South Florida Business Ventures, based in Boynton Beach, and its owner Warren Izard, have agreed to pay a $11,000 civil penalty to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they sold a credit card program to consumers for a fee of $189 that they claimed would protect consumers from losses up to $10,000 resulting from lost or stolen credit cards. The Commission alleged that the defendants, during their sales pitch, also violated the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) by making false and misleading statements to induce consumers to purchase their services. Specifically, the Commission alleged that the defendants misrepresented the extent of the consumer's liability for the unauthorized use of the consumer's credit card. The FTC also alleged that the defendants falsely represented that they were affiliated with the consumer's credit card issuer. In addition to paying the civil penalty, the defendants would be prohibited from making the alleged misrepresentations, or any other misrepresentations of fact material to a consumer's purchasing decision.
According to the FTC's complaint detailing the charges, South Florida Business Ventures sold its credit card protection program through telemarketing rooms on behalf of Tracker Corporation of America. (Tracker was a defendant with whom the FTC settled in August 1998. According to that settlement, Tracker, a Canadian corporation and its president, Bruce Lewis, are permanently barred from selling credit card protection.) The FTC alleged that South Florida Business Ventures and Warren Izard falsely represented to consumers that they were calling from, or on behalf of, the consumer's credit card issuer. The FTC also alleged that the defendants falsely stated that to avoid liability for unauthorized charges, a consumer only had 48 hours to report loss of a credit card, or its unauthorized use, and that failing to do so, the consumer could be liable for thousands of dollars in unauthorized charges. In fact, federal law limits a consumer's liability for unauthorized charges to $50 per credit card, and there is no specified time limit for reporting loss, theft, or unauthorized use of a credit card.
Under the terms of the proposed settlement, the defendants would be prohibited in the future from violating the TSR, misrepresenting an affiliation with any consumer credit card issuer, misrepresenting any legal rights or obligations of consumers, or misrepresenting any other material fact. The settlement also would prohibit the defendants from selling information about any consumer who purchased credit card protection from them. Finally, the settlement contain recordkeeping requirements to assist the FTC in monitoring the defendants' compliance.
The Commission vote to forward the complaint and the proposed consent decree to the Department of Justice for filing was 4-0. The complaint and consent decree were filed in the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida, in Tampa, on May 24, 1999, and is subject to court approval.
NOTE: This consent decree is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the defendants of law violations. Consent decrees have the force of law when signed by the judge.
Copies of the news releases and other materials relating to the Tracker case are available from the FTC's web site at http://www.ftc.gov and copies of the complaint and the proposed consent decree are available 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. 982 3538)
(Civil Action No.: 99-1196-CIV-T-17F)