The operators of a registration service for motor carriers have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they impersonated, or falsely claimed affiliation with, the U.S. Department of Transportation and other government agencies to get small trucking businesses to pay them for federal and state motor carrier registrations.
Consumers who own and operate certain types of commercial vehicles must register annually with the Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) system or their state government and pay a fee based on their fleet size. These trucking businesses can typically register through the official UCR website or the official website of their state. Some of them also must file a Motor Carrier Identification Report every two years, which can be done at no charge on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website.
In September 2016, the FTC charged that James P. Lamb, Uliana Bogash, DOTAuthority.com Inc., DOTFilings.com Inc., Excelsior Enterprises International Inc. and JPL Enterprises International Inc. tricked small businesses into purchasing their registration services by falsely claiming to be affiliated with government agencies in violation of the FTC Act. They also allegedly failed to disclose the service fee associated with their services or to adequately distinguish it from the actual government registration fee. In addition, the FTC alleged that the defendants failed to disclose adequately that they were enrolling consumers in an automatic billing service for future payments in violation of the Restore Online Shoppers Confidence Act.
Under the settlement order, the defendants are banned from misrepresenting affiliation with any government entity and from using consumers’ billing information to obtain payments without consumers’ express consent. They must also adequately disclose that they are a private third-party service provider and any fees associated with their services. The order imposes a $900,000 judgment that must be paid within one day.
The Commission vote approving the stipulated final order was 2-0. The FTC filed the proposed order in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
NOTE: Stipulated final orders or injunctions have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.
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