Friday, May 20, 2011

More Than Meets the Eye: Lawsuits in Diguise

Sometimes the smallest news stories have the most interesting back stories.
CBC news recently wrote about Jesse Willms, an entrepreneur from Alberta who was confirmed as being under investigation by the RCMP and the Competition Bureau of Canada and apparently being sued by the U.S Federal Trade Commission for some online dealings that may be worth up to $450 million. The details were pretty sparse, speaking only about inflated charges on people's credit cards for products like tooth whitening and weight loss, so I Googled around a bit.

What is not talked about in the article is an investigation last year by CTV's W5 staff that is the subject of contention. The CTV article talks about fraudulent business practices and lawsuits by celebrities whose images were used without permission, such as Dr. Mehmet Oz, of "The Doctor Oz show" and Oprah Winfrey, which is pretty ballsy if it's true, since Winfrey is a household name with a veritable army of followers. So far nothing had been proved in court, however.

In response the businessman posted this on his website, saying that he was pursuing legal action against CTV and PennyAuctionWatch because the claims were erroneous and harmful to his reputation, which is created by a pretty impressive list of charity affiliations including Santa's Anonymous,World Vision's Children's Charity, and the Edmonton Mustard Seed. Elsewhere on his blog he writes about business ethics and the importance of reading the fine print before agreeing inadvertently to unintended consequences.

Although it is typically my knee-jerk reaction to vilify people suspected of fraudulent business practices, it seems hard to believe a company could operate for many years, amassing it's owner a multi-million dollar fortune, while engaging in some of the practices the company is accused of, but then again, the Internet is a whole new world and people are often willing to trust someone they have never met simply because they appear legitimate. The earlier Apple/iPhone tracking story that broke should illustrate how scarcely people read the fine print. 

It should prove interesting to follow this story, wherever it goes.

No comments: