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FTC Charges 2 Groups of Defendants, Alleging Unauthorized Billing Scheme

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a complaint against two groups of defendants, alleging they participated in an unauthorized billing scheme.

The complaint charges the defendants with enrolling consumers, without their knowledge, in continuity plans in which they are repeatedly shipped products and charged for those products, which they did not agree to purchase, the FTC said in a Monday (July 1) press release.

The scheme allegedly involved ads for “free” CBD and Keto-related products, and the defendants billing many consumers for products they didn’t agree to purchase, signing many up for continuity plans they didn’t want, debiting money from their bank accounts without authorization, and laundering credit card payments, according to the release.

“These defendants bilked consumers out of millions of dollars by repeatedly charging them for products they never ordered or agreed to purchase,” Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in the release.

The FTC’s complaint names two groups of defendants, according to the release. One includes U.K. resident Harshil Topiwala, Florida resident Kirtan Patel, and the three companies they operate: Legion Media, KP Commerce and Pinnacle Payments. The second group includes Manindra Garg and a company he operates, Sloan Health Products.

The complaint alleges that the Legion Media defendants operated unauthorized billing scams, while Sloan Health labeled and shipped the deceptively marketed products, shared in the profits and concealed their identity from consumers, per the release.

“The FTC is committed to aggressively pursuing companies and individuals involved in these unauthorized billing scams,” Levine said in the release.

The regulator said June 20 that FTC lawsuits resulted in over $324 million in refunds to consumers in 2023. That total includes money refunded to consumers as a result of all FTC cases, whether the refund program was administered by the FTC, other federal agencies or the defendants, the agency said in its annual report on refunds.

On June 24, the FTC said it reached settlements with three defendants who it alleged operated a sweepstakes scam that took over $28 million from consumers in the United States and at least six other countries.

On June 17, the regulator took action against Adobe and two of its executives, alleging that they deceived consumers by hiding an early termination fee on a subscription plan and making it difficult for consumers to cancel their subscription.