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President Joe Biden has signed an executive order aimed at cracking down on Big Tech and promoting competition.

The move points to President Biden’s desire for tougher scrutiny of Big Tech, which the administration has accused of “undermining competition”.

“Capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism. It’s exploitation,” he said at Friday’s signing event.

The order includes 72 actions and recommendations involving ten agencies.

It suggests that problems have arisen because of large tech firms collecting too much personal information, buying up potential competitors and competing unfairly with small businesses.

Several recommendations it sets out include:

  • Greater scrutiny of mergers in the tech sector
  • New rules to be set out by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on data collection
  • Barring unfair methods of competition on internet marketplaces.

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The Biden administration is also targeting a number of other sectors with the order.

It encourages other government agencies to take action to improve competition across healthcare, travel and agriculture.

Once fully implemented, it would allow hearing aids to be sold over the counter, for example, as well as the ban of early exit fees from internet contracts. It also intends to make it easier for consumers to claim refunds from airlines.

President Biden said that the order seeks to limit the use of “non-compete agreements” as a condition of getting a job, which he claimed can make it harder for people to change jobs and therefore limits wages.

The executive order alone, however, does not mean these recommendations will come into force immediately.

The government agencies responsible will need to implement the changes, while some elements could be subject to court challenges.

The US Chamber of Commerce criticized the order, saying it was “built on the flawed belief that our economy is over-concentrated, stagnant and fails to generate private investment needed to spur innovation”.

It comes weeks after the House Judiciary Committee also voted to approve a series anti-trust bills, which could eventually become law and force big tech firms to transform or even break up their businesses.

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Facebook’s shares jumped 4.2% to $355.64 after federal court has dismissed two separate anti-trust lawsuits filed against the social networking giant.

Judge James Boasberg ruled that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)’s anti-trust complaint against the social networking giant was too vague.

Another separate anti-competition lawsuit filed by a coalition of states was thrown out because the alleged violations occurred too long ago.

This resulted in Facebook’s market value rising above $1trillion for the first time ever.

In the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruling, Judge Boasberg wrote that the FTC’s complaint was “legally insufficient” and had to be dismissed, because the FTC had “failed to plead enough facts” to back up its claim that Facebook was stifling competition.

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The FTC’s lawsuit had requested that the technology giant, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, be broken up.

“The FTC’s complaint says almost nothing concrete on the key question of how much power Facebook actually had, and still has, in a properly defined anti-trust product market,” wrote Judge Boasberg.

“It is almost as if the agency expects the court to simply nod to the conventional wisdom that Facebook is a monopolist.”

While this is a setback for the FTC that some analysts say could have repercussions for the future of anti-competition law in the US, the watchdog can re-file the charges and has until July 28 to do so.

Separately, Judge Boasberg also dismissed an anti-competition lawsuit brought by a coalition of 45 US states together with the FTC.

This lawsuit had also sought to force Facebook to divest Instagram and WhatsApp. It related to Facebook’s acquisition of the two apps in 2012 and 2014.

In March, Facebook petitioned the federal court in the US to dismiss them, describing the FTC complaint as “nonsensical”.


“Our innovative program will make all of your debt disappear in just a few months for pennies on the dollar. We’ll also stop all collection calls and lawsuits. This guaranteed method is sponsored by the US Consumer Financial Protection Board to help people get relief from COVID-19 related financial woes. Just send us $49.95 and we’ll get right to work for you.”

Each one of the four sentences above contains clues the paragraph is promoting a scam.  Here’s what you can learn from them to help you get better at recognizing debt settlement scams.

Certain Debts are Immune to Settlement

Unsecured debts such as personal loans, credit card debt and even medical debt can be negotiated and settled. However, secured debts, such as car loans, mortgages, boat and motorcycle loans are ineligible.

This is because the lender can repossess whatever asset was used to secure the loan if you can’t make your payments — thus the term “secured debt”. However, public student loans, alimony and child support are also immune to debt settlement.

Thus, anyone saying they can make all of your debt disappear is lying — and operating in violation of the law. 

There Are No Guarantees

One of the first things any legitimate debt relief  company will tell you is there are no guarantees. This is because every situation is different and therefore negotiated on a case-by-case basis.

