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Monthly Archive for: ‘April, 2011’

Changes for Independent Contractor Income Reporting in California

As part of its effort to keep track of parents who are delinquent or dodging child support payments, California requires that anyone conducting business in California and which retains independent contractors (called “service providers”) must report the service provider to the state within 20 days after the service provider earns income totaling $600.00 or more in a year, or when the business enters a contract with the service provider which calls for paying the independent contractor $600.00 or more.  

For details of the independent contractor registration requirement go to http://www.edd.ca.gov/pdf_pub_ctr/de542b.pdf and http://www.edd.ca.gov/payroll_taxes/new_hire_reporting.htm

As of March 1, 2011, California made reporting easier by updating its registration process to provide for electronic registration through its eServices for Business Program.  Electronic registration is available at: https://eddservices.edd.ca.gov/.

FTC Seeks to Stop Fake News Sites' Deceptive Claims About Acai Berry Weight Loss Products

The Federal Trade Commission has asked to federal courts to issue temporary restraining orders to stop 10 alleged “fake news” operations from using their Web sites to market  acai berry weight-loss products.  The FTC seeks to permanently stop these practices and has asked courts to freeze the operations’ assets pending trial.

According to the FTC, the websites that are intended to appear as if they belong to legitimate news organizations. However, the FTC maintains that the sites are simply advertisements using deceptive practices to entice consumers to buy the featured acai berry weight-loss products from other merchants.

The FTC complaints allege that the fake news sites have titles such as “News 6 News Alerts,” “Health News Health Alerts,” or “Health 5 Beat Health News.”  They often include the names and logos of major media outlets such as ABC, Fox News, CBS, CNN, USA Today, and Consumer Reports and falsely represent that the reports on the sites have been seen on these networks. 

The FTC is asking the courts to permanently bar the allegedly deceptive claims, and to require the companies to provide money for refunds to consumers who purchased the supplements and other products.  The FTC charges that the defendants:

  • make false and unsupported claims that acai berry supplements will cause rapid and substantial weight loss;
  • deceptively represent that  their websites are objective news reporters,  that independent tests demonstrate the effectiveness of the product, and that the comments following the “articles” on their websites reflect the views of independent consumers; and
  • fail to disclose their financial relationships to the merchants selling the products.

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FTC Charges Deceptive Privacy Practices in Google's Rollout of Buzz

Google Inc. has agreed to settle an FTC complaint that it used deceptive tactics and violated its own privacy policy when it launched the Google Buzz social network last year.  In addition to alleged FTC privacy violations,  this is the first time the FTC has alleged violations of the substantive privacy requirements of the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework, a method for U.S. companies to transfer personal data lawfully from the European Union to the United States.

The settlement agreement bars the Google from future privacy misrepresentations, requires it to implement a comprehensive privacy program and includes regular, independent privacy audits for the next 20 years. This is the first time an FTC settlement order has required a company to implement a comprehensive privacy program to protect the privacy of consumers’ information.

According to the FTC complaint, on the day Buzz was launched through the Gmail service, users got a message announcing the new service and were given two options: “Sweet! Check out Buzz,” and “Nah, go to my inbox.” However, some Gmail users who clicked on “Nah…” were enrolled in certain features of the Google Buzz social network anyway. For those Gmail users who clicked on “Sweet!,” the FTC alleges that they were not adequately informed that the identity of individuals they emailed most frequently would be made public by default. Google also offered a “Turn Off Buzz” option that did not fully remove the user from the social network.

When Google launched Buzz, its privacy policy stated that “When you sign up for a particular service that requires registration, we ask you to provide personal information. If we use this information in a manner different than the purpose for which it was collected, then we will ask for your consent prior to such use.” The FTC complaint charges that Google violated its privacy policies by using information provided for Gmail for another purpose – social networking – without obtaining consumers’ permission in advance.

The agency also alleges that by offering options like “Nah, go to my inbox,” and “Turn Off Buzz,” Google misrepresented that consumers who clicked on these options would not be enrolled in Buzz. In fact, they were enrolled in certain features of Buzz.

The complaint further alleges that a screen that asked consumers enrolling in Buzz, “How do you want to appear to others?” indicated that consumers could exercise control over what personal information would be made public. The FTC charged that Google failed to disclose adequately that consumers’ frequent email contacts would become public by default.

Finally, the agency alleges that Google misrepresented that it was treating personal information from the European Union in accordance with the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor privacy framework. The framework is a voluntary program administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce in consultation with the European Commission. To participate, a company must self-certify annually to the Department of Commerce that it complies with a defined set of privacy principles. The complaint alleges that Google’s assertion that it adhered to the Safe Harbor principles was false because the company failed to give consumers notice and choice before using their information for a purpose different from that for which it was collected.

You can read the settlement agreement, as well as the original complaint and accompanying exhibits on our Web site.

FDA Warns of Serious Health Problems from Soladek Vitamin Solution

Risk of serious health problems from dangerously high levels of vitamins A and D
After receiving seven reports of serious health problems in people using Soladek vitamin solution, the FDA is warning people The FDA is telling consumers to stop using the product.

Marketed by Indo Pharma, S.A. of the Dominican Republic company of the Dominican Republic, the FDA believes Soladek may contain dangerously high levels of vitamins A and D.

Symptoms of vitamin D toxicity include weakness, fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, changes in mental status, increased blood pressure, abnormal heart rate or rhythm, kidney damage, and coma. Symptoms of vitamin A toxicity include anemia, anorexia, alopecia, joint pain, bone weakness, bulging eyes, liver abnormalities, and birth defects.

The problems reported include decreased renal function, elevated levels of calcium in the blood, fatigue, heart arrhythmia, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Soladek, sold in a box labeled in Spanish and containing a vial of the solution, is marketed with claims that the product treats various diseases and conditions. It cannot currently be marketed legally in the United States because U.S. law prohibits the sale of products claiming to treat disease conditions without review and approval by the FDA. 

However, the reports of adverse events and other information has led the FDA to conclude that Soladek may be available illegally in the country and therefore issued the warning.