New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman's office filed a lawsuit Monday against Union Workers Credit Services Inc., and its president, Joe Malazzo, for false advertising and deceptive business practices as a result of their solicitations for a pre-approved "Platinum" credit card.
The company, based in Dallas, targeted union members with advertisements and solicitations claiming to offer a general purpose credit card. Consumers learned after paying an upfront fee of either $37 or $95 that the card could only be used to buy items from Union Workers Credit Service's limited catalog of merchandise. Other consumers paid the upfront fee and never received anything from Union Workers Credit Services at all.
The Attorney General Office's lawsuit seeks full restitution for any New Yorker who paid upfront fees to Union Workers Credit Services, a court order prohibiting the company from engaging in false advertising and deceptive business practices, as well as penalties and fees. For each deceptive solicitation the company sent to a prospective customer, the potential penalty is $5,000.
After reviewing hundreds of complaints from consumers, Schneiderman launched an investigation and determined that Union Workers Credit Services was targeting financially vulnerable consumers through direct mail solicitations and internet advertisements. The solicitations cause consumers to believe that the company is affiliated with their labor unions, making them more likely to apply.
Some of these solicitations display pictures of workers that are ordinarily members of labor unions, require consumers to select their labor union from a drop-down menu on the online application form, and display a statement at the top of a user's web browser that states, "Union Workers Credit Services - providing credit services to the Union Workers of America.”
Although the direct mail solicitation and web advertisements promise that consumers could receive refunds within 60 days if not satisfied with the "Platinum Card," the company routinely failed to provide refunds upon consumers’ requests.
Consumers in cities across New York, including Long Island, Buffalo, Ithaca and Rochester, received the union member solicitations.
This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Adam H. Cohen, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Jane M. Azia, Deputy Bureau Chief Laura J. Levine and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Karla G. Sanchez.