The Federal Trade Commission is sending checks totally $757,946 to 14,948 small business that were allegedly tricked into using DOTAuthority.com’s registration services with advertising and practices that were deemed deceptive.
While the number seems large, the average refund will be just over $50 per check. DOTAuthority was accused of sending misleading messages to thousands of small business that implied that the company was affiliated with government agencies such as the U.S. Department of Transportation and Unified Carrier Registration system, according to the FTC’s October 2016 complaint.
Using official-sounding names and threats of law enforcement action, the business were coerced into using DOTAuthority’s registration services which included hidden or inadequately disclosed fees that ranged from $25 to $500 or more. Some fleets alleged that they were unwittingly enrolled in an annual renewal program without knowledge or consent.
DOTAuthority agreed to a settlement with the FTC over the charges that banned the company from the illegal conduct alleged in the complaint and imposed a $900,000 monetary judgement. The FTC had previously sent checks totally $89,736 to small businesses involved in the complaint.
Recently uncovered additional information found by the FTC’s investigation prompted the agency to send a second round of refunds.
Representatives from DOTAuthority said at the time of the initial settlement that the suit was an example of government overreach and that the business was offering customers a convenience-oriented alternative and were filling a need in the market, rather than engaging in deception.