St. Louis, Mo., Nov. 11, 2009 – A group of about a dozen related businesses that use the Internet to sell everything from long-distance phone plans to weight-loss supplements is under fire from consumers who tell the Better Business Bureau (BBB) the businesses are billing them for services and products they never wanted.
The BBB warns customers to be cautious when dealing with the following businesses, all of which are managed by Adept Results, a company with offices in Pennsylvania and Washington, Mo.:
- CelebNewsAddict.com, a Web mail plan that focuses on celebrity news and gossip.
- VoiceNet Telephone, which also uses the name VoiceNetPlus, and Cheap2Dial, both long distance phone services.
- ForeverGlam, a Web mail plan emphasizing fashion and glamour news.
- ColoSlim, a colon-cleansing product.
- IDSelectSecurity, a Web mail plan advertised to protect the user from identity theft, and MyEmailDefender, a similar plan advertised to protect against spam.
- Green Tea FIT, a diet supplement advertised to help customers increase stamina and lose weight.
- Mineral Elements by Eden, AgeInvisible, Eden Cosmetics and Precision Niche Products, all of which sell beauty and skin products.
Consumers have told the BBB that some of the business’ Web sites have enticed them to order free or significantly reduced-price products only to find out later that the businesses have enrolled them in open-ended payment plans. In other cases, consumers say that the businesses have added extra charges to their phone bills for services they never ordered.
In one instance, it appears that a 19-year-old stranger used the Internet to enroll an 87-year-old woman from New Jersey in a long-distance phone plan so that he could receive a free vacation voucher.
The woman told the BBB that she and her daughter contacted VoiceNet several times and sent out seven registered letters to the company and various agencies in an attempt to get the matter resolved. More than a month later, she said, the $18 charge finally was removed from her bill.
Michelle Corey, president and CEO of the St. Louis BBB, says that Adept Results and the businesses it manages have said repeatedly that they are trying to correct the problems.
Despite the promises, though, she said, “the BBB continues to hear from people who cannot understand why they are being charged for services and items they do not want and, in many cases, never even ordered. It is not good business when a business hides its practices in fine print and it is not good business when it allows a stranger to victimize an innocent 87-year-old woman.”
The businesses with the most complaints to the St. Louis BBB are:
- Mineral Elements by Eden, a product of Eden Cosmetics (57 complaints since February)
- Cheap2Dial (51 complaints since March 2008, 45 of those in 2009)
- VoiceNet Telephone (30 complaints since 2006, 22 of those in 2009)
- MyEmailDefender (26 complaints, all of them in 2009).
All have D- or F grades with the BBB.
Rose Snow, compliance manager with Adept Results, said in a letter to the BBB that all of the businesses have been attentive in responding to complaints and the responses “generally include a full refund to the customer.” She said Adept Results takes each complaint “very seriously.” In the August 26 letter, she said the company was involved in procedures aimed at reducing future complaints.
Adept Results and the businesses it manages are incorporated in Pennsylvania, but Snow and Carol H. Gierer, director of customer service with Adept Results, said the company’s customer service center is in Washington, Mo.
Gierer, who supervises the Washington office, said 39 Adept employees work on the third floor of an office building at 1351 Jefferson St. She said the company is looking to expand.
Records with the Pennsylvania Department of State report Joshua R. Gray of Harrisburg, Pa. as president of Adept Results, Inc. and Adept Solutions, Inc.
Most of the BBB complaints are from consumers who say they felt tricked into enrolling in a long-term plan that they then could not get out of, or they had their identities stolen by someone who signed them up for services they did not want.
A woman from Cape Girardeau, Mo., said she discovered she could get a gift card from a national retailer by taking advantage of several free or reduced-price offers for other products. Among the offers, she said, was one for a free trial of beauty products from Mineral Elements, for a $1 shipping fee.
The woman said she charged the shipping to a credit card on Oct. 12 and received the sample product soon after. She said she then carefully followed instructions included with the makeup to cancel future orders, but found cancellation impossible – either via the Internet or by phone.
She said she tried repeatedly to reach a customer service representative by phone, with no success. Two weeks later, she noticed an $89 charge to her credit card, for the “free trial” makeup she had not returned. It was only then, she said, that she was able to use the Internet to cancel future orders.
A woman from Empire, Ala., said she also came across a free trial offer for Mineral Elements, for the same $1 shipping charge. She said she too tried to cancel future orders via the Internet and by phone, with no luck. She said that two weeks later she noticed the company had taken $130 from her bank account. Because of the limited amount of money in the account, she said, she had three charges for insufficient funds at $38 each.
“I would not trust anybody ever again,” she said. “I’m mad at myself; the biggest thing is that nobody else gets duped by them.”
A Palmdale, Calif. man said he discovered a $16 charge had been added to his phone bill for four consecutive months beginning in July. He said the business, Cheap2Dial, insisted that he had ordered the long-distance service, even when he told a representative that the phone in question was not even capable of long-distance dialing.
On Oct. 27, a woman from Springfield, Mo., reported that MyEmailDefender had put a mysterious $13 charge on her monthly phone bill. She said she later learned that a stranger had signed her up for the service, without her consent. She said the company agreed to remove the charge after she contacted the BBB.
The BBB offers the following advice for consumers buying products online:
- Be cautious of free or very low-price offers. Often, free offers are followed by an open-ended enrollment in a program that automatically bills your credit card account. Before ordering anything on line, make sure you click on and read all terms and conditions.
- Pay with a credit card whenever possible, so you can challenge the charge in the event of a dispute.
- Research any company carefully before doing business with it. Check out reliability reports with the BBB online at www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.
Contacts: Michelle Corey, President & CEO, 314-645-3300, email@example.com or Bill Smith, Trade Practice Investigator, 314-645-3300, firstname.lastname@example.org