Announced Actions for March 23, 2004

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Commission approval of consent in settlement of court action: The Commission has approved a consent in settlement of a court action brought against Castle Publishing (Castle) and Treigh Dustin Hubbard, individually and as the sole owner of Castle. The FTC filed its complaint against Castle, a Texas sole proprietorship, and Hubbard as part of its December 2003 law enforcement sweep, “Operation Pushing the Envelope,” an effort to crack down on envelope-stuffing business opportunity fraud. According to the FTC, since early 2001, the defendants fraudulently marketed and sold worthless envelope-stuffing business opportunities to consumers throughout the United States using unsolicited home mailers containing numerous false claims. Many of their customers were unemployed, disabled, or elderly consumers who hoped to earn an income working from home.

The stipulated final order announced today settles the FTC’s charges against the defendants and permanently bans Hubbard from marketing any work-at-home business opportunity. The order also contains a monetary judgment of $5.4 million in restitution, which is suspended based on Hubbard’s inability to pay. If he is found to have misrepresented his financial condition to the Commission, however, the entire judgment would be due. The order also includes standard record-keeping provisions to ensure the defendants’ compliance with its terms. It was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division, on March 16, 2004, and entered by the court on March 18, 2004. The Commission vote to approve the settlement of the court action was 5-0. (FTC File No. X040012; Civ. No. A03CA 905SS; staff contact is Randy Brook, FTC Northwest Region, 206-220-4487; see press release dated December 16, 2003.)

Release of Commission report: The Commission has authorized the staff to release publicly the 26th Annual Report to Congress on the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The FDCPA prohibits abusive, deceptive, and otherwise improper collection practices by third-party debt collectors. Section 815 of the FDCPA requires the Commission to submit annual reports to Congress. This report summarizes the Commission’s administration and enforcement of the FDCPA during 2003. It presents an overview of the types of consumer complaints received by the Commission, a summary of the Commission’s consumer and industry education initiatives, and descriptions of the Commission’s debt-collection enforcement cases that became public in 2003. The report also contains four recommendations for amendments to the FDCPA that the Commission believes will improve the statute’s clarity and effectiveness as a law enforcement tool. The Commission vote to issue the report was 5-0. (FTC File No. P044805; staff contact is Thomas E. Kane, Bureau of Consumer Protection, 202-326-3224.)

Copies of the documents mentioned in this release are available from the FTC’s Web site at and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580. Call toll-free: 1-877-FTC-HELP.

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