More than 85,000 consumers nationwide will be receiving refund checks totaling about $4 million by mid-April. The refund pool was funded by settlements the Federal Trade Commission negotiated in its lawsuit against U.S. Hotline, Inc. and other Provo, Utah-based marketers of three "money-making" schemes. The checks, which range from $25 to $100 with most consumers getting about $50, represent full refunds of the consumers' losses.
The FTC had charged the defendants with deceptively promoting a series of "guides" for $20 to $50 each that supposedly explained how to buy government-seized cars at "giveaway prices," or how to find work-at-home jobs that involved reading manuscripts or books or performing piece-work. The FTC alleged that the defendants misrepresented their refund policies, the profits or earnings consumers could make, and numerous other aspects of the schemes. In addition to the redress provisions, the settlements bar the defendants from making the same or similar misrepresentations regarding any publications, products or services they market in the future, and require them to give future customers important information about government auctions or work-at-home opportunities, as appropriate, and about the defendants' refund policies.
The settlements are with U.S. Hotline, Inc., which did business as U.S. Car Buyers Alliance, U.S. Job Finders and U.S. Publishers Advocates; Jay H. Peterson, an officer of U.S. Hotline; Ads Across America, Inc.; Tel-Source, Inc.; and Kaleidoscope Holding Corporation. The companies are all out of business at this time, and Peterson is in bankruptcy. The FTC first filed charges in the case in 1993, at which time the agency won a court order freezing the defendants' assets and appointing a receiver to manage the firms. Ultimately, the receiver controlled more than $5.25 million in assets, from which several debts including back taxes were paid, leaving the redress fund of a little more than $4 million.
The refunds are being distributed to customers who filed written complaints or who mailed in a claim form sent to all the defendants' customers, and who have not received refunds from the defendants already.
Copies of other news releases and documents associated with this case are available 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. FTC news releases, related documents and other materials also are available on the Internet at the FTC's World Wide Web site at: http://www.ftc.gov
(FTC Matter No. X930044)
(Civil Action No. 93C-444B, U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, Central Division, in Salt Lake City)