The Federal Trade Commission and the State of Minnesota have charged Minnesota-based Sellers Playbook with running a large business opportunity scheme. A federal court temporarily halted the operation pending resolution of the case.
The FTC and the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office allege that Sellers Playbook lured consumers into buying its expensive “system” by claiming that purchasers were likely to earn thousands of dollars per month selling products on Amazon. The company used false and unsubstantiated claims, such as make“$20,000 a month” and “Potential Net Profit: $1,287,463.38.” Few, if any, consumers achieved these results, and most lost money.
The defendants are Sellers Playbook Inc., Exposure Marketing Company (also doing business as Sellers Online and Sellers Systems), and Jessie Conners Tieva and Matthew R. Tieva, who have owned and managed these companies. According to the FTC and the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, the defendants, who have no affiliation with Amazon.com, took in more than $15 million from consumers from April 2017 to May 2018. Many consumers paid them more than $32,000.
Jessie Conners Tieva and Exposure Marketing Company previously promoted, sold and benefited from a similar scheme, known as FBA Stores, which ceased operation in March 2018 as a result of an FTC enforcement action. In June 2018, its key operators were banned from selling business opportunities and business coaching services, and required to surrender approximately $10.8 million for return to consumers. The defendants in the case announce today were not defendants in the FBA Stores case.
The defendants are charged with violating the FTC Act, the Business Opportunity Rule, the Minnesota Prevention of Consumer Fraud Act, and the Minnesota Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act. They are also charged with violating the Consumer Review Fairness Act through contracts that improperly sought to restrict consumers’ right to review the products and services they purchased.
The Commission vote approving the complaint was 5-0. The U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota entered a temporary restraining order against the defendants on July 30, 2018, and a preliminary injunction hearing is currently scheduled for August 13, 2018.
This case was brought with the assistance of the Utah Division of Consumer Protection, the U.S. Marshals Service for the District of Minnesota, Amazon.com, Inc., the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota, and the Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc.).
Consumers can report complaints about similar situations to the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office by calling 651-296-3353 or 800-657-3787. They can also download a complaint form from www.ag.state.mn.us and mail the completed form to the Attorney General’s Office, 445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1400, St. Paul, MN 55101-2131.
NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The case will be decided by the court.
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