~ Company advertised “free” cell phone ringtones, but instead allegedly signed consumers up for monthly subscription plans through their wireless carriers ~
TALLAHASSEE, FL – LAWFUEL – The Legal Newswire – Attorney General Bill McCollum today announced that his office has sued an internet marketing company, alleging it was engaging in blatantly deceptive business practices and cramming charges onto consumers’ wireless phone bills. Buongiorno, which calls itself one of the world’s largest enabler of digital mobile entertainment, could be facing civil penalties for adding monthly charges to wireless bills even though consumers are unaware that they have purchased or agreed to purchase cell phone content.
“For too long, not enough attention has been paid to the manner in which unscrupulous companies were conducting business in a proverbial Wild West of rogue internet marketing. We are going to clean up this industry,”
said Attorney General McCollum. “Internet companies will not be permitted to defraud and deceive Florida’s consumers.”
According to Buongiorno’s website, the company partners with telecom, media and internet companies in more than 30 countries to sell advertising and create, distribute and package cell phone content, including music, games, videos, wallpapers and ringtones. Buongiorno helps companies market their products through proprietary labels and sells directly through its Blinko brand, which has been under investigation by the Attorney General since October 2005. The company boasts a reach exceeding 60 million customers.
The lawsuit resulted from an investigation conducted by the Attorney General’s newly created CyberFraud Task Force into deceptive marketing over the internet. Investigators determined that consumers responding to “free”
ringtone offers for their cell phones were enrolled into subscription plans without their knowledge or consent. The monthly charges for these plans were billed to consumers’ cell phone bills.
According to the Attorney General’s Office, a particularly problematic aspect of the company’s practices was the alleged direct targeting of children as the initial consumer and the concern that the company’s advertising is supposedly created specifically to mislead young purchasers of cell phone content. Often, children visit internet sites that are prominently displaying ads for “free” or “100% complimentary”
ringtones, but the disclaimer that the child is entering into an expensive monthly subscription is hidden on a separate page or buried in fine print.
As a result, thousands of parents later find recurring charges of $9.99 or more on their cell phone bills for the “free” ringtones their children ordered.
In the lawsuit filed yesterday, Attorney General McCollum asked for a permanent injunction against the company, substantial penalties and restitution to all customers who were taken advantage of by the misleading internet marketing. The lawsuit also seeks to stop the deceptive sale of other cell phone content that is falsely advertised as “free,” such as horoscopes, jokes of the day and wallpapers.
Consumers who believe they have been victimized by unauthorized billing for internet products should contact the Attorney General’s Citizen Services Division by calling 1-866-9-NO-SCAM (1-866-966-7226) or by filing a complaint online at http://www.myfloridalegal.com.
A copy of the lawsuit filed against Buongiorno is available online