Universal AdCom must pay $35,000 to the State of Oregon as well as restitution to several Oregon small businesses
Attorney General John Kroger today announced a settlement with a Texas-based telemarketer accused of misleading Oregon small businesses into buying advertising. Universal AdCom telemarketers falsely claimed to be selling ads on a map produced by the local Chamber of Commerce or county and misled small businesses in other ways.
"Oregon will not recover from this recession unless our small businesses succeed and prosper," said Attorney General Kroger. "They cannot afford to be scammed and I intend to do all I can to protect them."
An investigation by the Oregon Department of Justice found that representatives of Universal AdCom (and two affiliates, Premier Map Company, LLC and Hometown Productions) placed telemarketing sales calls to small businesses in Oregon and identified themselves as "the new project coordinator for Marion County" or the local Chamber of Commerce, suggesting that they were affiliated with the county or chamber.
They then asked if the business "would like to buy the same ad as last year" on an "area map" being produced and distributed by the local Chamber of Commerce or county.
In most instances, the Oregon business had no prior relationships with Universal AdCom or its affiliates. And in any case, the maps were of a much lower quality than the type of full color maps that Chambers of Commerce produce and distribute with local business advertising.
The Oregon Department of Justice also found that small businesses were billed for orders they never placed; threatened with being turned over to debt collectors; and refused refunds where maps failed to contain important information about the business or contained erroneous information, such as an incorrect phone number. DOJ also found that Universal AdCom failed to meaningfully respond to such problems when contacted by the business.
About a dozen Oregon businesses filed complaints about Universal AdCom with the Department of Justice and the Better Business Bureau since 2008, but many others also have been victimized.
Assistant Attorney General Merrill Maiano handled the case for the Oregon Department of Justice.
Attorney General John Kroger leads the Oregon Department of Justice. The Department's mission is to fight crime and fraud, protect the environment, improve child welfare, promote a positive business climate, and defend the rights of all Oregonians.
Tony Green, (503) 378-6002 firstname.lastname@example.org