[UPDATE 8-10-09 -- See after end of Statement.]
Statement of the Attorney General's Office, July 30, 2009:
We have received more than 100 calls in the last couple days from CIS customers seeking information or raising complaints. Complaints include that CIS service had terminated abruptly, that service was poor, that CIS owed them money because they paid months in advance but are not receiving service, and that CIS had promised refunds but failed to provide them.
We have not had any reply from CIS officials, despite numerous attempts to contact them by phone and email, so we know little about the situation beyond what we have heard from customers.
We are providing information and suggestions for customers, including:
FIRST: If customers are out money (typically because they paid in advance for service that apparently will not be provided), they should file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division (go to www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.gov and click on ‘protecting consumers,’ or send by regular mail to 1305 East Walnut, Des Moines, IA 50319, or call 888-777-4590.)
If it is a business failure, ordinarily it is not a consumer-fraud violation and there is little chance that customers will recover their money. A bankruptcy often follows, and in many bankrupcties there are inadequate funds to compensate creditors (including customers.) Ordinarily the Bankruptcy Court would eventually contact creditors including customers, but having a complaint on file with the AG Office will ensure that customers can be notified by the AG about any bankruptcy action. Complaints also enable the Consumer Protection Division to analyze the situation and determine if any other action is appropriate.
SECOND: Customers who have automatic withdrawal or debiting arrangements for payments should contact their financial institutions at once and terminate any automatic payments to CIS. (Contact the AG’s Consumer Protection Division if your financial institution will not stop automatic withdrawals/payments.)
THIRD: Customers who paid by credit card should challenge any billing for CIS service not received. Send written notice to your credit card issuer (keep a copy) that you are disputing charges by CIS because the company is no longer providing service. (If it is a new billing, don’t pay that portion of your bill, and send notice to your card-issuer explaining why. If you already paid for service not yet provided, write to your card-issuer and ask for a refund on that portion of your payment.)
The Attorney General’s Office also will share information we collect with local law enforcement officials, if indicated, as we typically do in this kind of situation.
END of statement.
[UPDATE 8-10-09: The Attorney General’s Office has reached Robert Kramer, owner of CIS Internet Services, and discussed the termination of Internet services by the company, formally known as CIS Telecom, LLC. Mr. Kramer stated that he intends to provide refunds to consumers who paid in advance for service but the service was not provided. He said he intends to provide all refunds by Sept. 3, 2009. He said any refunds would be based on the remaining account balance as of August 1, 2009 (i.e., consumers would be refunded for service they paid for beyond Aug. 1.) The Attorney General’s Office encourages consumers to file a written complaint with the Consumer Protection Division (address listed above) if they prepaid for service beyond August 1, 2009, so the office can monitor whether CIS is carrying out the intentions stated by Mr. Kramer. If CIS fails to make promised refunds, the AG Office may review the matter further. This web site will be updated if we have new information for consumers. Meanwhile, consumers also are advised to take the measures mentioned above in case of business failure and failure to make the refunds.]