Canadian Telemarketers Ordered to Pay FTC $345,000

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The Federal Trade Commission said yesterday that it received a final court order barring several Canada-based telemarketers from misleading U.S. consumers about their ability to stop unwanted telemarketing calls, bank fraud, identity theft and other types of fraud. The defendants also were required to pay more than $345,000 to the FTC for consumer redress.

According to the FTC, the defendants operated under the guise of the FTC, another government agency or a bank to persuade elderly consumers to release their bank account information. They then stole hundreds of dollars from each victim, it is alleged. The telemarketers charged a $399 upfront fee, the FTC said, but had no way to sign up consumers for the U.S. no-call registry.

In July 2004, the FTC charged the defendants with operating a deceptive "consumer protection service," engaging in telemarketing calls that targeted elderly U.S. consumers and promised to protect them from telemarketing and unauthorized banking. According to the complaint, the defendants violated the FTC Act, the Telemarketing Sales Rule and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.

Charged were: 4086465 Canada Inc., doing business as International Protection Center and Consumers Protection Center; Alain Chikhani, also known as Allain Chikani, individually and as an owner, officer, director and/or administrator of the corporate defendant; and Rafik Chikani, individually and as an owner, officer, director and/or administrator of the corporate defendant.

Along with the $345,000 fine, the court order contains a suspended judgment of $1.97 million that would become due if the FTC determines the defendants misrepresented their assets, along with standard compliance requirements. In addition, $44,000 was returned to consumers.

The order also permanently bars the defendants from selling or marketing any goods or services that supposedly protect consumers against fraud, deception, telemarketing, identity theft or bank fraud.

The FTC voted 4-0 to approve the complaint and stipulated judgment and order. Stipulated final judgments and orders are for settlement purposes only and do not constitute an admission by the defendant of a law violation.

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