Month: July 2022

FTC Takes Action to Stop Payment Processor First American from Trapping Small Businesses with Surprise Exit Fees and Zombie Charges


The Federal Trade Commission today took action against payment processing company First American Payment Systems and two of its sales affiliates for trapping small businesses with hidden terms, surprise exit fees, and zombie charges. The FTC alleges that the defendants made false claims about fees and cost savings to lure merchants, many of whom had limited English proficiency. Once merchants were enrolled, the defendants withdrew funds from their accounts without their consent, and made it difficult and expensive for them to cancel the service. Under a proposed federal court order, the defendants will be required to return $4.9 million to harmed businesses, stop their deception, and make it easier for merchants to cancel their services.  

“First American lured small businesses in with false promises of low costs and an easy exit, and hit them with surprise fees and illegal charges when they tried to get out,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Today’s order returns millions to merchants, bans unauthorized billings, and makes it easier for customers to cancel.”

Texas-based First American Payment Systems provides payment processing services across the country, which it markets through its affiliates Eliot Management Group and Think Point Financial. They market their services to small- and medium-sized businesses who rely on credit cards, debit cards, and checks as a way to accept payment from their customers. Payment processors generally serve as an intermediary between companies that accept credit and debit cards and the banks that issue the cards or checks.

The FTC’s investigation found that First American relied on deceptive pitches to businesses to convince them to use the company’s services, and when businesses attempted to cancel, the company would often hit them with cancellation fees based on contract terms that were hidden in fine print in their signup system, as well as debit their accounts without authorization.

First American is charged with engaging in a number of harmful practices against merchants:

  • Deceiving businesses about pricing and savings with hidden terms: The defendants pitched businesses with promises of small monthly fees, sometimes as low as zero, but the FTC’s complaint alleges that these claims were often false. The defendants also claimed that the businesses would save a lot of money over the course of a year by switching to defendants’ services but did not take into account the fact that First American periodically raises its prices for existing customers.
  • Imposing surprise fees when small businesses try to cancel: The complaint alleges that defendants’ sales people regularly promise businesses they will be able to cancel services any time or within a trial period without a fee, when the company’s standard written agreement requires businesses to sign on to a three-year term with a $495 cancellation fee. In many instances, the business owners have limited English proficiency, and while the sales are conducted in their native language, the paperwork is only available in English.
  • Using an online enrollment system that obscures key contract terms: The defendants’ online enrollment system for new customers hid a three-year obligation, cancellation requirements and fees, the fact that agreements would automatically renew, and other important information from business owners, the complaint alleges. These important facts often were in densely-packed documents that required business owners to click separate links to find.
  • Hitting small businesses with zombie charges after they withdraw consent accounts: The complaint alleges that First American continued to make withdrawals from businesses’ bank accounts even after the businesses have withdrawn consent. For example, the complaint alleges that at times when a business acts to stop payments to the company from their bank, First American will attempt further withdrawals under different business names to evade stop payment orders.

Enforcement Action

The defendants in this case have agreed to a proposed federal court order that will require them to:

  • Stop misleading consumers: The order will prohibit the defendants from misleading consumers about important contract terms like cancellation fees, while also prohibiting them making any unsubstantiated claims about their products or services, including specific pricing promises.
  • Stop unauthorized bank withdrawals: The defendants will be prohibited from making withdrawals from any of their customers’ bank accounts without authorization, or after the customer has stopped any attempt to debit money from their account or communicated to the defendants that they refuse payment.
  • Make cancellation easier: The defendants will be required to put a cancellation procedure in place that businesses can easily discover and use.
  • Stop charging existing customers early termination fees: For consumers who signed electronic agreements with First American before April 6, 2020, the defendants will be prohibited from collecting any early termination fees or telling these customers that they will owe such fees if they cancel.
  • Provide money to refund consumers: The defendants will be required to turn over $4.9 million to the FTC, which will be used to provide refunds to affected businesses.

Today’s action builds on the Commission’s ongoing work to protect small businesses from unfair, deceptive, and anticompetitive practices. Over the last year the Commission has required the largest small business credit reporting agency to clean up its reporting practices, obtained industry bans against lenders that targeted small businesses with confessions of judgment, enforced a new prohibition on Made in USA labeling fraud, took action to protect fast food franchisees, and proposed new protections for businesses against telemarketing tricks and traps.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint and stipulated final order was 5-0. The FTC filed the complaint and final order/injunction in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the named defendants are violating or are about to violate the law and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. Stipulated final injunctions/orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.



