|February 26, 2016
Contact: Whitney Ray
Phone: (850) 245-0150
|en Español||Print Version||Tweet|
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—Attorney General Pam Bondi today announced the entry of a consent judgment against Alumni Research, Inc. and its CEO Robert Laping for violations of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and the Florida Telemarketing Act. Alumni Research solicited payments over the phone for the purchase of high school and college alumni directory books for dozens of schools nationwide. According to the investigation, the defendants either failed to publish the directories or failed to produce the directories within the time promised.
According to the investigation, the defendants’ business practices harmed more than 26,000 consumers nationwide. Attorney General Bondi’s Office received more than 800 complaints from consumers that prepaid Alumni Research for a directory and never received the promised product. Many of the victims are senior citizens that each paid approximately $70 to preorder a directory for their alma mater.
The consent judgment bans the defendants from marketing and selling alumni directory books and from engaging in telemarketing or any other commercial telephone solicitation. The judgment also requires payment of almost $4.5 million, including full consumer restitution and civil penalties. Given the current insolvency of the business and its principal, it is unlikely that there will be funds available to pay consumer restitution or penalties. The Attorney General’s Office will continue to seek funds for consumer refunds through post judgment proceedings, should the office find any evidence of available assets.
The consent judgment includes the following terms for the defendants:
- · Engaging in or assisting in any charitable solicitation activity is prohibited;
· Making any false or misleading representations, or false or deceptive statements, in any communications with consumers is prohibited;
· Confirming that the business is completely shut down is required, including disabling the website, closing bank accounts and credit card accounts and disconnecting any phone numbers advertised to consumers;
· Issuing a separate, formal written apology to the affected schools and alumni associations is required;
· Returning to schools and alumni associations any proprietary or otherwise historical or valuable artifacts, photographs, yearbooks or other items in the defendants’ possession is required; and
· Making alumni data available upon request and free of charge to any school or alumni association currently under contract with Alumni Research for collection or storage of alumni data is required.