Robert M. Oliver, who promoted a business opportunity through material posted on an Internet site that promised potential purchasers that they could set-up the "Consumer Protection Agency" for the city or county chosen by the purchaser, has agreed to settle charges that he violated the Federal Trade Commission's Franchise Rule and Section 5 of the FTC Act.
In the stipulated final judgment signed on November 25, 1998, Judge Stephan P. Mickle of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Gainesville, has permanently enjoined Oliver from violating the FTC Act in connection with the offering, promotion, and sale of franchises and in connection with the sale of "consumer protection" services. The court also permanently enjoined Oliver from violating the Franchise Rule.
According to the June 1998 complaint, Oliver, based in Panama City, Florida, falsely represented that his franchise was a government agency, and failed to make disclosures required by the Franchise Rule
The Commission vote to approve the stipulated final judgment was 4-0, with Commissioner Orson Swindle concurring in part and dissenting in part. In a separate statement supporting the decision, Commissioner Mozelle Thompson said, " ... the order permanently bars the defendant from misrepresenting that he is affiliated with any governmental entity ... I believe these provisions provide reasonable fencing in relief to prevent future violations by the defendant who has demonstrated a proclivity for acting under the guise of government authority in derogation of the important public responsibilities of federal, state, and local governments. Further, I believe that this strong relief will both serve to deter others from engaging in similar egregious conduct and have the indirect benefit of preserving consumers' confidence in bona fide government entities."
In his statement Commissioner Swindle said that although he supports permanently enjoining Oliver from misrepresenting his affiliation with any governmental entity, he dissents from additional conduct restrictions that "are completely independent of the restriction on misrepresentation of government affiliation and extend beyond it to cover many types of unobjectionable business activities [such as advertising a truthful "Made in the U.S.A." claim or selling a T-shirt with the American flag on it] that are totally unrelated to Oliver's alleged misdeeds."
The FTC acknowledges the assistance of the Department of Justice's Office of Consumer Litigation and the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida in Gainesville.
NOTE: This judgment is for settlement purposes only and does 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 complaint, the stipulated final judgment, the statements and consumer education material about franchises and other business opportunities 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; 202-FTC-HELP (202-382-4357); TDD 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 File No. X980085)
(Civil Action No. 5:98cv00160)