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Federal Trade Commission Finalizes Action Against “Made in USA” Offender Who Ripped “Made in China” Tags Out of Apparel, Replacing Them with “Made in USA” Tags


The Federal Trade Commission has finalized an order against apparel company Lions Not Sheep Products, LLC, and its owner Sean Whalen for falsely claiming that its imported apparel is Made in USA. Lions Not Sheep Products, LLC, and Whalen will pay $211,335.

First announced in May 2022, the FTC’s complaint alleged that the company added phony Made in USA labels to clothing imported from China and other countries. In addition to the monetary judgment, the FTC’s order requires Whalen and Utah-based Lions Not Sheep to:

  • Stop making bogus Made in USA claims, and
  • Come clean about foreign production.

Under the order, Whalen and Lions Not Sheep must stop claiming that products are made in the United States unless they can show that the product’s final assembly or processing—and all significant processing—takes place here and that all or virtually all ingredients or components of the product are made and sourced here.

Also under the order, any qualified Made in USA claims must include a clear and conspicuous disclosure about the extent to which the product contains foreign parts, ingredients or components, or processing. Finally, to claim that a product is assembled in the United States, Whalen and Lions Not Sheep must ensure that it is last substantially transformed in the United States, its principal assembly takes place in the United States, and U.S. assembly operations are substantial.

The FTC’s Enforcement Policy Statement on U.S. Origin Claims provides further guidance on making non-deceptive “Made in USA” claims. The agency’s Made in USA page features cases, instructive closing letters, and the brochure Complying with the Made in USA Standard, which answers many of the questions companies ask. Threading Your Way Through the Labeling Requirements Under the Textile and Wool Acts provides further information on labeling textile products. The FTC’s Made in USA Labeling Rule went into effect on August 13, 2021. Companies that violate the Rule from that date forward may be subject to civil penalties.

The Commission voted 5-0 to approve the final order in this case.



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FTC Extends its Crackdown on Subscription Scam That Fleeced Consumers and Harassed Them Over the Phone


The Federal Trade Commission today resolved an action against the purveyor of a subscription scam called Publishers Business Services and its officers, Brenda Dantuma Schang, Dries Dantuma, Dirk Dantuma, and Jeffrey Dantuma, obtaining a court order that holds them accountable for the deceptive telemarketing scheme they used to fleece consumers and harass them over the phone. The order also imposes a suspended $14.47 million penalty.

“The FTC shut down this subscription scam years ago, and today we’re obtaining a permanent order holding its ringleaders accountable,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “We won’t back down from challenging firms that use tricks, traps, or threats when selling subscriptions or anything else.”

As alleged in the Commission’s 2008 complaint, which was filed as part of an enforcement sweep, The defendants called consumers pretending to conduct a survey. At the end of the survey, they allegedly offered “free” or low-cost magazine subscriptions. Weeks later they sent consumers a bill falsely stating they agreed to pay several hundred dollars for the magazine subscriptions. The defendants made cancelling very difficult and harassed consumers who refused to pay the exorbitant bills, including by threatening to initiate collection actions or threatening to submit derogatory information about them to the major credit bureaus.

Enforcement Action

The proposed order announced today follows a permanent injunction entered against the Publishers Business Services in 2010 that shuttered their operations. That order remains in place today and prohibits them from committing similar wrongdoing in the future. Provisions of the new order include:

  • Monetary judgment. The order imposes a suspended judgment of $14.47 million against the defendants and requires them to give up all claims to money already paid to the Commission in this case; and
  • Potential contempt remedies for any future violations. The defendants are required to monitor their compliance with the proposed order and may face significant contempt remedies if they violate its terms.

The Commission’s original monetary relief in this action was vacated following the Supreme Court’s decision in AMG Capital Management LLC v. FTC, which would have resulted in a monetary windfall to the alleged scammers behind Publishers Business Services. The FTC’s settlement of this matter for a suspended judgment of $14.47 million, after originally having been awarded $24 million at trial, demonstrates the challenges since the Supreme Court’s AMG decision.

The Commission vote approving the stipulated final order was 4-0-1, with Commissioner Alvaro M. Bedoya not participating. The FTC filed the proposed order in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada.

NOTE: Stipulated final orders or injunctions have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.

