One of the countrys largest credit-repair operations has agreed to pay more than $1.15 million in consumer redress to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it violated federal law.
The settlement resolves charges leveled by the FTC against six Michigan-based defendants in a federal court complaint. The defendants, who sell credit-repair services through a multilevel marketing organization, allegedly falsely claimed that they could remove derogatory information from consumers credit reports, even if that information was accurate and not obsolete.
The defendants purported to do this through the use of a one-of-a-kind computer disk that they claimed could search and identify errors in the process used by the credit reporting agencies to enter negative items onto consumers credit reports. The Commissions complaint alleges that the defendants representations about the computer disk are false and deceptive.
Consumers who find themselves with less than perfect credit histories should be wary of anyone offering a quick fix to the problem, said Howard Beales, Director of the FTCs Bureau of Consumer Protection. "Mistakes can be corrected, but there is no substitute for time and self-discipline to improve your credit report if the information is accurate.
The Commissions Complaint
The Commissions complaint is brought against six related defendants, all based in the Detroit, Michigan area. Those defendants include ICR Services, Inc.; a Livonia, Michigan-based company; and its three officers and directors, Bernadino J. Pavone, Jr., his mother Gloria Tactac, and Abood Samaan.
The remaining defendants are National Credit Education and Review (NCER), based in Canton, Michigan, and its president Todd Renzi. The defendants currently sell their credit-repair service through NCER under the name National Credit Repair. Since 1996, the defendants have sold their credit-repair service to more than 183,000 consumers, taking in more than $53 million on those sales.
The Commissions complaint alleges that in operating their credit repair business, the defendants engaged in a series of deceptive practices that violate both the FTC Act and the Credit Repair Organizations Act.
According to the complaint, the defendants and their nationwide network of approximately 50,000 sales representatives regularly told consumers that the defendants were able to remove negative items such as bankruptcies, foreclosures, and late-payments from credit reports even if the items were accurate, verifiable, and not obsolete. To convince consumers that they actually could do this, the defendants allegedly represented that they had a one-of-a-kind computer disk, developed over several years by defendant Pavone, that was able to identify inaccuracies in the entry process employed by the credit reporting agencies.
According to the FTC, the defendants told consumers that the computer disk was so unique and amazing that it had been valued at more than $200 million in an independent appraisal, and once had been insured by Lloyds of London for $15 million. They allegedly also told consumers that the credit reporting agencies themselves wanted the disk so badly that one of them offered $10 million for it. The Commissions complaint alleges that all of these representations are false and deceptive.
In particular, the Commissions complaint alleges that the defendants do not have a computer disk or any type of software program that is able to do the things they represent to consumers. According to the Commissions complaint, the defendants credit-repair service simply entails challenging in a dispute letter each negative item that appears on a consumers credit report. The complaint alleges that just like everyone else, these defendants are not able to remove negative items from credit reports that are accurate, verifiable, and not obsolete.
In addition to these core misrepresentations, the Commissions complaint alleges that the defendants violated federal law by requiring consumers to pay in advance for the credit repair service, by misrepresenting the terms of their 110 percent money back guarantee, by making untrue and misleading statements about their customers credit standing to the credit reporting agencies, and by failing to provide their customers with a written notice as required by federal law.
Terms of the Order
The stipulated final order settling these charges requires that the defendants pay more than $1.15 million in consumer redress. It also requires that the defendants distribute a notice detailing the terms of the settlement to their defendants national network of sales representatives.