PHOENIX (CN) - A modeling and acting studio called "The" demands $70 million from the Better Business Bureau, claiming the BBB falsely attributed dozens of consumer complaints to it. New York Studio, which "trades under the business name 'The,'" says only a small fraction of the 39 complaints were against The, and that most were "other entities falsely grouped as fictitious names."
New York Studio bought the "The" trade name and business assets from NedGam Productions on Aug. 1, 2009, according to the federal complaint. The Studio claims it has "invested significant resources in improving The's reputation, which suffered from some negative publicity prior to the purchase related to a few consumer complaints and an early 2009 investigation by the Connecticut Attorney General regarding some contractual provisions in one of NedGam Productions' agreements."
The claims that between Aug. 1, 2009 and August or September this year, the Phoenix Better Business Bureau published on its website a "Business Reliability Report" that lumped in The with the Academy of Cinema and Television.
Consumers who searched for "The" on BBB websites during that time period were directed to the "Business Reliability Report" published by the Phoenix BBB, according to The.
From January through September, New York Studio's employees repeatedly told the Phoenix BBB that "The" was not an entity of the Academy of Cinema and Television or NedGam Productions, the complaint states. But the report, which contained the 39 consumer complaints against The, remained on the website, and the Phoenix BBB reported to media outlets that Academy of Cinema and Television and "The" are the same company, according to The.
In August, just before a scheduled The event in Chesterfield, Mo., the St. Louis Better Business Bureau issued press releases and reported to local media the Phoenix BBB's "falsehoods about the number of complaints against 'The' and its purported affiliation with ACT," according to the complaint. When consumers called the St. Louis BBB to ask about the The event in Chesterfield, they were told by employees to "leave your wallet at home," according to The.
New York Studio says many customers canceled their contracts and asked for refunds "based solely on hearing about the contents of the Phoenix BBB's 'Business Reliability Report' or the St. Louis BBB's republication of those falsehoods, either directly or via local or national media outlets."
The seeks compensatory and punitive damages for defamation and tortious interference. It is represented by Steven White with White Berberian in Tempe.