Written By:
IVN
News Tags: Fraud, Online Auctions, Crime

Washington, DC - The Federal Trade Commission is mailing 53,595 refund checks totaling $748,070 to consumers nationwide who signed up for an online auction kit that was supposed to be free, but wasn’t. The kit actually cost consumers up to $59.95 per month if they failed to cancel a trial membership in a business opportunity program called Online Supplier.

The refunds are the result of actions the FTC brought against Commerce Planet and three of its principals, Michael Hill, Aaron Gravitz, and Charles Gugliuzza. According to the FTC’s amended complaint, Commerce Planet operated a website that deceptively pitched consumers a “free” kit with information about how to start a business selling products using online auction sites. Many consumers who ordered the kit were unwittingly enrolled in the Online Supplier program and charged monthly fees without their consent.

The company and defendants Hill and Gravitz agreed to settlements with the FTC. The court orders settling the allegations against these defendants required them to pay redress and prohibited them from engaging in the deceptive negative option and unauthorized billing practices described in the complaint. A court subsequently found Gugliuzza liable for the consumer injury and entered an order requiring him to pay consumer redress.

The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s findings, but remanded the case to allow the trial court to amend the order against Gugliuzza. Money collected from the judgments in each order is being used to send the refunds announced today.

Consumers who have questions about the refunds should contact the FTC’s refund administrator, Analytics Consulting, LLC, at 1-844-817-0897. Recipients should deposit or cash checks within 60 days, as indicated on the check. The FTC never requires people to pay money or provide account information to cash a refund check.