US State sues Yellow Pages United for deceptive practices | Jax Daily Record | Jacksonville Daily Record

The state attorney general’s office filed a lawsuit in the 4th Judicial Circuit Court against a Jacksonville Beach-based advertising company alleging the company violates Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Marketing Practices Act.

The lawsuit names the defendants United Directories Inc., d / b / a Yellow Pages United, and Mark Smith, its chairman.

According to the Attorney General’s office, the defendants have been registered with the Florida State Department since 2000 and since 2011 or earlier have operated a national online “yellow pages” business that tricks consumers into paying nearly $ 800 a year for an auto-renewing subscription. for listing in an “obscure and little-used online telephone directory”.

United’s registered agent, attorney Haas Hatic of Greenspoon Marder in Fort Lauderdale, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Since 2011, Florida consumers harmed by the defendants’ business practices have filed nearly 1,900 complaints with the Florida Attorney General, the Federal Trade Commission, the Better Business Bureau and other agencies related to marketing practices, United’s billing and collection bill, the lawsuit says.

The Attorney General alleges that United markets its business directory listings by sending unsolicited direct mail solicitations to consumers whose names and addresses defendants obtain from public records and other sources.

United then uses “a variety of deceptive and deceptive tactics” to trick consumers into signing and returning the original solicitation and subsequently paying, either by credit card or check, for the false invoices sent by United.

Lawsuit says United’s initial solicitation includes the term “yellow pages” and highlights the familiar “walking fingers” logo commonly associated with AT&T and the Real Yellow Pages, leading many consumers to believe United is an affiliate. at Real. Yellow Pages Directory.

The complaint further states that the solicitations mislead consumers as to the true nature and cost of the product by giving the impression that consumers are renewing a free listing in their real locally distributed yellow pages, when in reality the defendants plan to bill consumers about $ 792 each year for an online list maintained by United.

If the consumer does not provide a credit card for payment or deliver a check to United, the company begins collection proceedings for the alleged obligation, according to the attorney general.

The lawsuit asks the court to prohibit United from continuing to carry out the alleged deceptive practices, canceling contracts United has with consumers and compensating consumers harmed by United.

The complaint also asks the court to award the Attorney General with civil penalties against the defendants in the amount of $ 10,000 for each violation of state law; $ 15,000 for each violation in which a senior, disabled person, or member of the United States military has been harmed by United’s solicitation and collection practices.

The lawsuit was filed Friday and is assigned to circuit judge Virginia Norton.

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Marvin M. Moreno

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