Operators who sent illegal spam and made deceptive claims for a bogus fuel-saving product that doesn’t save fuel have settled Federal Trade Commission charges that their e-mail and Web sites violated federal laws. The settlements bar violations of the FTC Act and the CAN-SPAM Act, and bars the defendants from making or assisting others to make deceptive product claims.
In October 2004, the FTC filed a suit in U.S. District Court alleging that marketers, and the resellers working with them, were making deceptive claims for Fuel MAX and Super FuelMax products. The Web site operators and their affiliates – spammers who drove traffic to their site – made claims such as:
- Increase gas mileage 27%+ by helping fuel burn better;
- Reduce emissions by 43%;
- Smoother engine;
- pays for itself FAST!!!!
- Gives an extra 10% more horsepower;
- Based on the size of your gas tank you will save from $8 for a typical 15 gallon gas tank, but larger V8 SUVs and trucks will save up to $20 per tank.
The FTC alleged that the magnetic “fuel saver” does not save fuel, does not increase gas mileage, and does not reduce emissions. The agency claimed that the false claims violate the FTC Act. The agency also alleges that by providing promotional materials with false claims to affiliates, the defendants provided them with the means to violate the FTC Act. The agency charged that by inserting the names of innocent third parties in the “from” or “reply to” fields – “spoofing” – and failing to provide a valid physical postal address, the marketers were violating the CAN-SPAM Act.
Settlements with Mark C. Ayoub, his companies, Diverse Marketing Group, Inc., and Diverse Marketing Group LLC; and Floyd and Marcia Tassin and their company, Net Marketing Croup LLC, bar them from making misrepresentations in connection with the sale of fuel-saving devices or any product or service sold over the Internet. They prohibit them from providing others with the means and instrumentalities to commit deception. The settlements also bar future violations of the FTC Act and CAN-SPAM Act. Based on financial information provided by the defendants, a $292,000 payment by Ayoub and his companies and a $9,000 payment by the Tassin defendants have been suspended. Should the agency find that the financial information was falsified, the full amounts will be immediately due.
Litigation with other defendants in this case, International Research and Development of Nevada and Anthony Renda continues.
The Commission vote to accept the settlements was 5-0.
NOTE: Stipulated final judgments and orders are for settlement purposes only and do not constitute an admission by the defendant of a law violation. Consent judgments have the force of law when signed by the judge.
Copies of the stipulated judgments and orders are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
(FTC File No. X05 0002)
Claudia Bourne Farrell,
Office of Public Affairs