ExpatEdge Partners LLC; Analysis of Proposed Consent Orders To Aid Public Comment

Summary:

The consent agreement in this matter settles alleged violations of federal law prohibiting unfair or deceptive acts or practices or unfair methods of competition. The attached Analysis to Aid Public Comment describes both the allegations in the draft complaint and the terms of the consent order — embodied in the consent agreement — that would settle these allegations.

Dates:

Comments must be received on or before November 5, 2009.

Addresses:

Interested parties are invited to submit written comments electronically or in paper form. Comments should refer to “ExpatEdge, File No. 092 3138” to facilitate the organization of comments. Please note that your comment — including your name and your state — will be placed on the public record of this proceeding, including on the publicly accessible FTC website, at (http://www.ftc.gov/os/publiccomments.shtm).

Because comments will be made public, they should not include any sensitive personal information, such as an individual’s Social Security Number; date of birth; driver’s license number or other state identification number, or foreign country equivalent; passport number; financial account number; or credit or debit card number. Comments also should not include any sensitive health information, such as medicalrecords or other individually identifiable health information. In addition, comments should not include any “[t]rade secret or any commercial or financial information which is obtained from any person and which is privileged or confidential . . . .,” as provided in Section 6(f) of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. 46(f), and Commission Rule 4.10(a)(2), 16 CFR 4.10(a)(2). Comments containing material for which confidential treatment is requested must be filed in paper form, must be clearly labeled “Confidential,” and must comply with FTC Rule 4.9(c), 16 CFR 4.9(c). [1]

Because paper mail addressed to the FTC is subject to delay due to heightened security screening, please consider submitting your comments in electronic form. Comments filed in electronic form should be submitted by using the following weblink: (https://public.commentworks.com/ftc/expatedge) and following the instructions on the web-based form. To ensure that the Commission considers an electronic comment, you must file it on the web-based form at the weblink: (https://public.commentworks.com/ftc/expatedge). If this Notice appears at (http://www.regulations.gov/search/index.jsp), you may also file an electronic comment through that website. The Commission will consider all comments that regulations.gov forwards to it. You may also visit the FTC website at (http://www.ftc.gov/) to read the Notice and the news release describing it.

A comment filed in paper form should include the “ExpatEdge, File No. 092 3138” reference both in the text and on the envelope, and should be mailed or delivered to the following address: Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, Room H-135 (Annex D), 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580. The FTC is requesting that any comment filed in paper form be sent by courier or overnight service, if possible, because U.S. postal mail in the Washington area and at the Commission is subject to delay due to heightened security precautions.

The Federal Trade Commission Act (“FTC Act”) and other laws the Commission administers permit the collection of public comments to consider and use in this proceeding as appropriate. The Commission will consider all timely and responsive public comments that it receives, whether filed in paper or electronic form. Comments received will be available to the public on the FTC website, to the extent practicable, at (http://www.ftc.gov/os/publiccomments.shtm). As a matter of discretion, the Commission makes every effort to remove home contact information for individuals from the public comments it receives before placing those comments on the FTC website. More information, including routine uses permitted by the Privacy Act, may be found in the FTC’s privacy policy, at (http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/privacy.shtm).

For further information contact:

Molly Crawford (202-326-3076) or Katie Ratté (202-326-3514), Bureau of Consumer Protection, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20580.

Supplementary information:

Pursuant to section 6(f) of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 38 Stat. 721, 15 U.S.C. 46(f), and § 2.34 the Commission Rules of Practice, 16 CFR 2.34, notice is hereby given that the above-captioned consent agreement containing a consent order to cease and desist, having been filed with and accepted, subject to final approval, by the Commission, has been placed on the public record for a period of thirty (30) days. The following Analysis to Aid Public Comment describes the terms of the consent agreement, and the allegations in the complaint. An electronic copy of the full text of the consent agreement package can be obtained from the FTC Home Page (for October 6, 2009), on the World Wide Web, at (http://www.ftc.gov/os/actions.shtm). A paper copy can be obtained from the FTC Public Reference Room, Room 130-H, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20580, either in person or by calling (202) 326-2222.

