MysteryShopLink.com will pay $850,000 to settle charges of deceptive advertising and contempt brought by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, according to a press release
In March, 2007, the Federal Trade Commission shut down MysteryShopLink.com and charged them with deceptive advertising. Mystery Shop Link advertised on television and radio, online and in newspapers, claiming that they had many mystery shopping jobs available and that, in exchange for a $99 fee, consumers would be given enough jobs to make a part-time or full-time income as mystery shoppers.
What consumers got for their $99 was a worthless certification and job postings that they could have received for free from the mystery shopping companies who were actually offering the mystery shopper jobs.
The settlements announced by the FTC yesterday were reached with two separate groups of defendants. The first includes defendants Mystery Shop Link, LLC, Tangent Group, LLC, and their principals, Robin Larry Murphy, Andrew Holman, and Kenneth Johnson. This settlement resolves both the new case filed in 2007 and the contempt action. Under the settlement, the FTC will collect the proceeds of Murphy’s $100,000 bond. The settlement also includes a $17.8 million judgment, which is suspended based on the defendants’ inability to pay. The full judgment will be imposed if the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial condition. This settlement prohibits all the defendants from making misrepresentations in the future. As a repeat offender, Murphy is permanently banned from telemarketing, except for non-deceptive sales to businesses of telecommunications equipment.
The second settlement includes defendants Harp Marketing Services, Inc., and its principals, Aiden Reddin and Marc Gurney. Harp Marketing was the primary outside telemarketing firm that handled consumer calls, and thus sales, for Mystery Shop Link. This settlement requires Harp and its owners to pay $750,000 in redress and prohibits them from making misrepresentations in the future. The Harp settlement also includes a suspended judgment of $6.8 million, the total amount of Mystery Shop Link sales made by Harp’s telemarketers. The full amount of this judgment will be imposed if the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial condition.
Both settlements prohibit the defendants from collecting payments from Mystery Shop Link customers, and from transferring or benefiting from information about those customers. Both also contain record-keeping and reporting provisions to assist the FTC in monitoring the defendants’ compliance.