A Las Vegas-based professional fundraiser must pay a $10,000 fine and comply with certain solicitation restrictions in Ohio for a year, according to the terms of legal action taken by Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray.
The AG's office has filed an agreement in Franklin County Common Pleas Court with Courtesy Call Inc. to resolve allegations of multiple violations of Ohio's charitable solicitation law.
Between 2007 and 2009, the Charitable Law section of the Ohio Attorney General's Office received numerous complaints from consumers around Ohio regarding fundraising calls from employees of Courtesy Call. The investigation found evidence of misrepresentation by Courtesy Call employees, including but not limited to:
Claiming that the person contacted made a prior pledge when that was not true.
Mailing pledge forms when no pledge had been made.
Failing to state that the caller works for a professional solicitor.
Claiming the donation will benefit the Franklin County Sheriffs' Office when that was not true.
"Consumers need to be able to make informed decisions about the donations they make, and they have the right under Ohio law to be treated honestly by professional solicitors," said Cordray. "What happened here was dishonest and distasteful, especially in light of the fact that many of these campaigns involved police, firefighter and veterans' organizations."
This isn't the first time Courtesy Calls has been in hot water. In 2009, California came down on the firm because -- it said -- a "shockingly small portion of donations" it collected went to those in need.
Under the terms of the Ohio agreement, Courtesy Call will not solicit donations in the state for one year for the following charitable organizations: United States Deputy Sheriffs' Association, Association for Police and Sheriffs, United States Municipal Police Association, National Veterans Services Fund, Firefighters Charitable Foundation and WeTip.
Courtesy Call also agrees to comply with Ohio law when soliciting contributions from Ohio citizens including clear and conspicuous disclosure that the solicitation is being conducted by a professional fundraiser. The company also agrees to cooperate with the Attorney General in investigating any future complaints and to take appropriate action to respond to such complaints.