Public comments are invited, and may be filed with the Commission in either paper or electronic form. All comments should be filed as prescribed in the ADDRESSES section above, and must be received on or before the date specified in the DATES section.

Analysis of Agreement Containing Consent Order To Aid Public Comment

The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC” or “Commission”) has accepted, subject to final approval, a consent agreement from ExpatEdge Partners LLC (“ExpatEdge”).

The proposed consent order has been placed on the public record for thirty (30) days for receipt of comments by interested persons. Comments received during this period will become part of the public record. After thirty (30) days, the Commission will again review the agreement and the comments received, and will decide whether it should withdraw from the agreement and take appropriate action or make final the agreement’s proposed order.

This matter concerns alleged false or misleading representations that ExpatEdge made to consumers concerning its participation in the Safe Harbor privacy framework (“Safe Harbor”) agreed upon by the U.S. and the European Union (“EU”). It is among the Commission’s first cases to challenge deceptive claims about the Safe Harbor. The Safe Harbor provides a mechanism for U.S. companies to transfer data outside the EU consistent with European law. To join the Safe Harbor, a company must self-certify to the U.S. Department of Commerce (“Commerce”) that it complies with seven principles and related requirements. Commerce maintains a public website, (www.export.gov/safeharbor), where it posts the names of companies that have self-certified to the Safe Harbor. The listing of companies indicates whether their self-certification is “current” or “not current.” Companies are required to re-certify every year in order to retain their status as “current” members of the Safe Harbor framework.

ExpatEdge provides software and consulting services to businesses that offer “expatriate” programs to manage tax and payroll issues for employees that work outside their country of residence, including through a website (www.expatedge.com). According to the Commission’s complaint, from at least December 2002 until July 2009, ExpatEdge has set forth on its website privacy policies and statements about its practices, including statements that it is a current participant in the Safe Harbor.

The Commission’s complaint alleges that until July 2009, ExpatEdge falsely represented that it was a current participant in the Safe Harbor when, in fact, ExpatEdge has not been a current participant in the Safe Harbor since November 2006. The Commission’s complaint alleges that in November 2002, ExpatEdge submitted to Commerce a self-certification to the Safe Harbor, which it renewed in November 2003, November 2004, and November 2005. ExpatEdge did not renew its self-certification to the Safe Harbor in November 2006, and Commerce updated its status to “not current” on the Commerce public website. To date, ExpatEdge has not renewed its self-certification to the Safe Harbor andremains in “not current” status on Commerce’s website.

The proposed order applies to ExpatEdge’s representations about its membership in any privacy, security, or any other compliance program sponsored by the government or any other third party. It contains provisions designed to prevent ExpatEdge from engaging in the future in practices similar to those alleged in the complaint.

Part I of the proposed order prohibits ExpatEdge from making misrepresentations about its membership in any privacy, security, or any other compliance program sponsored by the government or any other third party.

Parts II through VI of the proposed order are reporting and compliance provisions. Part II requires ExpatEdge to retain documents relating to its compliance with the order for a five-year period. Part III requires dissemination of the order now and in the future to persons with responsibilities relating to the subject matter of the order. Part IV ensures notification to the FTC of changes in corporate status. Part V mandates that ExpatEdge submit an initial compliance report to the FTC, and make available to the FTC subsequent reports. Part VI is a provision “sunsetting” the order after twenty (20) years, with certain exceptions.

The purpose of the analysis is to facilitate public comment on the proposed order. It is not intended to constitute an official interpretation of the agreement and proposed order or to modify in any way their terms.

By direction of the Commission.

Donald S. Clark,

Secretary.

Footnotes

1. The comment must be accompanied by an explicit request for confidential treatment, including the factual and legal basis for the request, and must identify the specific portions of the comment to be withheld from the public record. The request will be granted or denied by the Commission’s General Counsel, consistent with applicable law and the public interest. See FTC Rule 4.9(c), 16 CFR 4.9(c).

References

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