Iowa AG settles with Va. telemarketer

Bryan Cohen Sep. 21, 2011, 12:59pm


DES MOINES, Iowa (Legal Newsline) - Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller announced an agreement on Wednesday with a Virginia for-profit telemarketing company that allegedly solicited Iowans on behalf of the disabled or disadvantaged.

As part of an assurance of voluntary compliance, Products At Work LLC of Norfolk and Yolanda Monroe, its owner, agreed to a permanent ban on soliciting Iowans. As part of the agreement, the owner and company denied liability or wrongdoing.

"We demanded a permanent ban because of serious concerns we had about the company targeting older Iowans," Miller said. "It's evident to us that telephone solicitors misrepresented how they would use the money they collected."

Miller alleged that in a 2007 call, a company representative sold freezer bags and Saran Wrap for $35 a piece, falsely claiming he was a volunteer and that 100 percent of the proceeds collected by the company go to paraplegics and amputee victims.

In addition, Miller alleged that during a call record in May, another company representative falsely claimed to be a volunteer and tried to sell a package of light bulbs or zip lock freezer bags for $58.95 a piece. The telemarketer also allegedly made questionable claims that her fellow workers "suffer illnesses of war" and "don't get checks from the government."

These alleged calls caused the Consumer Protection Division to demand and receive a list of Iowa consumers who purchased items from Products At Work and Monroe.

Miller alleged that the company repeatedly placed sales calls, sometimes only weeks apart, to several older Iowans. The Iowans allegedly repeatedly purchased items, including freezer bags, light bulbs, wind chimes and cookies. Alleged victims include an 83-year-old Keokuk County, Iowa, woman who placed 12 separate orders within 15 months and a 66-year-old Clayton County, Iowa, woman who placed ten orders in just over 1.5 years.

"We know that, in several cases, older Iowans were confused, yet still generous at heart, and they kept placing orders for overpriced items because of aggressive and deceptive telemarketing practices," Miller said.

The agreement requires the company to make a $5,000 payment to the state, $4,000 of which will go to refunding Iowans who made multiple purchases and the remaining $1,000 going to the state's elderly victim funds.

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