Telemarketers who "guaranteed" consumers they could obtain unsecured credit cards -- even if the consumers had past credit problems -- for up-front "processing fees" have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that their claims were false and violated federal laws. The FTC alleged that most consumers received nothing for the fee they paid; other consumers received an application form for a credit card, which required additional fees. The settlement bars the defendants from telemarketing in the future, bans their use of unsigned bank drafts to debit consumers' accounts and prohibits them from misrepresenting credit offers.
On October 9, 1997, the FTC alleged that Michael Jerome Smith, individually and as the Chief Executive Officer of M.J.S. Financial Services Inc. and Resource Travel and Valerie Ranger, individually and as an officer of Resource Travel Service, telemarketed unsecured major credit cards claiming that consumers with past credit problems would be approved for a card with no security deposit. The defendants persuaded some consumers to disclose their checking account information and debited their checking accounts -- sometimes multiple times -- without the authorization of the consumers. The FTC alleged that the defendants did not provide credit cards to the consumers who paid the fees. They received only application forms allowing them to apply for credit cards, with additional fees, through banks that issue cards based on the banks' own credit criteria. The FTC charged the practices violated federal laws, including the Telemarketing Sales Rule. A stipulated preliminary injunction and asset freeze was entered by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, pending trial. The agreement announced today settles the charges.
The settlement bans the defendants from any future telemarketing or causing others to telemarket. It prohibits them from obtaining or submitting unsigned checks or other negotiable paper for payment. The settlement also prohibits them from selling their customer lists. Finally, the order prohibits misrepresentations concerning the availability, cost or conditions of receiving credit. The settlement contains record keeping provisions to allow the Commission to monitor compliance.
The Commission vote to authorize the filing of the stipulated final judgment was 5-0.
NOTE: This consent judgment is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission of a law violation. Consent judgments have the force of law when signed by the judge.
Copies of the complaint and stipulated final judgment are available from the FTC's web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-FTC-HELP (202-382-4357); TDD for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.
Office of Public Affairs
Atlanta Regional Office
(Civil Action No. 1-97CIV 3087)
(FTC File No. X98 0018)