Madigan alleges firm fraudulently charged consumers seeking “free trial” offers
Chicago â€” Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court against an online marketing firm based in Evanston, Ill., for â€œcrammingâ€ consumersâ€™ credit cards with unauthorized charges for supposedly â€œfree trialâ€ offers for a range of products, including coffee, posters and jewelry.
â€œWeâ€™ve received an extraordinary number of complaints from consumers who believed they were signing up for free items but wound up with unauthorized charges from this company,â€ Madigan said. â€œBecause of cases like this, itâ€™s important that consumers carefully review their monthly credit card statements to ensure theyâ€™re not being unexpectedly billed.â€
Madiganâ€™s complaint alleges that defendants Peel, Inc., and its President Brian Dale sell products online at dozens of Web sites, including seattlecoffeedirect.com, metroroasters.com, posterpass.com and shopdani.com. The company markets its products using â€œfree trialâ€ offers and requires consumers to provide their billing information purportedly to cover shipping and handling fees for the supposedly free merchandise. However, within days of signing up for a free trial, consumers begin receiving unauthorized charges ranging from $19.99 to $49.99 on their credit cards.
Further, Madiganâ€™s complaint alleges that if consumers are able to reach Peelâ€™s customer service, the company allegedly promises to stop charging consumers but fails to do so. Consumers continue to receive unauthorized charges on their credit cards. Madiganâ€™s Consumer Fraud Bureau and the Better Business Bureau have received more than 2,300 complaints against Peel and its affiliated Web sites.
Madiganâ€™s suit alleges the defendants violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act by placing unauthorized charges on consumers’ credit card bills. The suit seeks a permanent injunction barring the defendants from doing business in Illinois, restitution for consumers, civil penalties of $50,000 for violating the Consumer Fraud Act, and an additional $50,000 for each violation committed with the intent to defraud.
Assistant Attorney General Adam Sokol is handling the case for Madiganâ€™s Consumer Fraud Bureau.
To file a complaint with Madiganâ€™s office, consumers can download a consumer complaint form from the Attorney Generalâ€™s Web site at www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov or call the Attorney Generalâ€™s Consumer Fraud Hotline at:
Chicago Consumer Fraud Hotline: 1-800-386-5438
Springfield Consumer Fraud Hotline: 1-800-243-0618
Carbondale Consumer Fraud Hotline: 1-800-243-0607
Spanish Language Hotline: 1-866-310-8398