The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed a suit against Georgia fuel card firm FLEETCOR, alleging that it bilked customers out of millions of dollars in hidden fees, a charge the company denies, according to reports on Monday (Jan. 20). FLEETCOR said it “strongly disagrees with the FTC’s complaint,” saying the claims “are without merit.” It has pledged to “vigorously defend ourselves against the FTC in court.”
In a statement, FLEETCOR said, “We believe the FTC’s complaint is based upon fundamental misconceptions of the company, its customers and its products.”
The publicly traded company was founded in 2010, and reported 2018 annual revenues of $2.4 billion. The firm does business under its own “Fuelman” brand, as well as through co-branded cards.
According to the FTC’s complaint, FLEETCOR and CEO Ronald Clarke falsely promised potential customers that they would not be charged any set-up, transaction or membership fees, and that they would save money and have protection from unauthorized charges. However, the fees totaled in millions, and bilked “tens of thousands of customers,” the FTC said in a press release about the suit last month.
“The fees, despite the defendants’ promises, often have been charged on a per-transaction basis, or have been required for membership in FLEETCOR’s programs,” the FTC said.
The complaint is charging FLEETCOR and Clarke with “violating the FTC Act’s prohibitions on unfair and deceptive acts and practices.”
FLEETCOR maintains that disclosures were clear, and communicated repeatedly to customers. The firm said it has an onboarding process “that describes the program’s features in both online and written materials,” and that it includes fee-specific terms on every customer invoice. Fees also align with industry standards.
The FTC said in its December complaint that FLEETCOR had marketed payment cards to firms with vehicle fleets. Thousands of customers complained to the Better Business Bureau and other government bodies about FLEETCOR’s hidden fees. The FTC voted four to one in authorizing the filing of the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.