Thousands of small trucking businesses that paid government-impersonating companies for motor carrier registration services now are set to receive refund checks back from the Federal Trade Commission.
The agency announced Monday it would send a total $757,946 back to 14,948 small businesses it says were tricked by four companies, including DOTAuthority.com Inc. The companies allegedly created the false impression they were affiliated with government agencies such as the U.S. Department of Transportation or the Unified Carrier Registration system.
The companies, against which the FTC sought a preliminary injunction in September 2016, were accused of sending the small businesses misleading robocalls, emails and texts, creating official-looking websites and threatening penalties, including $1,000 fines, to reinforce their supposed government affiliation.
The scheme ultimately cost small businesses more than $19 million in $25 to $550 service fees the FTC said were not adequately disclosed or distinguished from actual government registration fees.
Some businesses paid the services fees after they were unknowingly enrolled in an automatic annual renewal program.
The implicated companies reached a settlement with the FTC in March 2018, under which they must obtain customers’ express consent before using their billing information to obtain payments, and were required to identify themselves as third-party service provider plus any fees involved.
One company, Excelsior Enterprises International Inc. in New Jersey, also had to pay a $900,000 judgment.
The average small business refund check will be slightly more than $50, the FTC says.
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Among the refunds were four checks totaling $586 mailed to Iowa addresses, an agency spokesman said. The agency did not provide the names of those Iowa businesses.
The FTC mailed a previous round of refund checks totaling $89,736 to 246 small trucking businesses in October 2018. Its second round of checks this week came after officials recently discovered additional customer information.
Businesses that did not receive a refund but think they should have are asked to contact refund administrator Rust Consulting at 1 (866) 303-8537.
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