Online advertiser ValueClick, Inc., will pay a record $2.9 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that its advertising claims and e-mails were deceptive and violated federal law. ValueClick and its subsidiaries, Hi-Speed Media and E-Babylon also were charged with failing to secure consumers’ sensitive financial information, despite their claims to do so.
The settlement, filed by the Department of Justice on behalf of the FTC, requires ValueClick to disclose clearly and conspicuously the costs and obligations consumers must incur to receive the products it touts as “free” and bars future violations of the CAN-SPAM Act. It also prohibits deceptive claims about the security of the consumer information collected at its e-commerce Web sites.
According to the FTC, ValueClick subsidiary Hi-Speed Media lured consumers to its Web sites with e-mails, banner ads and pop-ups claiming they were eligible for “free” gifts, including laptops, iPods and high-value gift cards. Those who took the bait were led through a maze of expensive and burdensome third-party offers – including car loans and satellite television subscriptions.
We've warned you before about so-called freebies.