A federal district court has ordered a Montreal-based enterprise to stop calling consumers and selling nonexistent credit cards. The Federal Trade Commission alleged that the defendants cold-called United States’ consumers and promised them low interest, no annual fee credit cards, such as MasterCard and Visa, for up-front fees of as much as $299. The fees were electronically debited from consumers’ bank accounts using the Automated Clearing House (ACH) system, and the defendants never delivered the promised credit cards. It is illegal to charge an advance fee for a credit card. The settlement announced today prohibits the defendants from, among other things, misrepresenting their ability to arrange for major credit cards for consumers and requires them to pay redress.
In October 2003, the FTC filed a complaint against 9094-5114 Quebec, Inc. (operating as Kinito); Nikolaos Rothos; Stelios (Steve) Vrontakis; Anna Vrontakis; and Roberto Mendez alleging that they violated the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) in promoting advance-fee credit cards, and never delivering the credit cards.
The FTC has amended the complaint by adding ACMS, Inc., a Nevada company owned by Kinito. The defendants used ACMS to debit consumers’ bank accounts. The FTC also dismissed Anna Vrontakis as a defendant.
The stipulated order for permanent injunction and final judgment prohibits the defendants from misrepresenting:
- that they will provide, or arrange for, consumers to receive major credit cards; and
- their ability to provide any credit-related product, program, or service.
The order further prohibits the defendants from making misrepresentations or violating, or assisting others to violate, the TSR, including the provision that makes it illegal to offer a credit card for an advance fee. The order requires the defendants to pay redress from the account held by the ACH processor that they used, and contains a $6,546,126 suspended judgment that would become due if the court were to find that the defendants misrepresented their financial situation.
The FTC worked closely with the Canadian Competition Bureau on this case, and expresses its gratitude for the fine cooperation that it received from this consumer protection agency.
The Commission vote to authorize staff to file the proposed stipulated order for permanent injunction and final judgment, amend the complaint by adding AMCS, and to dismiss the complaint as to defendant Anna Vrontakis was 5-0. The documents were entered by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, on October 1, 2004.
NOTE: This stipulated order for permanent injunction and final judgment is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the defendant of a law violation. Stipulated order for permanent injunction and final judgments have the force of law when signed by the judge.
Copies of the stipulated order for permanent injunction and 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, 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 File No. 032 3126; Civil Action No. 03C 7486)
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