Alleged Web Site "Crammer" Settles Charges

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Mercury Internet Services has settled a federal lawsuit charging it with running a telemarketing operation in which consumers were billed for Web site services they had not ordered, the Federal Trade Commission said yesterday.

Mercury, Philadelphia, and its principal, Neal D. Saferstein, have agreed to send a notice to all consumers that the company has billed for Web service, indicating that they are being billed and offering a refund for those who cancel.

The company also agreed not to misrepresent that consumers must pay for services they did not authorize and not to charge consumers before the end of any free-trial period.

According to the lawsuit, filed June 28 in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, Mercury cold-called consumers across the country offering to create a Web site for them. In several cases, consumers who were billed did not remember ever receiving a call from Mercury, and others declined the offer or only requested additional information but were billed anyway, according to the lawsuit.

Consumers were not asked for their credit card information, the FTC said. However, many later found charges on their telephone bills, according to the lawsuit. The illegal practice of issuing unauthorized charges against consumer telephone bills is known as "cramming."

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