For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Bob Cooper
Date: May 20, 2008
Misleading Phone Pitches Stopped by Operation Tele-phoney
(Boise) – Idaho businesses may apply for refunds if they agreed to a free trial subscription of Safety Alert for Supervisors and subsequently paid for a subscription, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said.
Attorney General Wasden announced the settlement today during the Federal Trade Commission’s Operation Tele-phoney news conference in Washington, D.C. Operation Tele-phoney is a joint telemarketing enforcement effort coordinated by the states and the Federal Trade Commission. Wasden, President of the National Association of Attorneys General, represented the state and territorial Attorneys General.
“There is an easy and surefire way to avoid tele-phoney offers,” Attorney General Wasden said. “Just say ‘no thank you’ and hang up. It isn’t rude, it’s smart. Registering for the Do Not Call List is another smart step.”
Wasden said his office reached a legal settlement with Exton, Pennsylvania publisher Institute of Business Publications (IOBP). Under the terms of the settlement, IOBP must pay restitution to all Idaho businesses with accounts that IOBP submitted to a collection agency since January 1, 2002.
Any Idaho business that paid a collection agency for an IOBP publication the business did not order or received a negative comment on its credit report as a result of an account with IOBP, should send a written notice to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division before June 13, 2008. The notice should be mailed to: Office of Attorney General, Consumer Protection Division, 650 W. State Street, Room B-20, P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720-0010.
An Idaho consumer complained to the Attorney General that a collection agency was demanding payment of $238 for a subscription to IOBP’s Safety Alert. The consumer had agreed, during a telephone solicitation, to receive two complementary copies of the publication, but he did not agree to subscribe.
IOBP claimed that the consumer consented to purchase the subscription because he did not call to cancel it. Requiring consumers to call the company to cancel a free trial subscription is contrary to state and federal law.
As required by the settlement, IOBP has registered as a telemarketer with the Attorney General’s Office. The company also must change the forms it sends to consumers so that consumers are informed that that they are not obligated to purchase IOBP’s publications. Additionally, IOBP must obtain the consumer’s written or recorded verbal consent to purchase a subscription before IOBP can charge the consumer.
Under the terms of the settlement, the company must remove any incorrect information about a business that IOBP reported to a credit reporting agency and reimburse the Attorney General for attorney fees and costs. The company did not admit any liability.
Wasden previously announced another Operation Tele-phoney settlement involving United Publishers of Atlanta, Georgia. In that case, the company contacted consumers to sell them magazine subscriptions. However, before the company’s telemarketers discussed the topic of purchasing a subscription, they allegedly asked consumers if they had a credit card and told consumers they would receive a free watch and free magazines. In order to receive the free merchandise, however, consumers had to purchase non-cancelable magazine subscriptions. United Publishers is prohibited from doing business in Idaho until it registers as a telemarketer with the Attorney General.
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