This year, consumers have been crammed, throttled, spammed and generally flim-flammed in a variety of ways by companies selling everything from dog food, to energy drinks to phone service. Here’s TINA.org’s list of 12 companies that we think deserve coal in their holiday stockings. (Click on company names to read more)
+ 1. AT&T
Not only did it pay out $105 million to settle charges of cramming this year but it is also facing federal allegations that it deliberately reduced the data speeds of millions of smartphone customers with unlimited data plans — also known as throttling.
+ 2. Bank of America
America’s bank is repaying customers more than $700 million for fraudulently billing 1.9 million of them for credit card protection products consumers didn’t authorize or, in some cases, even receive. The only protection the bank was providing was for its bottom line.
+ 3. Big Pharma
Five major pharmaceutical companies were named in a California suit that charged that for the past 20 years the companies, together and independently, engaged in a deeply deceptive marketing campaign aimed at both health care providers and consumers to convince them that taking opioids was a must to relieve chronic pain. Purdue Pharma, distributor of OxyContin, which accounts for roughly 30% of the entire painkiller market with annual sales of about $2.5 billion per year, was named in the suit. All this begs the question; will these companies be feeling some financial pain?
+ 4. Blue Buffalo
This is a long and twisty pet tale (pun intended). But suffice it to say, Blue Buffalo
, a maker of premium-priced natural pet food, which was sued by Purina for claims that its kibble was better for pets because it didn’t contain by-products, admitted that actually some of its premium-priced natural pet food did actually — and accidentally– contain by-products, leaving pet parents to wonder which company is barking up the wrong tree.
+ 5. Corinthian Colleges
How’s this for getting schooled? The lawsuit claims that Corinthian coaxed students — many from low-income families — into taking out loans for costly tuition expenses by falsely advertising job placement rates and career services that it couldn’t deliver. The company then engaged in a debt collection scheme that forced students to pay back those loans while still in school, the lawsuit alleges.” Federal officials say
Corinthian not only coaxed low-income students into taking out loans for costly tuition by promising post graduation jobs it couldn’t deliver, it also then engaged in a debt collection schemes to force students to pay back the loans while still in school — turning “the American dream of higher education into an ongoing nightmare of debt and despair.”
+ 6. GE Capital
And we are back to credit card products with this one. As part of a $225 million settlement order
GE refunded more than 600,000 customers who were subjected to deceptive marketing of credit card add-on products promoted as providing debt cancellation protection (maybe GE was taking a card from Bank of America’s bag of tricks). The Utah-based company was also cited for discriminating against Hispanic customers.
+ 7. Hellmann’s
The story that Hellmann’s is suing
a small vegan competitor for labeling its spread “Just Mayo” despite it not having a key ingredient — eggs– spread rapidly (aka ‘went viral”). But the story ended up leaving Hellmann’s — and corporate owner Unilever — with egg on its face when word also got out that the company was rapidly changing labels on its website from “mayonnaise” to “dressing” for some of its products that contain a variety of different ingredients such as olive oil, which don’t meet the FDA’s definition of mayonnaise.
+ 8. Lear Capital
This purveyor of precious metals needs some lessons in basic math. While it talks about how well metals have done in the “last decade” or the “past decade” in its gold
TV commercials, it magically stops time in 2011. Why? Perhaps it’s because over the last three years gold and silver have taken a nosedive. Oh, and that free silver it promises? Not free at all
+ 9. Overstock
Perhaps a better name for this online retailer is over-hype and over-priced. A California court found
that the company engaged in false advertising relating to pricing and supposed customer savings. An internal Overstock email summed it all up: “Oh, I think it’s been established that the ‘List Price’ is egregiously overstated. This place has some balls.” For its balls, it had to pony up $6.8 million in civil penalties.
+ 10. T-Mobile
Cellular service providers may be fiercely competitive, but the FTC is finding one thing in common — some are earning revenues from cramming. Before the AT&T settlement on the same issue, FTC filed a complaint against T-Mobile, alleging that it used third-party billing to collect up to 40 percent of the total amount of fees charged to customers without their consent or knowledge. The fees were for purported premium texting subscriptions for content such as flirting tips, horoscope information or celebrity gossip that typically cost $9.99. T-Mobile is fighting the suit. The FTC said it is continuing its investigation of major carriers.
+ 11. Vemma
Not only has this Arizona-based mangosteen and minerals energy drink and dietary supplement company, which recruits heavily on college campuses, been found to be a pyramid scheme in Italy, but here in the U.S. its members continue to make unsubstantiated health claims in violation of a previous federal order and the company is also facing a class-action lawsuit over such claims. The company, which TINA.org has been investigating
for two years, has been under scrutiny by other national and international media for pitching the high life to prospects who in reality have a slim chance of ever getting near a high income.
+ 12. WakeUpNow
This Utah-based MLM
also is heavily recruiting on college campuses, also has an energy drink, as well as a host of other products distributors pay a premium for despite being able to get them cheaper elsewhere, or even for free. The company
also boasts that its distributors can earn big incomes despite that fact that not only is it losing money, and its leaders are in debt, but less than one percent of its members grossed more than $2,000 a year. That’s some “secret” it has.