MIAMI (CN) - Govsimplified LLC tricked consumers into buying federal tax identification numbers from its website that are otherwise free of charge from the IRS, a class action claims.
In a complaint filed in Miami-Dade County, named plaintiff Kelsey O'Brien claims Govsimplified designed its websites with a layout, color scheme and format exactly like that of the Internal Revenue Service to mislead consumers into thinking that they are associated with the U.S. government.
A federal tax identification number or EIN is assigned by the IRS to identify business entities. "The EIN allows the IRS to track wages and other payments from businesses to business' employees and owners," the complaint states.
O'Brien says that in December 2014 she purchased an EIN through one of defendant's websites, and shortly afterward discovered that EINs were available at the IRS website at no charge after completing an online application.
According to the complaint, defendant illegally charged consumers $129 for an EIN number delivered within three business days, $147 for delivery within one business day and $197 for one- hour delivery. Defendant tricks consumers into believing that they are being offered a premium service, and that obtaining an EIN through its website is faster than through the IRS.
The complaint claims that defendant maintains the following deceptive websites with "gov.us" domains where it charges consumers for providing them with EIN numbers: www.ein-gov.us, www.1.ein-gov.us, www.taxid-gov.us, www.1.taxid-gov.us.
"To lure people to its websites, defendant utilizes deceptive domain names to deceive consumers into believing that it is affiliated with the United States government, the complaint states.
During the application process, the complaint says that defendant gathers private information from the consumers, including their Social Security numbers.
O'Brien says that defendant's websites do have a purported "disclaimer" at the bottom of the webpage where it states that it is not associated with the United States government. However, the disclaimer is located in an area that the consumer usually overlooks, and it has a small font with a color that it's difficult to read because it blends with the website's background.
The complaint claims that Govsimplified misled plaintiff and other class members by making them pay a sum of money for a product that was not as represented.
Plaintiff says that defendant violated the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act or FDUTPA by engaging in the unfair practice of charging her and other consumers for EINs, and making them believe that they were associated with the IRS and the US government.
O'Brien seeks unspecified damages on claims of violation of the FDUTPA and unjust enrichment.
She is represented by Andrew B. Boese, of Coral Gables, Fla., and Jana Eisinger, from Denver, Colo.
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