The Washington State Attorney Generals Office is suing a Redmond-based seller of e-commerce services whose failed promises to rev up Web traffic for small businesses drove many customers to file complaints.
When it comes to Internet search results, every small business wants to pull rank, Attorney General Rob McKenna said. Merchants hoping to increase their online sales paid thousands of dollars to Visible.net and Captures.com but didnt always receive the top listings and other services they were promised.
The lawsuit was filed late Wednesday in King County Superior Court. It accuses Visible.net, Captures.com and their owner, Gilbert Walker, of violating state consumer protection and telemarketing laws.
The defendants also do business as WebMarketingSource.com and sell Web site design, search-optimization and other Internet marketing services, along with providing e-commerce services to process online purchases for merchant customers. They promote their services through their Web sites and by telemarketing. Packages include an initial startup fee of $3,749.99 up to $9,749.99 plus a monthly fee of $39.99 to $99.99.
Senior Counsel Paula Selis, an assistant attorney general who heads up the Attorney Generals Consumer Protection High-Tech Unit, said the Attorney Generals Office and Better Business Bureau have received nearly 90 complaints about the defendants, showing a pattern of recurring problems since at least 2005.
The suit accuses the defendants of the following violations, among others:
• Failing to register with the Department of Licensing as a commercial telephone solicitor and failing to provide written confirmation of a consumers rights under the Commercial Telephone Solicitation Act.
• Misrepresenting the ability to significantly increase traffic to customer Web sites by achieving top search-engine rankings and failing to deliver other promised services.
• Falsely claiming an affiliation with other marketers including Specialty Merchandise Company, a so-called drop-ship wholesaler.
• Claiming that its customer service representatives can be reached at any time when, in fact, customers are often unable to reach representatives and sometimes do not receive return calls.
• Failing to provide refunds or honor cancellation requests.
• Continuing to bill the credit cards of some consumers who have attempted to cancel and submitting alleged debts to collection agencies.
The state is seeking civil penalties and consumer restitution in addition to a court order halting the deceptive practices.