 

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and protect and educate consumers. Learn more about consumer topics at consumer.ftc.gov, or report fraud, scams, and bad business practices at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Follow the FTC on social media, read consumer alerts and the business blog, and sign up to get the latest FTC news and alerts.



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FTC Shuts Down Credit Repair Pyramid Scheme Financial Education Services, Which Bilked More Than $213 Million from Consumers


The Federal Trade Commission has taken action against Financial Education Services and its owners, Parimal Naik, Michael Toloff, Christopher Toloff and Gerald Thompson, as well as a number of related companies, for scamming consumers out of more than $213 million.

In response to a complaint filed by the FTC, a federal court has temporarily shut down the sprawling bogus credit repair scheme. The FTC’s complaint alleges that the company preys on consumers with low credit scores by luring them in with the false promise of an easy fix and then recruiting them to join a pyramid scheme selling the same worthless credit repair services to others. 

“These defendants collected millions in junk fees as part of a pyramid scheme that peddled phony credit repair products,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “We are pleased that the court shut down this operation and froze its assets, and we will continue to pursue firms that prey on families’ economic pain.”

According to the FTC’s complaint, Michigan-based Financial Education Services, also doing business as United Wealth Services, has operated its scheme since at least 2015. The company claims to offer consumers the ability to remove negative information from credit reports and increase credit scores by hundreds of points, charging as much as $89 per month for their services. Their techniques, according to the complaint, are rarely effective and in many instances harm consumer’s credit scores.

The FTC’s investigation found that the company’s scheme combines charging consumers for these worthless credit repair services with a hard sell to join a pyramid scheme that consists of selling the worthless services to more consumers. The complaint alleges that the company’s practices violate the FTC Act, the Credit Repair Organizations Act, and the Telemarketing Sales Rule. Specifically, the agency alleges that the defendants:

  • Deceived consumers about credit repair: Financial Education Services uses social media, telemarketing, bogus “testimonials, and a network of sales agents across the country to deceive consumers, falsely promising in English and Spanish that they can remove negative information from credit reports and increase credit scores. The complaint alleges that the company has often merely sent consumers form letters to send to credit bureaus that did not result in the promised changes.
  • Sold ineffective rent payment products: The company also sells an additional product that supposedly sends rent payment information to credit bureaus, but the complaint notes that this information is not generally part of consumers’ credit scores and many credit bureaus don’t accept this kind of information directly from consumers
  • Charged consumers upfront for credit repair: The company charges consumers upfront for credit repair services, which is illegal. The complaint alleges that consumers are charged $99 upfront, and then pay a recurring monthly fee as high as $89 for the ineffective services. The company also regularly fails to provide consumers important information required by law, including refund and cancellation policies.
  • Operated a pyramid scheme: The company also encourages consumers to become Financial Education Services “agents” themselves, selling the company’s services to other consumers. Agents make outlandish income claims that consumers can make more than $1,000 weekly in the scheme and earn bonuses of tens of thousands of dollars. The complaint also alleges that consumers must pay hundreds of dollars to join the scheme and pay for the company’s bogus credit repair services each month, even if they don’t need them. The compensation structure for the scheme has hallmarks of a pyramid scheme, with increasing levels of compensation and titles based on the number of members recruited, and an emphasis on the importance of recruiting new members. Few, if any, consumers make the income promised, and many consumers lose money as agents.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint and request for temporary restraining order was 4-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

The FTC appreciates the assistance of the Georgia Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Division in bringing this case.

NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the named defendants are violating or are about to violate the law and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The case will be decided by the court.



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Federal Trade Commission Returns More Than $255,000 To Consumers Harmed by Abusive Debt Collector Vantage Point Services


The Federal Trade Commission is sending 5,726 checks totaling more than $255,000 to consumers who were harmed by Vantage Point Services’ illegal debt collection practices.

Consumers who receive checks should cash them within 90 days, as indicated on the check. Recipients who have questions about their refund should call the refund administrator, JND Legal Administration, at 877-389-2224. The Commission never requires people to pay money or provide account information to get a refund.

Explore Data with the FTCIn 2018, the FTC negotiated a settlement with Vantage Point, permanently banning Vantage Point and its executives from the debt collection business. The settlement also prohibits these defendants from misrepresenting material facts about financial-related products and services, profiting from customers’ personal information collected as part of the challenged practices, and failing to dispose of such information properly.

