Suzanne Bannister, of Longwood, Florida, and her Massachusetts-based employment firm, Direct Link, Inc., have been ordered by a federal district court to post a $50,000 performance bond before marketing employment-related services for the next 10 years. Bannister and Direck Link also are permanently barred from misrepresenting, among other things, that their services will lead to jobs in specific fields or geographic areas. The order follows Federal Trade Commission charges filed against Direct Link and Bannister in June 1996, as part of an agency enforcement campaign targeting firms engaged in the fraudulent marketing of employment services for up-front fees ranging from $35 to hundreds of dollars. The FTC had alleged that these specific defendants offered access to jobs in a full range of fields and geographic areas, and falsely promised clients that they were guaranteed to find a job using Direct Link’s services. They charged a $159 fee, the FTC said, but few if any of their clients obtained jobs in their chosen fields or geographic areas.
Because the defendants did not respond to the FTC’s complaint, the court now has issued a default judgment. In announcing the jobs service enforcement campaign, the FTC had cautioned consumers that classified ads touting positions such as "financial analyst," "engineering," and "government positions" are appearing in the employment sections of newspapers nationwide. When consumers call the numbers in the ads, telemarketers hype themselves as job placement services with special access to specific openings. The red flag, the FTC said, is when the firms charge up-front fees coupled with refund guarantees, or when they require credit card or bank account information while promising that no immediate charges will occur. Few, if any, consumers ever receive the type of job placement service promised by such firms, and the vast majority never see their money again, the FTC said. An FTC brochure titled "Help Wanted . . . . Finding a Job" offers tips for helping job hunters avoid employment services scams and can be found at the FTC’s web site at http://www.ftc.gov (no period).
The court order against Bannister and Direct Link bars them from misrepresenting that:
In addition, the order bars the defendants from selling or transferring their customer lists, except by court order, and requires each of them, for 10 years, to post a $50,000 bond for the protection of future customers before engaging in any marketing or sale of employment-related services. The order also requires the defendants to disclose clearly and conspicuously the existence of the bond to each customer.
The order also contains various record keeping and reporting requirements designed to assist the FTC in monitoring the defendants’ compliance.
The default order was issued by the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, in Boston, on Nov. 7. It was served on the defendants this week.
Copies of the default judgment, as well as other materials associated with the FTC’s law enforcement campaign and the "Help Wanted . . . . Finding a Job" brochure are available on the Internet at the FTC’s World Wide Web site at: http://www.ftc.gov, and also from the FTC’s Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-2222; TTY for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326- 2710.
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2161 or 202-326-2180
(FTC File No. 962 3084)
(Civil Action No. 96-11239 WGY)