Class Accuses Skin-Care Firm of Fraud

     LOS ANGELES (CN) - The firm behind the celebrity-endorsed acne treatment Proactiv ignores cancellation requests and illegally bills customers' banks and credit cards, a class action claims in Federal Court.
     Named plaintiffs Nanci Quintana Gomez sued Guthy-Renker, alleging racketeering, unfair competition, and violation of California Automatic Renewal Law.
     Guthy-Renker sells 15 beauty and skincare products, including Proactiv, Meaningful Beauty, WEN Haircare and Sheer Cover, using direct marketing and celebrity endorsements from the likes of Cindy Crawford, Justin Bieber and Jessica Simpson.
     Quintana claims the company defrauds customers by enrolling them in memberships and making unauthorized withdrawals from their credit cards and bank accounts for products they've never received or ordered.
     Customers are charged even after they've canceled their accounts, Quintana says.
     "Defendant's scheme is deceptively simple. Defendant requires consumers to provide credit card or debit card information at the time they make any initial purchase of defendant's products," the July 11 lawsuit states. "Defendant then uses that credit card and debit card information to automatically enroll them in supposed 'continuity program' memberships, pursuant to which defendant automatically sends them its products on what is supposedly a 90 day periodic interval.
     "After consumers call to cancel, defendant continues to charge their credit and debit cards for its products, despite the fact that it does not have authorization to do so and it is prohibited from making such charges under the rules of the electronic payment networks through which it processes its credit and debit card transactions."
     Guthy-Renker makes other unauthorized charges, Quintana claims, such as offering customers 90-day supplies and pretending it will charge customers a monthly fee for the products.
     The reality, says Quintana, is that Guthy-Renker charges "charges consumers for its products on intervals of 28 days or less, and ships its '90 day supplies' of products on 84-day intervals."
     "By charging them at a greater frequency than they authorized, defendant squeezes a thirteenth 'monthly' charge to consumers' accounts each year, exceeding the 'per month' charges for which defendant obtained consumers' authorizations. These extra charges serve no purpose other than to make additional profits for defendant," the lawsuit states.
     In addition, the company charges for products that consumers did not order, Quintana says.
     After ordering an initial 30-day supply of Proactiv, Quintana says, she received products she did not order or want, incurring charges from November 2012 to May 2013. She says the company charged her 14 times for Proactiv products in one year, for a total of $284.18.
     Quintana says she was charged an additional $347.68 for Meaningful Beauty products she neither ordered nor received.
     Though she asked for her money back, Quintana says she received only a partial refund of $139.91.
     She seeks an injunction, damages and costs. She is represented by Jeffrey Keller, with Keller Grover of San Francisco.
     Guthy-Renker did not immediately respond to a request for comment.