North Carolina Department of Justice
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AG Cooper stops GoInternet from using deceptive telemarketing to cram charges in

Release date: 8/20/2004

Raleigh: can no longer use misleading telemarketing calls to sign up customers and then place charges on their telephone bills, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced today.

“Because of some tricky telemarketing, consumers wound up paying for services they didn’t want and hadn’t agreed to,” said Cooper. “That’s wrong, and now we’ve put a stop to it.”

Under terms of a consent judgment approved today by Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard E. Manning,

Jr., GoInternet must now get written authorization from its customers before billing them for Internet and

telecommunications services rather than signing consumers up during telemarketing calls. The company must

also make it clear to consumers that they will be charged for GoInternet’s services if they sign up, and must

disclose the amount of the charges and how they will be billed.

In addition, the judgment requires GoInternet to cancel contracts and provide refunds for every North Carolina consumer who requests a refund and alleges that the charges were unauthorized, including the more than 150 consumers who filed complaints with the Attorney General’s office. Cooper’s Consumer Protection Division will send letters to all current GoInternet customers in the state, offering them the opportunity to get their money back if the company billed them without their permission. GoInternet must also pay $50,000 to the state.

GoInternet is a Delaware corporation headquartered in Philadelphia that also operates under the names Mercury Internet Services and Venus Voice Mail Services. Neal D. Saferstein, part-owner of GoInternet and its former president and chief executive officer, is also named as a defendant in the judgment.

According to the lawsuit filed by Cooper in October 2002, GoInternet telemarketers misled consumers about the costs of services or enrolled them without their approval. Many consumers who were billed for GoInternet had declined the telemarketer’s offer or agreed only to receive information. Other consumers did not remember getting calls about the company or were told by telemarketers that the services would be free of charge. In some cases, telemarketers spoke with a child or an employee who was not authorized to order service, but the company signed the household or business up anyway. Many consumers were not immediately aware that GoInternet was charging them $29.95 a month because the charges appeared as part of their local telephone bills.

“Study your phone bill as carefully as you would your bank statement,” Cooper advised consumers. “If you see charges you don’t recognize and didn’t approve, let my office know about it.”


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