The Federal Trade Commission is taking action against a website operator that allegedly tricked consumers – in advance of the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – with spam emails that falsely claimed that consumers would be violating the ACA if they did not immediately click a link to enroll in health insurance.
The case against Kobeni Inc. and its president, Yair Shalev, is the first the agency has brought alleging ACA-related fraud. According to the FTC’s complaint, from at least May 2013 through August 2013, the defendants sent consumers email with statements such as:
Today is the deadline to make your election or be in violation of federal law
Must Receive Your Election Or You Will Be In Violation of Federal Law.
Effective Monday (08-05-13) health coverage is REQUIRED BY LAW.
Why is this mandatory? New Federal Law signed by the President made it mandatory for all U.S. residents to have active coverage. You will be in violation and face penalties if you do not elect.
You Must Select One of These 5 Options
As stated in the complaint, links in the email messages led to websites with advertisements for insurance. The websites’ operators paid the defendants when consumers clicked links contained in the ads. Insurance companies whose ads appeared on the websites did not authorize the email messages.
The FTC charges the defendants with violating the FTC Act by falsely representing that consumers would violate federal law if they did not select health insurance by the dates that appeared in their email messages. The complaint alleges that the defendants violated the CAN-SPAM Act by not providing consumers who received the spam email messages with a clear and conspicuous notice that they had the right to opt out of receiving future commercial email messages from the defendants, and by sending commercial email messages that did not include the sender’s physical postal address.
The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 4-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.