Following a preliminary hearing, the Federal Trade Commission has won a federal court order prohibiting four Florida companies and four individuals, pending a trial, from using a variety of deceptive tactics to solicit consumers to buy their cleaning supplies and light bulbs. At the FTC's request, the judge barred the defendants from engaging in the alleged deceptive practices and continued a freeze on their assets ordered on November 4, 1994. The judge also appointed a permanent receiver and ordered the defendants to surrender to the receiver all assets the defendants presently hold outside the United States.
The court order applies to United Wholesalers, Inc., doing business as Main Line Professionals, Main Line Products, and Unified Products and Services; International Research Corporation, doing business as Environmental Energy Resources; Long Life Industries, Inc., doing business as Environmental Energy Resources; Innovators of Success, Inc.; James W. MacDonald; Margaret A. MacDonald; Philip G. Lynch; and Steven Green, also known as Steven Greenberg.
According to the FTC's November 1994 complaint detailing the charges in this case, the defendants deceived their targeted victims -- which included many small businesses and non-profit entities -- into purchasing their products by, among other things, misrepresenting that they were representatives of, or affiliated with, the customers' regular supplier; or that they were calling only to verify an address in order to re-ship a returned order. The complaint also charged the defendants with sending unordered supplies and then representing that the supplies had been ordered. Once the customers discovered the deception and tried to return the supplies, the defendants told them that federal or state laws prevent customers from doing so, that the defendants had audio tapes verifying that the orders were placed, and that the defendants would turn the customers' accounts over to a law firm or collection agency for appropriate action if the customers refused to pay, the FTC alleged.
Considering the FTC's likelihood of success against the defendants, the judge issued an order, which is effective pending the outcome of the litigation, prohibiting the defendants from falsely representing, among other things, that:
- the defendants are, or are affiliated with, the consumer's regular or usual supplier;
- there is a prior or existing business relationship between the consumer and the defendants;
- the defendants are offering their products on a sample or trial basis;
- consumers ordered the products;
- state or federal laws prohibit consumers from returning the cleaning supplies shipped to them;
- the defendants cannot and do not accept their products back after they have been shipped;
- the defendants have an audio tape verifying that an individual placed an order; and
- orders are verified by state bonded verifiers on the defendants' premises.
The court order also prohibits the defendants from misrepresenting the price of any of their products, and from shipping any unordered merchandise to consumers and requesting payment for it. In addition, the court order contains various recordkeeping and reporting provisions designed to assist the FTC and continues a freeze on the defendants' assets to preserve funds for consumer redress.
Judge K. Michael Moore issued his findings and the preliminary injunction on June 16 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Miami Division.
The FTC's Cleveland Regional Office is handling the case. The FTC said its suit against the defendants is the result of a joint investigation concluded by the FTC and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Bellmawr, New Jersey.
Copies of the documents, as well as the FTC complaint detailing the charges and the news release issued after it was filed, are available from the FTC's Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-2222; TTY for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest FTC news as it is announced, call the FTC's NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710. FTC news releases and other materials also are available on the Internet at the FTC's World Wide Web Site at: http://www.ftc.gov
(FTC File No. 932 3202)
(Civil Action No. 94-8620-CIV-Moore)