Vermont Attorney General Alleges Internet Marketing Companies Placed Unauthorized Charges on Vermont Consumers’ Telephone Bills

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The Vermont Attorney General (“Vermont AG”) has recently renewed its investigation into Internet marketing companies that place charges on consumers’ landline telephone bills for enhanced services.  Enhanced services include premium email and voicemail services that are billed through local exchange carriers (called “LECs,” more commonly referred to as telephone companies, such as AT&T and Verizon).  Such services are charged on a monthly basis to telephone bills, rather than credit cards, in a process known as LEC billing.

Each Vermont investigation typically begins with the issuance of a Civil Investigative Subpoena Duces Tecum pursuant to 9 V.S.A. § 2460.  The Vermont AG usually seeks detailed information and documents from each company on the grounds that such company may have placed unauthorized charges on the telephone bills of Vermont residents.  The subpoenas cite potential violations of the Vermont Consumer Fraud Act, 9 V.S.A. § 2453(a) and 9 V.S.A. § 2466.

The Vermont AG has initiated litigation to enforce the provisions of the Vermont Consumer Fraud Act.  The Vermont AG typically seeks repayment of charges toVermontconsumers that were not previously refunded, along with penalties and fees.

These subpoenas should not be ignored.  Any company that receives such a subpoena should retain competent legal counsel to respond and object on its behalf.

In the past, we have successfully defended actions brought by the Vermont AG against our clients and have entered into multiple favorable settlements on their behalf, and expect to continue doing so in the future.

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