What worked for one person might not work for another. Thus, anyone guaranteeing positive debt settlement results is lying — and operating in violation of the law.

Government Entities Aren’t Involved 

OK, well that one isn’t entirely accurate. The Federal Trade Commission does keep an eye on the debt settlement industry to make sure companies offering debt relief are on the up and up. The same is true for your state attorney’s general office and your local consumer protection agency.

However, no government organization promotes debt settlement. Nor do any of them offer debt settlement services. Anyone claiming to be working with any branch of government to settle debt is lying — and operating in violation of the law.

Upfront Fees Are Not Permitted

As part of its effort to protect consumers, the FTC has decreed debt settlement firms can only exact fees after they’ve settled debts on a consumer’s behalf.

Yes, you will be required to set cash aside to fund your settlement agreements as they are reached. However, that money is only to be used to fulfill the arrangements your creditors offer.

Any other use of that money is prohibited. Therefore, anyone saying you need to give them money before they’ve settled one of your debts is lying — and operating in violation of the law.

Creditors Will Still Make Inquiries

One of the premises of debt settlement is you’ll stop making payments to your creditors and instead deposit that money into an escrow account to be used to fund your settlement deals.

So you’d best believe your phone is going to ring when those bills go unpaid.

Yes, you can tell your creditors you’re working with a debt settlement program and they should get in touch with your agent there. However, that cannot stop them from calling you just the same. Anyone who says they can is lying — and yes — operating in violation of the law.

Recognizing debt settlement scams is relatively simple when you bear in mind the old adage; “If it sounds too good to be true — it probably is.” Don’t let desperation be a motivator, keep your wits about you. Understand that just as it took time for the debt situation to develop, unwinding it is going to take time too and you will come out of the situation OK.


Herbalife has reached a deal with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to avoid being labeled a pyramid scheme.

The dietary supplement company agreed to pay $200 million to settle the accusations.

The FTC had been investigating whether Herbalife misled customers about the potential value of reselling its products.

The deal was a blow to activist investor Bill Ackman who was betting against the company.

Herbalife shares climbed over 18% at one point.

Bill Ackman made several public allegations that Herbalife was a “bad” company that relied on a hierarchical structure that focused on recruiting new salespeople rather than selling products.

Photo Twitter

Photo Twitter

The FTC investigation also focused on this structure. Herbalife uses a direct sales method where products are bought by distributors to sell to the public and who are also encouraged to bring in new recruits.

The FTC settlement requires Herbalife to reorganize its compensation system to reward retail sales more than recruitment.

The regulator said, only a small proportion of Herbalife distributors earned anything near the amount the company promised.

FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a statement: “Herbalife is going to have to start operating legitimately, making only truthful claims about how much money its members are likely to make.”

Herbalife marketing material advertised that part-time sellers of its nutritional products would earn between $500 to $1,500 a month. Many distributors, in fact, lost money.

On July 15, Herbalife also announced it was changing its internal governance to allow investor Carl Icahn to own a larger stake in the company.

Carl Icahn will now be able to own 35% of Herbalife shares.

In a statement, Carl Icahan praised Herbalife’s management for the way it handled the investigation. He also said the company should move on and look at possibly acquiring some competitors.

“Now that the company has reached a settlement with the FTC, it is time to consider a range of strategic opportunities, including potential roll-ups involving competitors, as well as other strategic transactions,” he said.

Carl Icahan’s support of Herbalife led to a dispute with Bill Ackman.

Bill Ackman has been “shorting” the company – a strategy where an investor borrows stock and sells it hoping to buy it back at a lower price before the date of return.

The two exchanged insults during an interview calling each other a “liar” and a “cry-baby”.

Amazon has been sued by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for allowing millions of dollars of unauthorized purchases by children in its mobile app store.

The FTC is seeking refunds for parents who were charged.

Amazon resisted a settlement offer from the FTC, and wrote in a letter to the regulator earlier this month that it would not accept tighter controls.

In January, Apple settled with the FTC over similar charges.

