Back in 2010, we warned you about how those late-night infomercials for The Green Millionaire appeared to just be a way to trick people into incredibly expensive magazine subscriptions. Looks like those suspicions were right, as the people behind the scheme have agreed to refund around $2 million to bilked consumers.
For those not familiar with the Green Millionaire, the ads featured a man named Nigel Williams who would shout in his sorta-English accent that he had the secrets for scoring free solar panels, or how to get gratis gas for life. And all this information was available in a free book. Sign me up!
Oh wait — here’s what the Federal Trade Commission has to say:
The Green Millionaire websites allegedly asked consumers to provide their credit card or bank account number to pay a small shipping and handling fee, without clearly disclosing that they would be charged $29.95 for a two-month subscription to an e-magazine, or $89.95 for a one-year subscription. The defendants allegedly violated the FTC Act by failing to disclose the subscription program, that customers would have to cancel it to avoid additional charges, the program’s cost and how to cancel it, and when they must cancel to avoid charges. They also allegedly debited or charged consumers’ bank or credit card accounts without their consent, misrepresented the book’s contents, and used unsubstantiated endorsements.
The FTC had filed a lawsuit against Williams and others involved in Green Millionaire, but today it announced the parties had reached a settlement.
According to the settlement, the defendants can no longer misrepresent:
* that any product, program, or service is offered on a “free,” “trial,” “no obligation,” or “discounted” basis;
* the amount a consumer will be charged or billed; and
* the timing of any charge or the length of any trial period.
They are also banned from making blatantly false statements, like that anyone can get free gas for life, put solar panels on their roofs for free, and make their electricity meter go backward.
Part of the $2 million to be recouped from the Green Millionaire gang includes Williams’ personal property — two parcels of land and a mobile home, and a 2005 BMW. If any of the defendants are found to have misrepresented their finances to the FTC (which would be a shock), they will immediately be held to their portion of the full $5.7 million judgement.