Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced a settlement Monday with Change-My-Address.com, Change-of-Address.us, parent company Form Giant LLC, and its president, Matthew Riley.
Consumers nationwide, and as many as 16,000 in Ohio, are entitled to refunds from the Montgomery-based Internet business that offers change of address services. A $3 million dollar national refund pool has been established.
“We are holding businesses that violate Ohio’s consumer protection laws accountable,” DeWine said in a news release. “This company deceived consumers into thinking they were paying $1 for the change of address service, when in reality, they were charged much more.
“The Ohio and Washington attorneys general each filed lawsuits under their state consumer protection laws in 2013 against the defendants.
Under the settlement, the defendants are required to email all consumers who haven’t already received a full refund.
The email, which must be sent by approximately May 24, will contain a notice of the ability to make a claim for a refund minus the $1 that was paid by the Defendants for the USPS postal service address change. The email will also include instructions on how to file a claim and the time in which the claim must be filed. Consumers have until Aug. 7 to file a claim for a refund after receiving notice.
Here’s how DeWine’s office said the scam worked. After finding Change-My-Address.com/Change-of-Address.us on search engines such as Google, consumers would click on the company website, believing it was the United States Postal Service (USPS) change of address service. USPS charges only $1 for change of address services.
When the consumer filled out the appropriate address and forwarding information and clicked “continue” to complete the transaction, he or she was taken to the page requesting payment information. The company programmed the payment information page so that it automatically jumped down to the middle of the page where the credit card information was requested. The top of the payment page was deliberately obscured, which, if manually scrolled to the top stated, “To prevent fraudulent address changes and to cover the cost of processing and handling, you authorize us to charge your credit or debit card a one-time $19.95 fee.”
DeWine’s office accused the defendants of furthering the scheme the scheme by creating the impression on the website that the cost of services would be limited to the $1 charge assessed by the USPS for address changes. The disclosure at the top of the landing page stated that the consumer would be assessed, “a one dollar processing fee charged by the USPS for submitting an online address change request that must be paid with a valid debit or credit card.” Many consumers believed they would only be charged $1 for services, and only learned of the $19.95 charge when it showed up on his or her billing statement. Later, the defendants raised the price and some consumers paid as much as $29.95.
Finally, the attorney general said the defendants refused to refund the full amount charged when consumers contacted them to complain. The failure to give refunds is one reason that Change-My-Address.com had a rating of F from the Better Business Bureau.
The Ohio portion of the settlement was approved Friday by Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Jody Luebbers.
Under the deal, Change-My-Address.com and Change-of-Address.us also agreed to:
• Disclose the actual full change of address service charge.
• Disclose that they are not affiliated with the USPS.
• Pay attorney costs and fees.