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Posted: 11/14/2002 6:56:19 PM EDT
No more Miss Cleo. Say it ain't so. (11-14) 14:25 PST WASHINGTON (AP) -- Trading fortunes told for a fortune lost, the companies behind Miss Cleo's psychic hot line agreed Thursday to forgive $500 million in customer bills to settle a federal lawsuit alleging they fleeced callers hoping to glimpse the future. Access Resource Services Inc. and Psychic Readers Network Inc. also agreed to stop selling their alleged soothsaying services over the phone and pay the government a $5 million fine, the Federal Trade Commission said. The two Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based companies -- owned by Steven Feder and Peter Stolz -- promoted a national network of "psychic readers" on television and the Internet. A woman identified as a Jamaican mystic named "Miss Cleo" offered supernatural insights into love and money. Miss Cleo's real name is Youree Dell Harris. During a deposition in June, Harris repeatedly invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, refusing to discuss a birth certificate showing she was born in Los Angeles to American parents. Howard Beales, director of the FTC's consumer protection bureau, said there was no truth in Miss Cleo's prognostications. "I'm no psychic but I can foresee this: If you make deceptive claims, there is an FTC action in your future," he said in announcing the settlement. The FTC accused the companies of misdeeds including false promises of free psychic readings, tricky billing tactics to squeeze money out of callers and harassing telemarketing calls. Thomas Scott, 37, of Tallahassee, Fla., said he and his wife were verbally abused by operators when they called to dispute an $80 phone charge. "It was one of the most unbelievable experiences of my life," Scott said. "I am elated that the FTC has shut them down. Next they'll be hearing from my attorney." The companies did not admit breaking any law but agreed to stop the phone service and forgive about $500 million in outstanding charges. They also must return all uncashed checks to customers. Beales said during three years of operation the service charged people about $1 billion and collected half of it. "They're getting out of the business," Beales said. "It won't resume." Sean Moynihan, an attorney for the companies, said the businesses did nothing illegal and were not given enough opportunity by the FTC to explain their practices before the lawsuit was filed. Moynihan said the companies still run a small subscription service where customers pay with credit cards to get psychic readings. The service represents about 1 percent of the former pay-per-call business, he said. The FTC lawsuit, prompted by more than 2,000 consumer complaints, said the psychic service promised a free reading, but consumers calling a toll-free number were directed to a 900 number charging $4.99 per minute. The agency said nearly 6 million people made such calls and were charged an average of about $60. The government said operators made the calls last as long as possible by telling callers they would not be charged while on hold. A telephone bill running into the hundreds of dollars was the first sign for many callers that they were being charged. The FTC also accused the service of violating telemarketing rules by harassing people and making calls to those who asked to be on a "do not call" list. The agency said many consumers received up to 10 calls a day, usually automated messages telling them that "Miss Cleo had a dream about them and they should call back." In separate actions, the two Florida companies agreed in October to forgive $1.9 million in bills to Connecticut residents to settle charges of deceptive practices. Settlements also have been reached in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Also in October, a Missouri court sentenced Feder and Stolz to probation and fines, resolving criminal charges of unlawful merchandising practices. Florida authorities have a civil case pending against Miss Cleo herself, accusing her of deceptive advertising. [url]http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/news/archive/2002/11/14/financial1725EST0299.DTL[/url]
Link Posted: 11/14/2002 7:05:10 PM EDT
Who cares? Anybody stupid enough to call a psychic hotline deserves to pay out the nose for it.
Link Posted: 11/14/2002 7:15:47 PM EDT
Yes, but where am I going to get my investment advice from now?
Link Posted: 11/14/2002 7:21:13 PM EDT
You'd think she'd *know* they weren't going to pay...
Link Posted: 11/14/2002 7:41:04 PM EDT
I'd guess my ex-wife is breathing a little easier now.
Link Posted: 11/14/2002 7:50:23 PM EDT
Link Posted: 11/14/2002 8:01:28 PM EDT
WELL, DUH!!!!
Link Posted: 11/14/2002 8:10:18 PM EDT
So long as I don't have to see her retarded ebonics ass on TV anymore. Christ they used to put that stupid shit on "intelligent" networks like the History Channel, etc.
Link Posted: 11/14/2002 8:41:42 PM EDT
a birth certificate showing she was born in Los Angeles to American parents.
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This is my favorate part! Damn she can pull off being jamaican... I seen her commecials I knew it was a scam but 1 billion dollers???? shit man there are plenty of gullable people in this country. In in the wrong buisness... I wonder if I could pull off being a psycic from the south?
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