The Federal Trade Commission has asked a U.S. district court to halt an operation that allegedly placed more than $70 million in bogus charges on consumers’ phone bills – charges for services the consumers never ordered, did not authorize and often did not know they had.
The agency also asked the court to freeze the operation's assets while the FTC moves forward with the case.
The FTC filed a complaint against American eVoice Ltd., eight other companies, Steven Sann and three other people for "cramming" unauthorized charges onto consumers’ phone bills. The complaint also alleges that the Missoula, Mont.-area defendants transferred the proceeds from their illegal cramming operation to a purported non-profit, Bibliologic Ltd., controlled by Steven Sann.
Hundreds of consumers complained that charges from $9.95 to $24.95 per month appeared out of the blue on their phone bills without their authorization. The FTC alleged that defendants told phone companies and third party “billing aggregators” that the consumers had authorized the charges by filling out forms on the internet.
The complaint names as defendants Sann; Terry Lane (aka Terry Sann); Nathan Sann; Robert Braach; American eVoice Ltd.; Emerica Media Corp.; FoneRight Inc.; Global Voice Mail Ltd.; HearYou2 Inc.; Network Assurance Inc.; SecuratDat Inc.; Techmax Solutions Inc.; and Voice Mail Professionals Inc. The complaint also names Bibliologic as a relief defendant.
Since January 2008, according to the complaint, the defendants have billed consumers for more than $70 million.
The FTC alleged that the defendants violated the Federal Trade Commission Act by:
- unfairly billing consumers for services they did not authorize; and
- deceptively representing that consumers were obligated to pay for the services.
The FTC also alleged that defendants channeled their illegal proceeds to Bibliologic, and that the purported non-profit organization has no right to the funds and must disgorge them to the FTC.