The FTC and the State of New York sued Vantage Point in 2015, alleging that the debt collection company used threats and abusive language, including false threats that consumers would be arrested, to collect supposed debts from thousands of consumers.

In their complaint against Vantage Point, the FTC and New York alleged that the company often falsely claimed to be a law firm, process server, or even affiliated with the government when talking to consumers. In some instances, they posed as FBI agents and district attorneys, and in other cases they falsely claimed they were working as an intermediary with the state, or that the state had placed the consumers’ account with them to give them a chance to pay the debt before criminal charges were filed.

The defendants, using these deceptions, falsely claimed that consumers had committed a crime and that an arrest warrant would be issued unless they made a payment. Often, the defendants told consumers that they would spend months in jail or would need to pay thousands of dollars in bail if they didn’t pay. In some cases, the defendants falsely told third parties, including consumers’ friends and employers, that the consumers had committed a crime and that a warrant had been issued for their arrest.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2021 that the Commission lacks authority under Section 13(b) to seek monetary relief in federal court going forward. The money being returned to consumers today comes from settlements that were entered before the Supreme Court’s decision. The Commission has urged Congress to restore the Commission’s ability to get money back for consumers.

The Commission’s interactive dashboards for refund data provide a state-by-state breakdown of Commission refunds. In 2020, Commission actions led to more than $483 million in refunds to consumers across the country.



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Federal Trade Commission Returns More Than $542,000 To Consumers Harmed by Bogus Money-Making Scheme Digital Income System


The Federal Trade Commission is sending 1,064 checks totaling more than $542,000 to consumers who were harmed by a bogus business and investment scheme known as Digital Income System.

Explore Date with the FTCConsumers who receive checks should cash them within 90 days, as indicated on the check. Recipients who have questions about their refund, or who didn’t receive a check and believe they may be eligible for a refund, should call the refund administrator, Rust Consulting, Inc., at 833-539-2840. The Commission never requires people to pay money or provide account information to get a refund.

The FTC sued Digital Income System in 2020 as part of the Operation Income Illusion sweep, alleging that the Florida-based scam falsely told consumers that by selling memberships in the defendants’ programs, they were likely to earn large sums of money. The defendants claimed on their website that participants would “earn between $500 and $12,500 per sale,” and “Every time one of our professionals closes a sale on your behalf, we will send you a huge commission check right to your doorstep.”  According to the FTC’s complaint, though, the vast majority of consumers who paid the defendants never earned substantial income, and in fact, many consumers earned nothing.

The Commission’s interactive dashboards for refund data provide a state-by-state breakdown of Commission refunds. In 2020, Commission actions led to more than $483 million in refunds to consumers across the country, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2021 that the Commission lacks authority under Section 13(b) to seek monetary relief in federal court going forward. The Commission has urged Congress to restore the Commission’s ability to get money back for consumers.



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FTC Looks to Modernize Its Guidance on Preventing Digital Deception


The staff of the Federal Trade Commission is seeking the public’s input on ways to modernize the agency’s business guidance titled “.com Disclosures: How to Make Effective Disclosures in Digital Advertising.” First published in March 2013, this resource provides guidance to businesses on digital advertising and marketing.

As digital deception grows in sophistication, some companies are wrongly citing the guides to justify practices that mislead consumers online. For example, firms have claimed that they can avoid liability under the FTC Act by burying disclosures behind hyperlinks, a practice that can expose consumers to financial fraud, intrusive surveillance, and other harms.

“We know that some companies are wrongly citing our current guides to justify dark patterns and other forms of digital deception,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “We are looking to update the guides to make clear that online tricks and traps will not be tolerated, and we look forward to hearing from the public on this initiative.”

FTC staff is seeking public input to ensure the guides are helping honest businesses treat consumers fairly, rather than being used as a shield by firms looking to deceive. In seeking public comment on possible revisions, staff is interested in the technical and legal issues that consumers, the FTC’s law enforcement partners, and others believe should be addressed. The issues on which FTC staff is seeking comment include:

  • the use of sponsored and promoted advertising on social media;
  • advertising embedded in games and virtual reality and microtargeted advertisements;
  • the ubiquitous use of dark patterns, manipulative user interface designs used on websites and mobile apps, and in digital advertising that pose unique risks to consumers;
  • whether the current guidance adequately addresses advertising on mobile devices;
  • whether additional guidance is needed to reflect the multi-party selling arrangements involved in online commerce and affiliate marketing arrangements;
  • how the guidance on the use of hyperlinks can be strengthened to better protect consumers; and
  • the adequacy of online disclosures when consumers must navigate multiple webpages;

The FTC will seek public comment beginning today and continuing through August 2, 2022. Information on how to submit comments can be found here. 

