CHARLESTON - State Attorney General Darrell McGraw recently reached a pair of settlements, one with a debt relief company and another with a car dealership.
Wednesday, McGraw announced his settlement with PDM International Inc., which he claimed was signing consumers up for its services without their consent and charging them. The settlement will yield refunds of $35,345 for 38 state consumers.
Calls made by the company promised it could reduce credit card debt by thousands of dollars, McGraw said.
"Consumers should be wary of telephone calls from strangers who offer products and services that seem to good to be true," McGraw said.
"It is best to call my office first before agreeing to purchase questionable services over the phone."
Regina Bays signed up to receive additional written information from PDM's debt relief program, but instead had her credit card charged $990, McGraw said. The five-term Democrat also says PDM was engaging in telemarketing sales without a business license or surety bond and did not give consumers a right to cancel their service at least seven days after the telephone sale.
Tuesday, McGraw announced a settlement with Exit 132 Pontiac/Buick/GMC of White Hall. The dealership mailed consumers a flyer that stated they had won a car, cash prizes or a card redeemable for $250 in gas or other merchandise.
Later, consumers instead were given a voucher to complete a mail to a Web site that required a refundable $5 activation fee, McGraw said. After that, consumers were required to purchase $100 of the same type of gas and send the receipts to the site in exchange for a $25 gift card.
Consumers had to spend $1,000 to get the full $250 gift card, McGraw said.
"It is unlawful to advise consumers that they have won something and tie any other requirements to the receipt of the prize," McGraw said.
"The dealership also failed to advise consumers of all the hoops they would have to jump through to get their free gas -- a clear violation of the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act.
The settlement will allow consumers who file complaints to receive $250 in gas from two nearby gas stations with which the dealership entered an agreement.