I am ever so pleased that the FTC went after Miss Cleo’s Psychic Douchebag Service for simply being a well-financed bunco operation:
- The operators of Miss Cleo’s psychic hot line agreed Thursday to cancel $500 million in customer bills to settle federal charges that the service fleeced callers while promising mystical insights into love and money.
The settlement requires Access Resource Services Inc. and Psychic Readers Network Inc. to stop using pay-per-call numbers to sell their soothsaying services, the Federal Trade Commission said. The two Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based companies, which promoted a national network of “psychic readers” on television and the Internet, also must pay the FTC a $5 million fine.
“I’m no psychic but I can foresee this: If you make deceptive claims, there is an FTC action in your future,” said Howard Beales, director of the agency’s consumer protection bureau.
Under the settlement, the companies did not admit to breaking any law but agreed to stop trying to collect money from customers who called the service and to forgive about $500 million in outstanding charges. The service also must return all uncashed checks to customers.
Beales said during three years of operation the service charged people about $1 billion and collected half of it. The service’s business fell sharply after the FTC filed a lawsuit in February, he said. [from Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
$1 billion is a vast amount of stupid – did any of these idiots who bought in to this scam really think a psychic was going to foresee their future? What freaking century is this? And don’t give me the “entertainment purposes” excuse – since when is gullibility entertaining?
Also, this case is so egregious, so blatant, so evil: why do they get to keep the other half-billion? I think I could manage on that. Where is the deterrence for this kind of mental snake oil when the perpetrators get to keep half of their ill-gotten gains and not even admit they did anything wrong?
- The FTC lawsuit was prompted by more than 2,000 consumer complaints. It accused the companies of misdeeds including false promises of free psychic readings, tricky billing tactics to squeeze money out of callers and unrelenting and abusive telemarketing calls.
The FTC said the psychic service promised a free reading, but consumers calling a toll-free number were directed to a 900 number charging $4.99 per minute. The agency said nearly 6 million people made such calls and were charged an average of about $60.
The government said operators made the calls last as long as possible by telling callers they would not be charged while on hold. A telephone bill running into the hundreds of dollars was the first sign for many callers that they were being charged.
The FTC also accused the psychic service of violating telemarketing rules by harassing people and making calls to those who asked to be on a “do not call” list. The agency said many consumers received up to 10 calls a day, usually automated messages telling them that “Miss Cleo had a dream about them and they should call back.”
Miss Cleo was as ubiquitous as Santa Claus, but most adults don’t send Santa Claus money. How is this any different from Cleveland’s own Frank Gruttadauria, who only scammed $50 million and got seven years in a Federal slammer? At that ratio these scum sucks should have been tossed away for 70 years.
And what about that patois-tossing spokesbitch Miss Cleo? She’s about as Jamaican as Genghis Khan and almost as rapacious. I’m pleased to see Florida went after the spokeswoman for this fetid swamp of deception:
- Florida authorities have a civil case pending against the service’s spokeswoman, Youree Dell Harris, known in advertising as the Jamaican mystic “Miss Cleo.” During a deposition in June, Harris repeatedly invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, refusing to discuss a birth certificate that shows she was born in Los Angeles to American parents.
I think they should go after every TV staton that ran the ads as well – that’ll make the stations a little more careful about what swill they foist on their viewers.
When I bought TV ads in LA in the late ’80s for a entertainment news phone service, we had to prove that the service was legit. Obviously, not all stations have that requirement. Weren’t they aiding and abetting when they ran those ads? Without the ads there sure as hell is no $1 billion in duped dreamers.
Speaking of which, when is al Jazeera going to be held responsible for its role in enabling Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda to spread their messages of hate, violence and death?
- No matter the ultimate determination, administration officials said they were bracing for the possibility that the tape might contain hidden messages to Qaeda followers, and that these might spur further terrorist attacks. Some officials say they believe that another recent audiotape thought to be from Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mr. bin Laden’s mentor and chief deputy in Al Qaeda might have inspired recent attacks in Kuwait and Bali. [from NY Times]
What if this latest screed does contain signals for his demonic minions to strike? Al Jazeera is a party to this. They run everything al Qaeda sends their way: this isn’t news, it’s propaganda, and extremely dangerous propaganda at that.
- A correspondent for the Arab satellite TV station Al-Jazeera told The Associated Press he received an unsigned, six-page document on Wednesday, a day after the station broadcast an audiotape believed made by al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
This is the letter that threatened Ny and Washington anew.
The BBC, hardly known for pro-Western chauvinism, discusses the matter as well:
- it has become famous for carrying exclusive messages from the al-Qaeda leader – earning a nickname as the Bin Laden channel.
It has also been vilified for what its critics describe as its anti-American bias, particularly in its coverage of the Afghan war, and for fanning the flames of Islamic extremism.
….US commentators argue that much of their suspicion comes from the fact that al-Jazeera’s material is often uncheckable.
And they say that, by Western standards, much of the station’s coverage would be considered lacking in fairness and balance.
The fact that AJ is also criticized by Arab governments shows how pitiful is the cncept of free speech and “balanced reporting” in the region:
- Its reporters have at times been banned by Kuwait, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. It has been criticised by Saudi Arabia and was reportedly described by Bahrain as being pro-Zionist.
But al-Jazeera says the fact that it has managed to upset so many governments is the clearest evidence that it is doing its job properly.
“We always try to provide as comprehensive a picture as possible. We don’t only reflect one angle and this is why some governments are unhappy with what we do,” Yosri Fouda, deputy executive director of al-Jazeera’s London bureau, told BBC News Online.
“Al-Jazeera is a cultural, political and social phenomenon – it’s teaching people about things like civil society, human rights and voting – many governments in our part of the world are not happy with such things.”
The network’s coverage on the coming conflagration in Iraq will do much to make or break its reputation in the West, especially America.