PDF: Pet leasing and FTC
Today, I got an email from the Federal Trade Commission with the header, “Are you buying or leasing your pet? (Not joking).”
As it would be physically impossible for me not to read on (could you resist?) I dived in. It seems that, with the skyrocketing prices of pets (especially exotic ones), some pet retailers are setting up installment plans that allow pet owners to purchase their pets on credit. Some are even setting up lease agreements under which the creature is still owned by the pet store until the lease is paid in full, which can result in paying much more than the price of the pet itself.
Now, while leasing a car might or might not be a good idea (depending on the circumstances), the notion of leasing a pet is lost on me at my current stage of development. While I’m personally a big proponent of just adopting a lovable furry friend from the local rescue shelter, retail pets are a big business. Unfortunately, though, many pet owners have evidently found themselves on the hook for thousands after their pet dies or is stolen, or have even faced the trauma of having Rover or Fluffy repossessed if they can’t make the payments.
FTC blogger Lisa Lake noted in her blog post, “…whether it’s pooches or parrots, understand what you’re actually paying for before you sign anything.” It’s good advice all around.
As you know if you read this column regularly, I often bring you information from the FTC. This agency creates a lot of consumer news as it goes about its work. Consumer reporters, bloggers and columnists rely on the agency (as do I) to tell us what they’re doing to protect consumers, and we pass that on to you.
Often, a news release from the FTC is a starting point for a similar or related topic. It’s one of dozens of federal and state-level agencies, along with independent “watchdog” organizations, consumer columnists and blogs I follow to help keep you apprised of consumer news you need to know.
Since its inception 103 years ago, the FTC has become a large agency with a lot of important tasks. When it started, the FTC’s job was to combat “unfair methods of competition.” In 1938, the agency’s mission grew to include watching out for “unfair or deceptive acts or practices,” and in the years since, Congress has given the FTC many other tasks. A few weeks ago, President Trump nominated Joseph J. Simons, a veteran antitrust lawyer, to head the FTC. If approved by Congress, Simons will head an agency with broad powers.
Specifically, the FTC is “empowered, among other things, to prevent unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce; seek monetary redress and other relief for conduct injurious to consumers; prescribe rules defining with specificity acts or practices that are unfair or deceptive, and establishing requirements designed to prevent such acts or practices; gather and compile information and conduct investigations relating to the organization, business, practices, and management of entities engaged in commerce; and make reports and legislative recommendations to Congress and the public.”
The FTC also enforces the National Do-Not-Call registry, has broadened its efforts to halt identity theft and promote data security, and has taken a lead role in things like product packaging, warranties, “Made in the USA” claims and other issues affecting consumers.
The agency is generally regarded as doing good work, but it’s not without its critics. Some have criticized it, for example, for not doing enough to challenge powerful tech companies. And, no matter which political party is in the White House, the FTC’s actions are often viewed through the lenses of politics. (The FTC’s five commissioners are nominated by the president to their seven-year terms, but the law says that no more than three may be from the same political party.)
But no matter who’s in charge, it’s likely that the FTC will be a formidable force well into the future, and no matter how you feel about leasing your furry friend or buying that questionable product, will keep an eye on that situation for you.