This is one of a number of initiatives the FTC is undertaking to tackle dark patterns and digital deception, including issuing a click-to-cancel policy statement, proposing strengthened advertising guidelines against fake and manipulated reviews, arming staff with new tools to investigate dark patterns, and authorizing a Notice of Penalty Offense against deceptive reviews.



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New Analysis Finds Consumers Reported Losing More than $1 Billion in Cryptocurrency to Scams since 2021


Consumers reported losing over $1 billion to fraud involving cryptocurrencies from January 2021 through March 2022, according to a new analysis from the Federal Trade Commission. Fraud reports suggest cryptocurrency is quickly becoming the payment of choice for many scammers, with about one out of every four dollars reported lost to fraud paid in cryptocurrency.

The FTC’s latest Consumer Protection Data Spotlight finds that most of the cryptocurrency losses consumers reported involved bogus cryptocurrency investment opportunities, which totaled $575 million in reported losses since January 2021. These scams often falsely promise potential investors that they can earn huge returns by investing in their cryptocurrency schemes, but people report losing all the money they “invest.”

After cryptocurrency investment schemes, the next largest losses reported by consumers were on:

  • Romance Scams: These often involve a love interest who tries to entice someone into investing in what turns out to be a cryptocurrency scam.
  • Business and Government Impersonation Scams: Reports show these scammers often target consumers by claiming their money is at risk because of fraud or a government investigation and the only way to protect their cash is by converting it to cryptocurrency.

Reports suggest that cryptocurrency-related scams often begin on social media. Nearly half of consumers who reported a cryptocurrency related scam since 2021 said it started with an ad, post or message on a social media platform.

People ages 20 to 49 were more than three times as likely as older age groups to have reported losing money to a cryptocurrency scam. Older age groups, however, reported losing more money when they did report a cryptocurrency-related scam.

Some of the red flags consumers should watch out for include:

  • anyone who claims they can guarantee profits or big returns by investing in cryptocurrency;
  • people who require you to buy or pay in cryptocurrency; and
  • a love interest who wants to show you how to invest in cryptocurrency or to send them cryptocurrency.



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FTC Staff Provides Annual Report to CFPB On 2021 Activities Regarding Financial Acts


The staff of the Federal Trade Commission has provided its annual report to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on its enforcement and related activities in 2021 regarding the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), Consumer Leasing Act (CLA), and Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA).

The report highlights the FTC’s enforcement actions related to the Acts and their implementing regulations, including in the areas of automobile purchases and financing, payday lending, credit repair and debt relief, and electronic fund transfers:

  • Automobile Purchase and Financing: The report notes the FTC’s settlement with Richard Berry, the owner and manager of four auto dealers, in the FTC’s action against Tate’s Auto for falsifying consumers’ information on financing applications and misrepresenting financial terms in advertisements. The settlement provides for a $450,000 payment to the FTC for consumer redress, and prohibits Berry from misrepresenting the costs or other material facts related to vehicle financing and from violating the TILA and CLA. The report also notes the Commission’s administrative opinion and order against Traffic Jam Events for sending consumers deceptive mailers about COVID-19 benefits and potential prize winnings, and violating the TILA including by quoting monthly payments for consumers to purchase vehicles that failed to provide or hid in fine print key financing terms required by law. The order bans the defendants from the auto industry, prohibits misrepresentations regarding financial assistance from the government, and requires compliance with TILA.  
  • Payday Lending: The report highlights the FTC’s settlement against Harvest Moon Financial for overcharging consumers millions of dollars, deceiving them about the terms of their loans and failing to make required loan disclosures. According to the report, the owners and operators of the settling entities are banned from making loans or extending credit, nearly all debt held by the company will be deemed paid in full, and the companies involved are being liquidated, with the proceeds to be used to provide redress to consumers harmed by the company.  
  • Credit Repair and Debt Relief: The report discusses the FTC’s settlement with the operators of a student loan debt relief scheme (Student Advocates Team), charged with falsely promising consumers the company could lower or eliminate student loan balances, illegally imposing upfront fees for credit repair services, and signing consumers up for high-interest loans to pay the fees without making required loan disclosures in violation of TILA. The order bans the defendants from providing debt relief services and from collecting any further payments from consumers who purchased the services, and  requires the defendants to return money to be used to refund consumers.

