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Two Canadians Settle With Vermont Attorney General Over Unauthorized Billings
CONTACT: Elliot Burg, Assistant Attorney General, (802) 828-5479
February 26, 2013
The Vermont Attorney General’s Office has reached a settlement with John Bucci and Jeremie Arrobas, who ran an online advertising company that their customers said billed them without authorization; the company also used a Vermont address despite being located in Canada and failed to comply with Vermont’s cancellation requirements for telephone sales. Bucci, of Pierrefonds, Quebec, and Arrobas, of Montreal, have agreed to pay $20,000 in civil penalties and costs to the State of Vermont, and, depending upon their future income and assets, may be required to pay up to an additional $90,000 each.
Attorney General William H. Sorrell noted that unauthorized billings have been a major concern of his office. “Companies that charge people for purchases they did not order or consent to should expect to be penalized for their conduct,” he said. Attorney General Sorrell added that it was particularly of concern that the company in this case misrepresented itself as a Vermont firm.
The company that Bucci and Arrobas operated from 2008 to 2011 was called “Online Services,” and sometimes “Direct USA Online” or “Business Database.” It collected $500 to $900 each from over 700 businesses outside of Vermont. In a survey conducted by the Attorney General’s Office, two-thirds of the respondents stated that they did not agree to buy the company’s services; only a small fraction said they needed a website for their business.
Online Services also used a Derby Line, Vermont, address on its invoices and on its reminders to consumers with past-due accounts, conveying the misimpression that the company was located in Vermont. Holding itself out as a Vermont business, the company was also required to, but did not comply with the requirements of Vermont’s three-day right to cancel for telephonic sales.
Based on this conduct, the Attorney General alleged that Bucci and Arrobas violated the Vermont Consumer Protection Act.
The two men are barred for life from engaging in telemarketing to or from any location. In addition to the $20,000 that they are now together required to pay in penalties and costs, each of them must submit his tax return and a sworn asset statement for three years; if income or assets exceed a specified amount, further liability may be imposed, up to $90,000 each.
For more information on the settlement, call the Attorney General’s Office at (802) 828-5479.
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