Amazon has been sued by the FTC for allowing millions of dollars of unauthorized purchases by children in its mobile app store

Amazon has been sued by the FTC for allowing millions of dollars of unauthorized purchases by children in its mobile app store

“Amazon’s in-app system allowed children to incur unlimited charges on their parents’ accounts without permission,” said FTC chair Edith Ramirez in a statement.

“Even Amazon’s own employees recognized the serious problem its process created,” she added.

In response to the allegations, an Amazon spokesperson cited a letter the company sent to the FTC on July 1 in which it wrote it was “deeply disappointed” by the FTC’s demands.

“The [FTC]’s unwillingness to depart from the precedent it set with Apple despite our very different facts leaves us no choice but to defend our approach in court,” wrote Amazon.

In its complaint, the FTC used the example of an app called “Ice Age Village”, a game designed for children.

The FTC alleged the game “blurred the lines between what costs virtual currency and what costs real money”, with “acorns” and “coins” both serving a purpose within the game as well as being available for purchase. The largest quantity purchase available in the app would cost $99.99.

In its complaint, the FTC also alleges that Amazon employees had warned in December 2011 that “allowing unlimited in-app charges without any password was <<…clearly causing problems for a large percentage of our customers>>, adding that the situation was a <<near house on fire>>”.

In January, Apple offered refunds of up to $32.5 million to parents who had been impacted by unauthorized charges and said it would change its billing practices to prevent future unauthorized charges.

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French cosmetics company L’Oreal has agreed to settle a case with US Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection over charges of deceptive advertising.

A campaign for L’Oreal’s Genifique products claimed its products would lead to “visibly younger skin in just seven days” by targeting the users’ genes.

The US consumer regulator said that the adverts were “false and unsubstantiated”.

L'Oreal’s Genifique campaign claimed its products would lead to visibly younger skin in just seven days by targeting the users' genes

L’Oreal’s Genifique campaign claimed its products would lead to visibly younger skin in just seven days by targeting the users’ genes (photo Lancome)

L’Oreal said the claims in question had not been used “for some time now”.

“It would be nice if cosmetics could alter our genes and turn back time,” said Jessica Rich, director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

“But L’Oreal couldn’t support these claims.”

As part of the settlement, L’Oreal USA is barred from making any anti-aging claims unless it has “competent and reliable scientific evidence substantiating such claims”, the FTC said.

The advertising campaigns ran across TV, radio and online and claimed that the Genifique product was “clinically proven” to “boost genes” activity and stimulate the production of youth proteins which would lead to “visibly younger skin in just seven days”.

“The safety, quality and effectiveness of the company’s products were never in question,” said L’Oreal USA spokeswoman Kristina Schake in a statement.

“Going forward, L’Oreal USA will continue to serve its customers through industry-leading research, scientific innovation and responsible advertising,” Kristina Schake added.

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US Federal Trade Commission has launched an investigation into the operations of nutrition and weight-loss firm Herbalife.

The FTC move follows allegations that the company operates a “pyramid scheme” – making money from recruiting new distributors, rather than sales.

Herbalife has denied these allegations and said it would “cooperate fully” with the FTC inquiry.

Its shares fell by as much as 16%.

But they recovered slightly and ended the day down by 7%.

“Herbalife welcomes the inquiry given the tremendous amount of misinformation in the marketplace,” the company said in a statement.

“We are confident that Herbalife is in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.”

Herbalife sells a range of nutritional products across the globe through a network of independent distributors

Herbalife sells a range of nutritional products across the globe through a network of independent distributors

The investigation comes just a day after prominent hedge fund manager, William Ackman, renewed his attack on the firm.

William Ackman has been one of Herbalife’s biggest critics and has a $1 billion short sale position on the firm’s stock – betting that the share price will drop.

He first publically accused Herbalife of running a pyramid scheme in 2012.

On Tuesday, William Ackman accused the company’s China business of violating direct-selling laws in the country, something Herbalife denies.

China is one of the fastest growing markets for the firm and its sales there rose 65% in 2013.

Herbalife sells a range of nutritional products across the globe through a network of independent distributors.

It reported revenues of $4.8 billion in 2013, a jump of 18% from the previous year.

The company has got the backing of billionaire investors George Soros and Carl Icahn, who have picked up stakes in the firm.

Herbalife shares have risen by more than 50% over the past 12 months.