The report also highlights the agency’s Military Task Force, which comprises a cross-section of FTC representatives and focuses on various initiatives to assist military consumers. The report further outlines the FTC’s consumer and business education efforts on truth in lending and electronic fund transfer issues, including updates about vehicle purchases and financing and  add-on products and services that can cost consumers thousands of extra dollars, and information about how debit and prepaid cards differ from other cards and important considerations about each type of card.

The FTC also has provided a copy of the report to the Federal Reserve Board.



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FTC Action Results in Ban for Richmond Capital and Owner From Merchant Cash Advance and Debt Collection Industries and Return of More Than $2.7M to Consumers


The Federal Trade Commission’s lawsuit against RCG Advances, LLC and Robert Giardina has led to a court order that permanently bans the company and owner from the merchant cash advance industry for deceiving and threatening small businesses and their owners. The FTC alleged that the scheme’s operators lied to small business owners about terms and fees for their financing, and threatened them with violence when they were unable to pay. In addition, the court ordered RCG Advances and Giardina to make an upfront payment of $1.5 million and subsequent payment of more than $1.2 million to refund consumers.

“These defendants lied to small businesses about financing, stole money from their accounts, made violent threats, and gave false documents to the courts,” said Samuel Levine, the Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.  “This order bans them from the merchant cash advance business and requires them to return money to the businesses they cheated.”  

RCG Advances and Giardina, along with the other defendants in the FTC’s case, operated a merchant cash advance scheme since at least 2015, the agency alleged. Merchant cash advances are a type of alternative small business financing. Generally speaking, merchant cash advance companies provide funds to businesses in exchange for a percentage of the businesses’ revenue, which typically are paid through daily withdrawals from the business’s bank account. 

The FTC’s investigation found that the defendants in the case, including RCG Advances and Giardina, lied to small businesses about numerous elements of the financing agreements before they were signed, and broke the law in their communications with businesses and their owners after the fact. The harms to small businesses and their owners were extensive, including:

  • Deceiving consumers about personal guarantees: The defendants’ websites falsely claimed that their cash advances required “no personal guaranty of collateral from business owners,” meaning that the people obtaining financing on behalf of companies would not have their personal possessions treated as collateral. In fact, their contracts did include those requirements.
     
  • Forcing consumers and businesses into confessions of judgment: The defendants also required businesses and their owners to sign confessions of judgment, which allow the defendants to immediately obtain an uncontested judgment in case of an alleged default. The complaint alleges that the defendants illegally and unfairly used these confessions of judgment to unexpectedly and improperly seize consumers’ personal and business assets.
  • Providing less funding than promised: The complaint alleges that when businesses received their funding from the defendants, it was often thousands of dollars less than promised. The shortfall was due to large supposed fees that were not disclosed to the business owners. This happened despite the defendants marketing promises of “no upfront fees.”
  • Threatening consumers and businesses: The complaint alleges that the defendants made threatening calls to consumers, including telling one man that they would “break his jaw” if he did not make his payments and, in another case, threatening to ruin a consumer’s reputation by falsely accusing him of being a child molester if he did not pay.

Enforcement Action

Under a court order agreed to by the defendants in order to settle the case, they will be:

  • Permanently banned from the business financing and debt collection industries.
  • Required to vacate judgments and liens: The defendants are being ordered to vacate any judgments against their former customers and to release any liens against their customers’ property.
  • Prohibited from misleading consumers: The defendants will be prohibited from misleading consumers about any key facts about any good or service, including any fees, the total cost of the product, and other facts that reflect their deceptions in this case.
  • Pay more than $2.7 million: The defendants are being ordered to pay more than $2.7 million, which will be used to provide refunds to consumers harmed by their actions.

The FTC previously obtained a court order in settlement with defendants RAM Capital Funding, LLC and Tzvi Reich. The FTC’s case against remaining defendant Jonathan Braun is still under way.

The Commission vote approving the stipulated final order was 4-0-1, with Commissioner Alvaro M. Bedoya not participating. The FTC filed the proposed order in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

NOTE: Stipulated final orders or injunctions have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.



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