Three corporations and their officers have been barred from making false promises to consumers concerning employment with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) under the terms of a temporary restraining order issued by a U.S. district court judge at the request of the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC alleged the defendants promised consumers help in registering for and obtaining postal employment in the consumer’s area, and guaranteed them job placement if they obtained a score of 90 or above on the USPS employment examination. In reality, the defendants are not connected with the USPS, and postal jobs are not available through them.
In its complaint, the FTC charged the defendants falsely claimed that: they were connected with USPS; postal jobs were currently available in the consumer’s area; they would help consumers register for and obtain jobs with the USPS; and getting a score of 90 percent or above on the postal exam guarantees job placement. The temporary restraining order freezes the defendants’ assets and bars them from continuing those violations alleged by the FTC.
The FTC alleged that since at least 2003, the defendants ran classified ads across the nation in employment guides and newspapers. According to the FTC’s complaint, the ads looked official, with public announcement numbers and patriotic images of the American flag and bald eagles. The FTC alleged the ads led consumers to believe that the defendants were hiring for postal jobs and were therefore connected with, or endorsed by, the USPS. One ad stated:
NOW HIRING ~ POSTAL JOBS ~ $16.20 - $39.00 ~ GREEN CARD OK ~ *FULL FEDERAL BENEFITS ~ *PAID TRAINING–NO EXPERIENCE NEEDED ~ *ACCEPTING CALLS 7 DAYS ~ 1-877-265-2181 ~ PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT J4000
According to the FTC, the telemarketers assured consumers there were jobs available in the caller’s geographic area and that scoring 90 percent or better on the exam required for postal employment would assure them a postal job. The FTC alleged the defendants offered a study course, explaining it included the U.S. Exam Guide, 12 practice tests and answer sheets, and detailed instructions explaining when and where the exam is being given and how to take it in the city where the customer lived. Consumers were charged a one-time administration fee of $129.90 or $139.90 for the study course and registration, and a shipping and handling fee of $19.90. After consumers provided payment information, the company’s telemarketers told them they were “registered.”
In fact, applicants for many entry-level postal jobs are required to take a postal examination. But the tests are usually offered only every few years in any particular district. Also, there are no job placement guarantees based on score. If applicants pass the test by scoring at least 70 out of 100, they are placed on a register, ranked by their score. When a position becomea open, the local post office looks to the applicable register for that geographic location and calls the top three applicants. The score is only one of many criteria taken into account for employment. Information on postal jobs is available at the consumer’s local post office, and applicants generally receive a free packet of information about required exams. The exams test general aptitude, something that cannot necessarily be increased by studying. More information is available at the Postal Service Web site, www.usps.com.
The FTC’s complaint named as defendants Success Express, Inc., doing business as Success Express; Exam Resource Center, Inc., doing business as Exam Resource; Occupational Advancement Center, Inc., doing business as Occupational Advancement; Employment Resource, LLC, doing business as Employment Resource; David James Daniell; Wanda J. Taugner; and Kathy L. Stafford.
A U.S. district court judge ordered an ex-parte temporary restraining order barring the defendants from the four violations alleged in the FTC’s complaint, granting an asset freeze, and appointing a receiver. The FTC ultimately seeks to permanently bar the defendants from those violations and require them to pay consumer redress.
The FTC received invaluable assistance in this matter from the United States Postal Inspection Service and the USPS.
The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 4-0. The complaint was filed under seal in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan on October 18, 2005, with the ex parte TRO granted the same day. The seal was lifted November 2, 2005.
NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendant has actually violated the law. The case will be decided by the court.
Copies of the complaint 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’s East Central Region