Lamb, Bogash settle deception allegations with FTC to the tune of $900,000
March 19, 2018
•Land Line Staff
A pair of owners of online permitting and registration services have settled a complaint levied by the Federal Trade Commission, agreeing to pay $900,000.
Operating under four separate businesses, James Lamb and Uliana Bogash, agreed to settle a Federal Trade Commission compliant alleging the pair tricked trucking companies into paying them for various registration fees by impersonating or falsely claiming affiliation with the Department of Transportation and other agencies.
The settlement stems from a September 2016 complaint filed by the Federal Trade Commission alleging that Lamb and Bogash, through their four businesses, collected permit fees using deceptive tactics.
In September 2016, the FTC charged that Lamb, Bogash, DOTAuthority.com Inc., DOTFilings.com Inc., Excelsior Enterprises International Inc., and JPL Enterprises International Inc. tricked small businesses into purchasing their registration services by falsely claiming to be affiliated with government agencies in violation of the FTC Act, according to an FTC news release announcing the settlement. The pair also allegedly failed to disclose the service fee associated with their services or to adequately distinguish it from the actual government registration fee.
According to the FTC’s complaint, the defendants took in more than $19 million from thousands of small businesses by sending misleading robocalls, emails, and text messages that create and reinforce the false impression that they are, or are affiliated with, the U.S. DOT, the UCR system, or another government agency. The defendants used official-sounding names, official-looking websites, warnings of $1,000 in civil penalties or fines for noncompliance, and threats of imminent law enforcement to trick consumers into using their registration services instead of using official government website services.
In addition to the initial permit fees, the FTC alleged that customers were enrolled in an automatic billing service for future payments in violation of the Restore Online Shoppers Confidence Act.
The settlement order was filed March 16 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. In the settlement, Lamb and Bogash are banned from misrepresenting affiliation with any government entity and from using consumers’ billing information to obtain payments without consumers’ express consent. They must also adequately disclose that they are a private third-party service provider and any fees associated with their services.
The order imposes a $900,000 judgment that must be paid within one day.
The commission voted to approve the stipulated final order that outlines the term of the settlement. Once filed with the court and signed by the judge, the order carries the force of law.