Louisiana company charged $99 fee for free service
A Louisiana company has paid $14,850 to refund fees paid by owners of Iowa trucking companies, many of whom thought they were responding to a government agency threatening fines.
The Consumer Protection Division of the Iowa Attorney General's Office began investigating Compliance Educators LLC after receiving a complaint in April from an Iowa trucker. In May, the Haughton, La.-based company and its owner, Scott Rister of Flower Mound, Texas, agreed to make the refunds as part of an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance with the Iowa Attorney General’s Office.
The company also paid $7,000 to the state’s consumer fraud enforcement fund and agreed to refrain from doing business in Iowa.
Compliance Educators agreed to provide refunds for 150 transactions of $99 each. The Attorney General’s office is now issuing the refunds to a list of Iowans supplied by the company.
Motor carriers must update their information with the U.S. Department of Transportation every two years. They can do so for free at a federal website — but Compliance Educators charged truckers $99 to do so.
The company sent out warning letters to truckers under the name “DotService.com” and “DOT Compliance Group” and included exclamation points and bold letters:
“FINAL NOTICE!! … Now you are PAST DUE to complete and file your Biennial Update with DOT … Make no doubt that failure to complete a Biennial Update may result in deactivation of your USDOT number and may result in civil penalties of up to $1,000 per day, not to exceed $10,000 and this is serious!”
In smaller type, the mailings read: “DOT Service is not part of the Department of Transportation.”
Several of the carriers said they thought the letter was from a government agency.