The Federal Trade Commission announced on Tuesday (Sept. 27) it will return close to $20 million to more than 145,000 consumers around the country who were victimized by One Technologies and its two partner companies in an online scheme that lured consumers with “free” access to their credit scores and then billed them a recurring $29.95 monthly fee for credit monitoring the FTC said they never ordered.
“It’s our goal whenever possible to put money back in the hands of hardworking American consumers who have been victimized,” said Jessica Rich, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a press release announcing the payout. “We are pleased to announce that $20 million in refunds are going to back to consumers this week.”
The FTC and the states of Illinois and Ohio said they secured the consumer redress as part of a settlement of charges against One Technologies in Jan. 2014. According to the FTC, the defendants marketed their credit monitoring programs, MyCreditHealth and ScoreSense, through at least 50 websites, including FreeScore360.com, FreeScoreOnline.com and ScoreSense.com. According to the FTC’s complaint, the defendants bought advertising on search engines, such as Google and Bing, so that ads for their websites neared the top of search results when consumers looked for terms such as “free credit report.” The most prominent ad stated: “View your latest Credit Scores from All 3 Bureaus in 60 seconds for $0!”
The FTC alleged that the defendants violated the FTC Act and the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act. Under the acts, companies are prohibited from charging consumers for goods and services sold online via a negative option unless the seller clearly discloses all material terms before obtaining the consumer’s billing information. The seller also has to obtain the consumer’s express informed consent before making the charge and provide a simple way to stop recurring charges. They were also charged with violating the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act and the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act.