuit against the National Association of Realtors (“NAR”) to proceed. The court rejected NAR's argument that last-minute changes to its policies prevented judicial scrutiny. In denying NAR's motion to dismiss the case, the district court stated in its opinion that "NAR has failed, with all respect, to demonstrate that this case should be dismissed at the outset."
In a November 27 filing with the FCC, Cablevision Systems (“Cablevision”) said the agency’s rule banning set-top boxes with integrated security functions should not require the operator to deploy CableCARD-based boxes because all of its digital set-tops already contain removable smart cards. In the filing, Cablevision requested a limited waiver of the July 1, 2007, integration ban because the company, “alone among the nation’s cable operators, already has deployed set-top boxes that use separable, removable security on smart cards.”
On November 16, Guidance Software Inc. agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that its failure to take reasonable security measures to protect sensitive customer data contradicted security promises made on its Web site and violated federal law. According to the FTC, Guidance’s data-security failure allowed hackers to access sensitive credit card information for thousands of consumers. The settlement will require the company to implement a comprehensive information-security program and obtain audits by an independent third-party security professional every other year for 10 years.
On November 16, the Senate voted unanimously to confirm FCC chairman Kevin Martin to a second five-year term, according to the office of Senate Commerce Committee chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). Martin was nominated by President George W. Bush to a Republican seat on the Commission and sworn in on July 3, 2001. Bush named him chairman on March 18, 2005.
Federal Trade Commission Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras announced on November 14 that Mary Beth Richards will join the agency as Deputy Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. Richards comes to the FTC from the Federal Communications Commission, where she served as Deputy Bureau Chief and Chief of Staff in the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau.
On November 14, the European Commission approved the merger of Gaz de France (“GDF”) and the Suez group. After an in-depth investigation, the Commission initially found that the deal would have anticompetitive effects in the gas and electricity wholesale and retail markets in Belgium and in the gas markets in France. The Commission’s concerns related mainly to the removal of the increasing competitive pressure that GDF and Suez had so far exerted (and would have exerted in the foreseeable future) on each other in both Belgium and France. Given the conditions on the markets, including the very high barriers to entry, their respective dominant positions would have been considerably strengthened by the merger.
On November 13, a U.S. District Court shut down an operation that secretly downloaded multiple malevolent software programs, including spyware, onto millions of computers without consumers’ consent, degrading their computers’ performance, spying on them, and exposing them to a barrage of disruptive advertisements. The Federal Trade Commission asked the court to order a permanent halt to these deceptive and unfair downloads, and to order the outfit to give up its ill-gotten gains.
Wireless technology giant Qualcomm said on November 10 that the Japan Fair Trade Commission might investigate the company's licensing and business practices. The antitrust regulatory agency notified the company that it might launch an investigation. The agency did not give a start date or disclose which company or companies filed complaints.
On November 9, the European Commission approved the proposed acquisition of Fisher Scientific International Inc. by Thermo Electron Corporation. Both companies are based in the United States and supply products and services for laboratory activities. The Commission's clearance is conditional upon the divestiture of Genevac, Fisher’s subsidiary active in the production and sale of centrifugal evaporators. In light of this commitment, the Commission concluded that the transaction would not significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area or any substantial part of it.
The European Commission cleared the proposed acquisition by the Dutch company Philips of the US-based company Intermagnetics on November 7. After examining the operation, the Commission concluded that the transaction would not significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area or any substantial part of it.
Commissioner Kroes welcomes withdrawal of obstacles to Abertis-Autostrade merger and offer of full cooperation
Following her meeting in Brussels on November 7 with Antonio Di Pietro, Italy’s Minister for Public Works, European Commissioner for Competition Neelie Kroes expressed her satisfaction that the Italian authorities removed what the Commission considered to be unjustified obstacles to a merger between Abertis of Spain and Autostrade of Italy. Commissioner Kroes also welcomed Mr Di Pietro’s undertaking to respect in full the EU Merger Regulation and that any further authorization measures concerning the merger would not be implemented without first obtaining the authorization of the Commission in accordance with Article 21 of the EU Merger Regulation.
A company that sent unsolicited commercial e-mail after consumers asked it to stop agreed to pay a $50,717 civil penalty on November 6 to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it violated federal law. The FTC charged Yesmail Inc., doing business as @Once Corporation, with sending e-mail on behalf of its clients more than 10 business days after recipients asked it to stop.
On November 3, Zango, Inc., formerly known as 180solutions, Inc., one of the world’s largest distributors of adware, and two principals agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they used unfair and deceptive methods to download adware and obstruct consumers from removing it, in violation of federal law. The settlement bars future downloads of Zango’s adware without consumers’ consent, requires Zango to provide a way for consumers to remove the adware, and requires them to give up $3 million in ill-gotten gains.