Release Date: May 30, 2002
Following closely on the heels of a $700,000 settlement of a similar case, announced last month, the Federal Trade Commission today announced its tenth settlement since 1998 for misrepresentations made in pitching fraudulent credit card "protection" products to consumers. Through today's action, a Mesa, Arizona-based company and its president will be permanently enjoined from selling credit card protection insurance and from misleading consumers when pitching any other products or services using telemarketing.
According to the FTC's complaint, filed in 2001 through its "Ditch the Pitch" telemarketing fraud law enforcement sweep, defendants Millennium Industries, Inc. (doing business as Premier Consumer Services) and its president and owner, Anthony V. Dunghills, violated the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) by misrepresenting that: 1) they were affiliated with, or calling consumers on behalf of, a credit card institution; and 2) if consumers did not purchase their "protection" services, they would be held fully liable for any unauthorized charges made to their credit card account. In addition, the complaint alleged that in making these misrepresentations, as well as failing to disclose promptly and in a clear and conspicuous manner the purpose of their call, the defendants violated the TSR.
"Existing federal statutes limit the amount of loss that consumers face to $50 if their credit card is used without their authorization. This makes credit card "protection" packages pitched over the phone essentially worthless," said Howard Beales, III, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "The best weapon against such fraud is education, and we encourage consumers to know the law and be wary of such calls when they receive them."
Terms of the Stipulated Order
Under the terms of the stipulated order settling the charges, the defendants will be enjoined from any future involvement in the advertising, promotion, or sale of credit card loss protection programs. In addition, they will be enjoined from misrepresenting any fact material to a consumer's decision to buy any other goods or services they provide that are not related to credit card protection services. Finally, they will be required to comply with the TSR in the future.
The order also contains a suspended $1 million judgment that can be reinstated if the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial condition. Under its terms, the defendants will also be prohibited from selling their customer lists and will be required to keep adequate records to demonstrate that they are in compliance with the order.
The Commission vote to accept the proposed consent decree was 5-0. It was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona on May 29, 2002, and is subject to the court's approval.
NOTE: A consent decree is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission of a law violation. Consent decrees have the force of law when signed by the judge.
Copies of the Commission's consent decree 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, NW, 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, 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. X020005;
Civ. Action No. 01-1932-PAX-M.M.)