FTC cracking down on “cramming” charges on cell phone bills

The Federal Trade Commission is acting against companies “cramming” consumers’ cellular phone bills with repetitive charges for unwanted services.

According to a local ABC News report, the FTC has announced it is recovering more than $52 million from companies which have secretly charged consumers through their cell phone bills for services like enhanced text messaging, video streaming, identity protection, and other things regulators and consumers alike believe are scams. Continue reading FTC cracking down on “cramming” charges on cell phone bills

National Beef Packing Co. employees sue for lost wages, overtime pay

Workers at a beef packing plant in Kansas believe their employer is short-changing them on wages and not paying overtime and have filed a lawsuit against the company for the lost wages.

According to an AP report, more than 2,000 employees of the National Beef Packing Co. plant in Liberal, Kan., are represented by a lawsuit that was recently filed in U.S. District Court. They claim the company has been not paying them for hours worked over a long period of time and are seeking to recoup those wages. Continue reading National Beef Packing Co. employees sue for lost wages, overtime pay

GroupOn.com settles fraud class-action lawsuit

Discounts marketing Web site Groupon.com has agreed to pay $8.5 million to settle lawsuits alleging the company committed fraud related to the expiration dates on the deals it offered through the site.

The class-action lawsuit included in the accord reached this week had 17 lawsuits filed in recent years claiming fraud on the part of Groupon.com. Individual Plaintiffs alleged Groupon fraudulently advertised the deals on its Web site and made misleading statements on the expiration dates for the deals.

The advertising and selling points on some of the deals were fraudulent or were not disclosed at the time of a sale to a customer who feels duped and decided to file a lawsuit. Some of the expiration dates violated federal laws, according to a CNN.com report. Claimants alleged Groupon.com failed to disclose restrictions on many of the deals it offered or they had unfair expiration dates on items like gift cards, which are held to federal law that states they must not have an expiration sooner than five years from the time of their sale.

The 17 lawsuits were certified as class-action in a California federal court last year and included any of Groupon.com’s subscribers. Most are only going to qualify for a small portion of the settlement that was reached last week but those who filed their claims over specific incidents of fraud will be entitled to more.

Arizona man claims LA Fitness drained his bank account by taking his signature

An Arizona man claims the chain workout haven LA Fitness committed billing fraud when it siphoned at least $1,200 from his bank account via automatic deductions.

According to a report from The Republic newspaper, 22-year-old Benjamin Calleros is the latest to claim LA Fitness took money from him for services he did not want at the gym. The gym took the payments for these services using an automatic billing system which deducts the money from his bank account even after he explicitly attempted to cancel them. He has filed a lawsuit in an Arizona state court against LA Fitness.

The report indicates the Arizona man is not alone and that hundreds more could be subjected to LA Fitness’ fraudulent billing system and questionable way of conducting business.

Instead of simply paying the $24 per month rate to train at LA Fitnesss, Calleros received a free assessment from a personal trainer. That trainer then suggested the client pay for his services through LA Fitness. Despite Calleros declining the service, he was asked to sign a “waiver” after the session for which he submitted his “digital signature.”

The lawsuit contends LA Fitness used Calleros’ signature to sign him up for services through the gym without his authorization.

Kickback charges filed against Missouri nursing home care provider

The federal government has accused RehabCare Group of offering kickbacks to a Missouri nursing home in exchange for allowing it to provide care at its facilities. According to a report from St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the company is accused of defrauding Medicaid and Medicare for more than $10 million.

The Dept. of Justice has filed charges against RehabCare Group, a provider of therapy services for nursing homes, believing the company offered money in kickback payments to Health Sytems Inc. so it could offer care at its chain of nursing homes in the state. In exchange for the kickbacks, the nursing home company would refer them Medicare and Medicaid patients across its network. Continue reading Kickback charges filed against Missouri nursing home care provider

West Virginia community claims fracking company short-changed on royalty fees

Members of one West Virginia community are suing a company conducting hydraulic fracturing (fracking) drilling for natural gas in the area over unpaid royalty payments.

According to a report from The Intelligencer and Wheeling (W. Va.) News-Register newspapers, a group of residents in Marshall County have filed a lawsuit against AB Resources, the former driller at several sites in the region. Since filing the lawsuit, AB’s operations in the area have been purchased by Chevron. The lawsuit, specifically naming AB Resources and not Chevron, claims the driller made illegal deductions from its formula to determine how much in royalties the company must pay the government which allowed the drilling. Continue reading West Virginia community claims fracking company short-changed on royalty fees

Google in settlement talks for bypassing Safari security software to implant +1 buttons on ads

Google is in settlement talks with the Federal Trade Commission after it admitted to breaching the Privacy settings on Apple Inc.’s Safari web browser.

A Bloomberg report indicates the settlement could top $10 million and will be the second fine against the search engine giant and Web service provider used by millions, if not more, users worldwide. The company is accused of deceiving millions of users and for breaking the terms of a settlement reached last year with the FTC for violations incurred using its defunct Google Buzz service. Continue reading Google in settlement talks for bypassing Safari security software to implant +1 buttons on ads

Accretive Health faces lawsuit over missing laptop containing patient records

Health insurance provider Accretive Health has asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Minnesota’s Attorney General Lori Swanson that claims the company breached its own security policies when it lost a laptop containing personal records on its clients.

According to a Bloomberg report, the dismissal request is a common “first step” for corporations when they’re sued. Though the company claims its allegations are baseless, the Minnesota AG believes the company allowing a laptop to be lost put the records of at least 23,500 patients at risk of hackers.

Accretive Health is also facing a multi-state investigation into its business practices, specifically its harassment of patients at hospitals over past-due bills. The company is accused of planting its employees at numerous hospitals in the northern Midwest and pressuring patients into paying outstanding bills before they receive medical care. In some cases, patients were unaware that they were being confronted by an Accretive employee as they were posing as medical staff at the hospital.

In asking for this additional lawsuit to be dismissed, Accretive is accusing the Minnesota AG of seeking publicity for her lawsuit against the company rather than focusing on an apparent lack of a case. A hearing on the dismissal request has been scheduled for early August, according to the report.

Accretive Health accused of conducting on-site debt collections in hospital ERs

An Illinois debt collection company faces lawsuits in several states over its practice of collecting debts from patients when they visit the hospital.

According to a Detroit Free Press report, Accretive Health is now the focus of a Michigan state investigation, alleging its contracts with three Detroit-area hospitals allows them to “infusing into hospital staff ranks” to influence facility policies. Accretive is currently contracted with Ford; Beaumont Hospitals, Royal Oak, and St. John Providence Health of Warren in Michigan. The company also has contracts with hospitals in Missouri and Minnesota and is the focus of a similar investigation in Minnesota.

Accretive defends its practices, saying it has worked to provide health insurance to more than a quarter-million people but it is accused of harassing patients at emergency rooms over outstanding balances on prior medical care they received. The company said it does have staff at the hospital who will confront prospective patients upon their registration at the hospital about past-due bills.