The FTC's complaint alleged that Mark Nutritionals made false and unsubstantiated claims that "Body Solutions Evening Weight Loss Formula" (Evening Formula) causes substantial and permanent weight loss without diet or exercise in English and Spanish radio ads and on its Web site. Harry Siskind, former President and CEO of Mark Nutritionals, Inc., agreed to pay $1 million to the FTC and the States of Texas, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. (Dec. 9, 2003; www.ftc.gov/opa/2003/12/weightlosscases.htm)
The FTC charged Platinum Universal, LLC, its principals, and its successor, Pulsar Data, Inc. with violating the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) in connection with the offer of credit cards to consumers for an advance fee. The FTC alleged that the Hollywood, Florida-based defendants falsely represented to English- and Spanish-speaking consumers that they would obtain a credit card after paying the defendants a fee, when, in fact, consumers did not receive a credit card. Litigation in this case is ongoing. (Nov. 24, 2003; www.ftc.gov/os/caselist/0323143/0323143.htm)
In January 2003, the Commission launched "Operation License for Trouble," a law enforcement sweep that targeted six sellers who, under the guise of "international law," pitched worthless documents to immigrants and other consumers who were seeking an alternative to a government-issued driver's license or identification document. The FTC filed complaints in federal district court against the following defendants: 1) Yad Abraham (Abraham), also known as (a.k.a.) Tim Thorn and Timothy Thorn, individually and doing business as (d/b/a.) Sharpthorn Internet Solutions and Internex, LLC; 2) Jaguar Business Concepts, LP, d/b/a Libertymall.com, Cheyenne Investment Alliance, LLC (Cheyenne), and Jacqueline Demer, individually and as member/manager of Cheyenne; 3) Jordan Maxwell, a.k.a. Russell Pine, individually and doing business as BBCOA, a.k.a. BBC of America, a.k.a. Better Book and Cassette of America, and Vic Varjabedian, a.k.a. Victor Varjabedian, a.k.a. Varouj Varjabedian, individually; 4) William Scott Dion, individually and d.b.a. PT Resource Center and PTRC, a.k.a. Don Glessner; 5) Carlton Press, Inc., Carlton Press, Ltd., and Kim Fleming Bo Weiss; and 6) one or more parties d/b/a the Institute for International Licensing (IIL), Aladdin Financial Management, University Systems, and Wheelie International Limited. (Jan. 16, 2003; www.ftc.gov/opa/2003/01/idpfinal.htm)
In November 2003, three companies and three individuals settled the FTC's charges that they engaged in deceptive conduct while selling International Driving Permits (IDPs). The settlement prohibits Mountain View Systems, Ltd.; Wheelie International, Ltd.; S.C. Hyacinth S.R.L.; Jason Abraham, Caroline Shallon, and Charles Fogel from selling IDPs, diplomas, and transcripts, and requires them to pay $57,000 in disgorgement (Nov. 25, 2003; www.ftc.gov/opa/2003/11/mountainview.htm)
In August 2003, defendants Yad Abraham, Carlton Press, and Aladdin Travel settled FTC charges.
The settlements, among other things, permanently prohibit the defendants from selling IDPs. In addition, the settlements ordered Aladdin Travel to surrender funds currently held in its bank account as consumer redress or disgorgement. (Aug. 19, 2003; www.ftc.gov/opa/2003/08/idpsettlement.htm)
In the FTC's first enforcement action against a debt-collection company for allegedly violating the rights of Spanish-speaking consumers, Houston, Texas-based United Recovery Systems, Inc. (URS) agreed to pay a $240,000 civil penalty to resolve allegations that the company violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). According to the FTC's complaint, on numerous occasions, in collecting debts in both English and Spanish, the company's debt collectors communicated with consumers at improper times or places, engaged in prohibited communications with third parties, harassed and abused consumers, and used deceptive practices to collect consumer accounts. In addition to the civil penalty, the FTC's settlement included broad prohibitions on future FDCPA violations and required URS to inform consumers in writing that they may stop the company from contacting them about the debt and may contact a special URS phone number or address should they have a complaint about the way URS is collecting the debt. The settlement also included a comprehensive consumer complaint and resolution program under which the company must investigate and respond to every consumer complaint about URS collection practices. (April 17, 2002; http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2002/04/unitedrecovery.htm)