Payday Loan Site and Its Partners Nailed by Court

     ORLANDO, Fla. (CN) – Two Utah businessmen debited consumers’ bank accounts without their consent and failing to disclose material information on their websites, a federal judge ruled.
     The Federal Trade Commission filed a proposed final judgment against the six defendants Monday, a week and a half after U.S. District John Antoon II delivered his findings of the case.
     Antoon presided over a bench trial against Kyle Wood; Wood’s companies, WKMS Inc. and Direct Benefits Group LLC; Mark Berry; and Berry’s companies, Solid Core Solutions Inc. and Voice Net Global LLC.
     In addition to finding that the defendants engaged in unfair and deceptive business practices, Antoon held Wood and Berry liable for the corporate violations.
     “The defendants operated as a ‘common enterprise’ such that each is liable for the acts of the others,” he added.
     Websites that WKMS operated allowed customers to fill out payday loan applications, but WKMS acted only as a referral service did not actually provide pay day loans, according to the ruling
     Its websites included, among others, citywestfinancial.com, mypaydayangel.com, paydaypickup.com, juniperloans.com, northcitymutual.com and mycashpickup.com.
     Wood’s other company, Direct Benefits Group, marketed membership clubs called Direct Benefits Online and Unified Savings that offered various discounts and rebates.
     Berry’s company Voice Net Global, which also did business as Thrifty Dial, was also a discount program that dealt with dial-through long-distance services.
     Solid Core, a software development and staffing company, provided Direct Benefits Group and Voice Net Global with employees.
     When consumers filled out loan applications through WKMS websites, they were presented with offers for the discount programs through banner ads and pop-up boxes, according to the ruling.
     Consumers who enrolled in the discount programs, sometimes unwittingly, had already provided their bank account information on the loan applications, and the companies debited those accounts directly for the monthly or annual fees odf the discount programs, the court found.
     Wood eventually went from a monthly fee charge of about $40 or $60 to an annual fee of about $100.
     “These debits sometimes came as a surprise to consumers, who often had not realized that they had enrolled in a discount program rather than merely submitting a payday loan application,” the ruling states. “Additionally, the debits sometimes resulted in bank overdraft charges for the consumers; those who had not realized they had enrolled were not expecting such a charge, and many of these payday loan seekers did not have enough money in their bank accounts to cover the debits.”

%d bloggers like this: