FTC Staff Perspective Examines Key Financial Issues That Affect Military Consumers

A Staff Perspective by the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, examines financial issues that can affect military consumers, including servicemembers, veterans and their families when they are purchasing and financing a car, dealing with debt collectors or making credit decisions, as well as their legal rights and remedies, and strategies to promote financial literacy and capability.

The FTC has long been active in helping to protect these military consumers and their families. As part of these efforts, on July 19, 2017 in San Antonio, Texas, the agency brought together stakeholders to examine a wide array of financial issues and scams that military consumers confront.

Panelists and other speakers – military consumer advocates and representatives from military legal services and veterans law clinics, all service branches, government, and industry – discussed financial concerns and potential remedies and resources for military consumers.

As Acting Chairman Ohlhausen noted in her opening remarks, “Financial issues . . . can hit military consumers particularly hard. The demands of deployment and frequent relocations, among others, pose unique concerns for servicemembers and . . . do not diminish once [they] leave active service.”

The FTC received over 103,000 complaints from servicemembers, veterans and their families in 2016, including complaints about scams targeting them.

To combat these problems, the Commission has used a multi-faceted approach that includes bringing enforcement actions protecting military consumers (such as in recent actions against online diploma mills), engaging in education initiatives to help military consumers detect and avoid scams (such as through the FTC’s MilitaryConsumer.gov website), and coordinating agency-wide efforts through its military task force.

Additionally, the FTC’s Economic Liberty Task Force continues to address unnecessary or overbroad occupational licensing requirements that hit military consumers, especially military spouses, particularly hard, in order to open more economic doors for military consumers and their families.

The FTC Staff Perspective summarizes key takeaways from a workshop the agency held in July 2017.

The Staff Perspective notes that panelists at the workshop discussed how servicemembers face a number of challenges in auto transactions – particularly when buying or leasing a vehicle for the first time. It also describes the unique issues that service members face if they fall behind on their financing payments and have to deal with debt collectors.

In addition, the Staff Perspective refers to the challenges and potential resources available to military consumers who need to make decisions about credit.  It also discusses the rights and remedies that are available to military consumers in making financial decisions, and emphasizes how financial education early and often, adapted to the military life cycle, is crucial. 

The FTC aggressively defends the rights of servicemembers and consistently develops initiatives to support military consumers’ financial readiness.

If you are interested in learning more about this topic and its implications, email the author at rnewman@hinchnewman.com. You can also follow FTC defense attorney on LinkedIn.

Richard B. Newman is an Internet marketing compliance and regulatory defense attorney at Hinch Newman LLP focusing on advertising and digital media matters. His practice includes conducting legal compliance reviews of advertising campaigns, representing clients in investigations and enforcement actions brought by the Federal Trade Commission and state Attorneys General, commercial litigation, advising clients on promotional marketing programs, and negotiating and drafting legal agreements.


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