CNET has news that online advertising company ValueClick has agreed to pay a $2.9 million fine as part of a settlement with the FTC.
…ValueClick and its subsidiary Hi-Speed Media have been attempting to lure consumers to their Web sites through e-mails and Web-based ads bearing slogans like “Free PS3 for survey” or “let us buy you a 42 inch plasma tv! Just type in your zip code.” The purpose of those operations was “lead generation”–that is, connecting consumers with advertisers trying to sell certain goods or services, the FTC complaint said.
Trouble is, the companies didn’t disclose “clearly and conspicuously” that, in reality, the offers weren’t exactly free, the FTC charged. Instead, consumers were required to fulfill certain obligations or incur various other expenses–for instance, applying for car loans or credit cards–in order to qualify for those goods.
ValueClick was also accused of sending misleading emails and failing to encrypt credit card information.
In addition to the $2.9M fine, ValueClick must offer clearer disclosures, tighten its security, and subject itself to third-paty audits for the next 20 years.