The Federal Trade Commission has charged Integrated Capital, doing business as National Student Financial Aid (NSFA), and its principal, Alan Wilson, with violating the terms of an August 2003 settlement barring deceptive practices in connection with the marketing and sale of college financial aid services. The agency has asked a U. S. District Court to cite the defendants for contempt of court, and order full redress to consumers. The agency also has asked the Court to modify the settlement to bar the defendants permanently from selling any academic goods or services.
In August 2003, the FTC filed suit charging the defendants with making misrepresentations in connection with the marketing and sale of their college financial aid services. NSFA sent high school students and their parents letters inviting them to a free financial aid seminar. According to the FTC, the interviews, typically held in local hotels, were sales seminars at which NSFA promoted its college planning and financial aid services. These services ranged in price from $795 to $1,200, and purportedly helped consumers receive substantially more financial aid than they could get on their own. The FTC’s complaint alleged that NSFA misrepresented that: (1) students were selected based on their qualifications to participate in the defendants’ financial aid and admissions program; and (2) consumers who purchased their services were likely to receive substantially more financial aid than consumers could get on their own. The complaint also alleged that between October 1997 and October 1999, NSFA falsely represented that they would refund their fees to consumers who did not obtain $2,500 in financial aid to attend a state college, or $3,000 to attend a private college.
In August 2003, the FTC and the defendants filed a complaint and stipulated order settling the FTC’s charges. Among other things, the settlement prohibited the defendants, in marketing or selling any academic good or service, from falsely representing:
The settlement also required the defendants to make certain affirmative disclosures in their oral sales presentations, including that: (1) purchasing NSFA’s services did not guarantee that a consumer will get financial aid or get more financial aid than the consumer otherwise could have obtained without purchasing NSFA’s services; (2) purchasing NSFA’s services did not guarantee that a consumer’s child will be accepted by any college or university; (3) NSFA provided no services until it received a completed questionnaire, that certain services had to specifically requested, and that failure to utilize any services did not entitle consumers to a refund; (4) consumers might not realize the full benefit of NSFA’s services if their children were within six months of graduating high school, had not made reasonable efforts to complete necessary paperwork for admissions and financial aid, or were only considering attending community college; and (5) consumers who were not U.S. citizens might not be eligible for federal or state financial aid.
The action announced today began on July 22, 2004 when papers were filed with the court. In those pleadings, the FTC alleges that NSFA and its principal, Alan Wilson, are engaged in the same misleading and illegal practices they were charged with in 2003 and that they had agreed to cease. “In an effort to persuade consumers seeking college financial aid to pay at least $1,000 they can ill-afford to spend, NSFA’s sales personnel continue to misrepresent the efficacy of NSFA’s services and the amount of effort required by consumers to implement those services,” the brief in support of
the FTC’s motion says.
The FTC charges that NSFA and Wilson continue to:
In addition, the agency alleges that NSFA and Alan Wilson have failed to make the required affirmative disclosures during NSFA’s oral sales presentations.
To remedy their contemptuous behavior, the FTC has asked the court to rescind all consumer contracts entered into since August 2003 and to refund all monies consumers paid to NSFA during the contempt period. The agency also has asked the Court to modify the settlement
to ban NSFA and Wilson permanently from the marketing and sale of academic goods and services.
The complaint, consent, and recent contempt action were filed in the U.S. District Court
for the District of Nevada.
NOTE: The filing of a Motion for Civil Contempt does not constitute a finding or ruling that the defendants actually have violated the court’s order. A determination of whether the defendants have violated the order will be made by the court.
Copies of the motion for civil contempt, and other documents relating to this matter 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. 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 in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), 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. X 030079)
(Case No. CV-N-03-0412-DWH)