State Attorney General

The FTC’s pursuit of companies purportedly engaged in telemarketing scams is nothing new, but its recent settlement with a company that allegedly assisted a fraudulent telemarketer by providing a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service is the first of its kind. VoIP is a technology that allows a company to make voice calls using a broadband Internet connection instead of a regular (or analog) phone line. VoIP services can make telemarketing more efficient and cheaper—particularly for autodialing and sending prerecorded messages. These features make it an attractive option for both legitimate and fraudulent telemarketers alike.

On July 29, 2019, the FTC and the Ohio attorney general sued Educare Center Services, Inc. (Educare), among other related entities and individuals, for engaging in an alleged telemarketing scheme that falsely promised consumers that Educare could significantly reduce the interest rate on consumers’ credit cards, along with a 100% money back guarantee. Educare collected payments from consumers using Remotely Created Payment Orders (RCPOs), in direct contravention of the Telemarketing Sales Rule.


Continue Reading VoIP, Meet VoIR—FTC Settlement Signals That Voice over Internet Robocall Service Providers Are Fair Game

Last week, the Arizona Attorney General filed a complaint against telemarketer Valley Delivery LLC and affiliated companies Next Day Delivery LLC and My Home Services LLC, and an individual defendant, Mathew Willes, for allegedly distributing fake missed package slips to homeowners to collect their personal information in a “delivery slip scheme.” While the conduct here seems particularly egregious, the case serves as a good reminder that the State AGs remain focused on consumer protection issues especially involving personal data and telemarketing.

The complaint alleged that since January 2017, Valley Delivery gathered new homeowners’ addresses from the county recorder’s office and then dispatched “delivery drivers” to those addresses to post fake delivery slips, with the caption “Sorry We Missed You” on the door of each home. The delivery slips contained a callback telephone number, purportedly for consumers to reschedule the delivery. However, when consumers dialed the callback number on the slips, representatives allegedly collected consumers’ information for telemarketing purposes by affiliated companies and third parties. In addition, according to the complaint, the defendants created websites with false information about the company meant to induce consumers to contact the companies about their “missed delivery.” The defendants allegedly failed to provide sufficient disclosure to consumers concerning their business practices, both on the companies’ websites and on the delivery slips themselves. Even though, there was a purported disclaimer on the back of the slip that any contact information customers provide may be used by the companies or any of its partners for marketing purposes, many homeowners did not see this less conspicuous language placed in a smaller font than the language on the front of the slip.


Continue Reading Arizona Attorney General’s Second Crackdown on the Same Telemarketer

Dollar General, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar will pay $1.2 million in fines and restitution to the New York Attorney General to resolve allegations that they routinely sold expired medicines and failed to comply with New York’s bottle deposit law. The bulk of the penalty – $1.1 million – will be paid by Dollar General, which is accused of selling two types of motor oil that have been obsolete for almost 30 and 90 years, respectively.

Investigators began secretly shopping at the discount chains in March 2016, inspecting shelves for expired products. At stores throughout the state of New York, they found over-the-counter medicines for sale months past their expiration dates. At Dollar General stores, they also found at least two types of store-brand motor oil that is not suitable for most modern car engines. One type of motor oil has been obsolete since 1988, and the other since 1930. These motor oils were placed on store shelves next to, and used packaging with the same or similar descriptors as, brand-name motor oils that are suitable for modern engines. There were no signs or other indicators to warn customers that they should be used only on antique vehicles.


Continue Reading A Day Late and $1.2M Short: NY AG Fines Dollar Store Chains for Selling Expired Medicines and Obsolete Motor Oil, Violating Bottle Deposit Law

A bipartisan, public/private coalition of 51 attorneys general and 12 phone companies have agreed to create the “Anti-Robocall Principles,” a set of eight principles to fight “illegal robocalls” that the phone companies have voluntarily agreed to adopt by incorporation, or continued incorporation into their business practices.  The principles are available here and press release is here.

