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FTC Files Complaint Against Doxo, Alleging Misleading Ads

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is taking action against doxo, saying the bill payment company misleads consumers and tacks on junk fees.

The agency filed a federal court complaint alleging that doxo violated the FTC Act, the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, the FTC said in a Thursday (April 25) press release.

“Doxo intercepted consumers trying to reach their billers and tricked them into paying millions of dollars in junk fees,” Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in the release. “The FTC will continue to take action when companies use deceptive design tricks to harm consumers.”

Reached for comment by PYMNTS, a spokesperson for doxo provided a statement saying that the FTC investigation “is inaccurate, and unjust, pushing forth a narrative that is a monumental step backward from the objective of reducing bill pay complexity and costs.

“The U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s complaint indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of the existing bill-pay market and the structural inefficiencies that almost always work against consumers,” the statement said. “Doxo is committed to fighting on behalf of all consumers and billers who deserve a better bill pay experience, and we look forward to seeing their interests prevail.”

The FTC’s complaint alleges that doxo purchases search engine ads that appear when consumers search for companies that have billed them and that misleadingly suggest that doxo is affiliated with those companies, according to the release. Similarly, doxo’s landing pages imply a formal relationship with the biller.

When consumers provide their billing details, the complaint alleges, doxo tacks an extra fee onto the “final payment amount” and displays that fee only at the final payment step, in “greyed-out fine print,” the release said.

The complaint also alleges that doxo employs a deceptive process to sign consumers up for its recurring subscription program and often charges consumers “delivery fees,” despite saying that subscribers would save on those fees, per the release.

In doxo’s official statement, the company said: “For over 14 years, doxo has remained committed to taking the necessary steps to comply with all regulations and exceed market standards for ensuring consumers are protected and empowered throughout the bill pay experience. To date, we have assisted over 10 million people in safely and efficiently paying their bills, eliminating extraneous costs, and improving and protecting their financial health.”

The FTC has proposed a rule to prohibit junk fees, saying that it would ban businesses from charging hidden and misleading fees and require them to disclose the full price up front.

The agency has also targeted “dark patterns,” which are design elements that cause false beliefs, conceal key information, lead to unauthorized charges or dupe customers into sharing personal data.