Judge Slams Card Marketers for $12M

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A federal judge in Chicago ordered a group of companies to pay $12 million in consumer redress over allegations that it deceived consumers into paying a fee for a debit card, the Federal Trade Commission said yesterday.

The companies, based in Largo, FL, offered consumers a low-interest MasterCard for a $199 one-time fee, the FTC said. All they got was a dummy card with a non-magnetic black strip on the back bearing the MasterCard logo, according to the FTC.

Consumers who complained or tried to activate the card were told that they could get a debit card but never a credit card, the FTC said. They would have to pay fees to use the credit card every time they made a purchase in addition to the upfront fee, according to the complaint.

The FTC named several companies in the complaint, among them Bay Area Business Council Inc., Bay Area Business Council Customer Service Corp. and American Leisure Card Corp. Also named were the officers of the operation, including Peter J. Porcelli, Christopher Tomasulo and Bonnie A. Harris.

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