Why it matters:  “Illegal and unwanted robocalls continue to harm and hassle people every day. Consumer fraud often originates with an illegal call, and robocalls regularly interrupt our daily lives.  Robocalls and telemarketing calls are the number one source of consumer complaints at many state Attorneys General offices, as well as at both the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission.  State Attorneys General are on the front lines of enforcing do-not-call laws and helping people who are scammed and harassed by these calls.” according to the principles.

The coalition of companies includes twelve major carriers.


Continue Reading Anti-Robocall Principles Agreed to by Carriers and State AGs

In February 2018, the FTC teamed up with the Missouri Attorney General’s office in filing a complaint against a prize promotions company and others that allegedly operated a large-scale deceptive prize scam targeting the elderly. A little more than a year later, the FTC and the Missouri AG’s office announced that they reached a settlement

Astroturf was again in the news last week, but not because the big game whose name we can’t mention was played on synthetic turf. Rather, last week, the office of the NY Attorney General (“AG”) announced it reached a precedent-setting settlement with artificial engagement company Devumi LLC and related companies (“Devumi”) over the selling of

handshakeA notable Venable alum stopped by the NAD conference last Tuesday morning to give the room an insider’s view into the Office of Attorney General in the District of Columbia. After a moving moment of silence for the victims of hurricanes, the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas, and his mother who had recently had a stroke, Attorney General Racine gave the room an overview of the goings-on and priorities of his office as well as his thoughts on the priorities of AG offices around the country.

With respect to investigations, General Racine confirmed what the crowd had long suspected. With speculation that the new administration may be less active when it comes to enforcement actions related to consumer protection, General Racine said that “the states are not going to back down.” General Racine has been and continues to be in regular communication with his counterparts in other states (on both sides of the aisle) working to bring about enforcement actions to protect consumers. At least one example where states are taking a leading role is a major investigation into resort fees and drip pricing where the federal government was once an active participant but has since taken more of a background role. The 50 states involved have stepped up and are actively pursuing the investigation.


Continue Reading Here Come the States—An Insider’s Look into the D.C. AG’s Office

heartbeatAs we have written before, mobile apps geared toward health and fitness have become increasingly popular—and an increasingly popular target for regulators. This makes sense. Health and fitness apps can pose a serious risk if consumers rely on them for personal health information that turns out to be inaccurate or misleading. And the risk goes both ways—an app can provide false reassurance that you’re perfectly healthy when you should really be seeing a doctor, or it can prompt you to seek unnecessary medical attention for a medical issue that’s not an issue at all.

It perhaps comes as little surprise, then, that an app that claims to accurately measure your heart rate—a pretty important indicator of health, you could say—would draw the scrutiny of a State AG.

The New York Attorney General in late March announced settlements with three mobile health app developers that allegedly made misleading and deceptive claims about their apps’ ability to accurately measure heart rates and monitor and play fetal heartbeats. Notably, the settlements also included allegations that the developers maintained inadequate privacy policies that failed to inform consumers about the scope of the developers’ data collection and storage practices. These settlements brought to a close the New York AG’s yearlong investigation into the app developers.


Continue Reading NY AG Doesn’t Miss a Beat, Settles Three Cases with Mobile Health App Developers

busLegal history is replete with stories of persons or companies turning a manageable legal problem into a more serious one by trying to hide or destroy evidence, see Watergate and Arthur Anderson/Enron for two notable examples. A recent case involving a bus company executive provides a good case study in what not to do when facing a government investigation and the consequences of trying to hide or destroy evidence in an investigation.

Ralph Groen worked as a VP for Information Technology for Coach USA, a tour bus company. Beginning in 2009, the NY AG and the US DOJ began investigating Coach USA and another company forming a joint venture to corner the tour bus market in New York City and thereby drive up prices. The DOJ and NY AG sued the companies in 2012 and the companies settled in 2015 by agreeing to pay $7.5 million and breaking up much of the joint venture.


Continue Reading When the Cover Up Is Worse Than the Crime