An operation that sold bogus college financial aid services has been permanently banned from selling academic goods or services for repeatedly violating court orders. The Federal Trade Commission originally charged that the defendants promised better college financial aid packages than someone could find on their own. They did not deliver. Settlement of those charges barred the defendants from making deceptive claims. The defendants then violated the order by continuing their deceptive marketing practices. The judge found the defendants in contempt and ordered them to provide refunds to consumers. The FTC charged the defendants with contempt for a second time for failing to provide those refunds.
In 2003, the FTC accused the company and its owner of misrepresenting that if consumers bought their services, they would be more likely to get college financial aid than they would on their own. The court order to settle those charges prohibited them from misrepresenting information about academic goods or services and required the company and its officers to make certain disclosures when selling their products.
According to the FTC, however, the company and its new owner continued to make the misrepresentations during their sales seminars and did not make the disclosures required by the court order. The court found the defendants in contempt and ordered them to contact everyone who bought their service between August 6, 2003, and July 17, 2004, to offer a full refund to anyone who was dissatisfied.
The FTC alleged the defendants again violated the court order. Instead of providing refunds, they sent a "survey" asking customers to check a box to indicate whether they were "satisfied" or "dissatisfied." The letters did not mention the refunds or the court order, and did not contain a return envelope for the surveys. After receiving refund requests totaling $350,000, the defendants claimed they were financially incapable of providing the refunds, but did not back up that claim with records. The defendants later filed for bankruptcy.
The order entered today against the defendants, Integrated Capital, Inc. doing business as National Student Financial Aid and its owner Alan Wilson, permanently bans them from selling academic goods or services. In addition to the ban, the defendants are also prohibited from making various misrepresentations in connection with the sale of any good or service and are prohibited from violating the Cooling Off Rule and the Truth in Lending Act.
The Commission vote to authorize staff to file the stipulated order was 5-0. The stipulated order modifying the final order and contempt order was entered in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada on June 30, 2006.
NOTE: This stipulated final order is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the defendant of a law violation. A stipulated final order requires approval by the court and has the force of law when signed by the judge.
Copies of the stipulated final order modifying the final order and contempt order 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 thousands of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
Laura Schneider or Greg Ashe,
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2604 or 202-326-3719