Video Professor, Inc. has dropped its subpoena asking Infomercialscams.com for the names of 100 John Does who anonymously posted their gripes about the computer lessons but still has an active lawsuit against defamatory anonymous poster s and is now trying to unmask the identities of Wikipedia posters.
Video Professor (VPI), which hawks its computer lessons on light-night TV, dropped a similar subpoena against RipoffReport.com but is still has an active vague lawsuit against anonymous Internet posters, said Paul Alan Levy, an attorney with nonprofit consumer rights organization Public Citizen, Public Citizen provided legal assistance to Infomercialscams.com in its fight to keep its posters anonymous.
The lawsuit doesn't name anyone in particular and Levy said it's possible that VPI is using the outstanding lawsuit to go after other websites. There are at least seven websites, including ConsumerAffairs.com, that post the complaints of VPI customers.
Most of the complaints are in regard to the company's implied-consent automatic-renewal business model, which hooks customers with the promise of one free disc and then starts charging them $79.95 per month. Many customers say they weren't told about the renewal process while others say it's difficult to cancel.
I ordered a free lesson through an 'introductory offer' in which I only had to pay $6.95 for shipping, Jacquelyn of Honolulu, Hawaii, wrote in a complaint to ConsumerAffairs.com.
A few weeks later, I received a second lesson (without placing an order) and my credit card was charged $77.95. A week later, my card was charged for another $5.95; the next day it was charged for $2 and the following day, another charge appeared for $1.
I returned the second lesson and wrote a note asking Video Professor to stop sending lessons, Jacquelyn continued. Although I did not receive any further CDs, my card was charged twice more for $77.95, as well as multiple charges of $5.95 and $1.
The company's founder, CEO and TV frontman, John Scherer, told ConsumerAffairs.com in an interview in early December that he believed the complaints on Infomercialscams.com were fabricated by either the website's operator or VPI's competitors and that he has no intention of suing his customers.
We have never sued a customer and we never will sue a customer, Scherer said.
Scherer said if any of the complaints are true, he would reimburse his unhappy customers.
If he wants to help them why doesn't he post something that says, 'Hey, I want to help you, I don't want to sue you. Come tell me what we've done wrong and we'll refund your money.' And that ought to be sufficient but obviously he does want to sue them, Levy said in December.
Scherer has now focused his efforts on a single Wikipedia poster. Wikipedia, without much of a fight, handed Scherer the IP addresses of posters who supposedly wrote defamatory comments about VPI and now Scherer has taken one of those addresses and subpoenaed Comcast on December 12 for identifying information relating to the most flagrantly defamatory anonymous poster on Wikipedia, according to court documents.
Comcast has no intention of giving up the poster's identity because under terms of the Cable Act, a cable company can only reveal a customer's identity from a court order, not a subpoena, Charlie Douglas, Comcast representative said.
Comcast holds customer privacy in the highest regard, Douglas wrote in an e-mail. Comcast will only provide customer information in private civil cases pursuant to a valid court order and only if Comcast's records contain information sufficient to identify the customer account on the date(s) listed in the court order. Comcast will also provide notice to its customers who are the subject of any such court orders.
Wikipedia wimps out
It's unclear why Wikipedia forfeited the IP addresses. A Wikipedia spokesman returned ConsumerAffairs.com's call but did not have the information requested. The individual with specific information regarding the subpoena did not return a phone call and e-mail.
Comments posted by unregistered users on Wikipedia display the user's IP address. Comments posted by registered users display the user's chosen user name.
On the Wikipedia discussion page for Video Professor there are appear to be a handful of registered users who try to include potentially negative information in the posting and one person, named Skporganic who keeps trying to delete those negative comments.
At one point Skporganic added this to the VPI Wikipedia page: Video Professor is known for its enthusiastic customer service employees, and the customer service department is known as the liveliest place to work at Video Professor headquarters. ... The department is heavily adorned with motivating signs featuring catchy slogans such as 'Ya Gotta Wanna,' festive balloons and colorful banners, all designed to create a supportive, positive working environment. The department is filled with row after row of customer service agents in cubes speaking enthusiastically with customers."
Despite the Wikipedia subpoena and the continuing lawsuit, Levy declared the dropped subpoena a success with a few loose ends. He said the next step is to get VPI to drop the lawsuit.
VPI representatives did not return two phone calls and an e-mail.