Federal Trade Commission.
Proposed Consent Agreement.
The consent agreement in this matter settles alleged violations of Start Printed Page 11375federal law prohibiting unfair or deceptive acts or practices or unfair methods of competition. The attached Analysis to Aid Public Comment describes both the allegations in the complaint and the terms of the consent order—embodied in the consent agreement—that would settle these allegations.
Comments must be received on or before April 9, 2009.
Interested parties are invited to submit written comments electronically or in paper form. Comments should refer to“American Telecom Services, File No. 082 3114” to facilitate the organization of comments. Please note that your comment—including your name and your state—will be placed on the public record of this proceeding, including on the publicly accessible FTC website, at (http://www.ftc.gov/os/publiccomments.shtm).
Because comments will be made public, they should not include any sensitive personal information, such as an individual’s Social Security Number; date of birth; driver’s license number or other state identification number, or foreign country equivalent; passport number; financial account number; or credit or debit card number. Comments also should not include any sensitive health information, such as medical records or other individually identifiable health information. In addition, comments should not include any “[t]rade secret or any commercial or financial information which is obtained from any person and which is privileged or confidential. . .,” as provided in Section 6(f) of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. 46(f), and Commission Rule 4.10(a)(2), 16 CFR 4.10(a)(2). Comments containing material for which confidential treatment is requested must be filed in paper form, must be clearly labeled “Confidential,” and must comply with FTC Rule 4.9(c).1
Because paper mail addressed to the FTC is subject to delay due to heightened security screening, please consider submitting your comments in electronic form. Comments filed in electronic form should be submitted by using the following weblink: (https://secure.commentworks.com/ftc-AmericanTelecom) (and following the instructions on the web-based form). To ensure that the Commission considers an electronic comment, you must file it on the web-based form at the weblink: (https://secure.commentworks.com/ftc-AmericanTelecom). If this Notice appears at (http://www.regulations.gov/search/index.jsp), you may also file an electronic comment through that website. The Commission will consider all comments that regulations.gov forwards to it. You may also visit the FTC website at http://www.ftc.gov to read the Notice and the news release describing it.
A comment filed in paper form should include the “American Telecom Services, Inc., File No. 082 3114“ reference both in the text and on the envelope, and should be mailed or delivered to the following address: Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, Room H-135, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580. The FTC is requesting that any comment filed in paper form be sent by courier or overnight service, if possible, because U.S. postal mail in the Washington area and at the Commission is subject to delay due to heightened security precautions.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Linda K. Badger, FTC Western Region, San Francisco, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20580, (415) 848-5151.End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information
Pursuant to section 6(f) of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 38 Stat. 721, 15 U.S.C. 46(f), and § 2.34 of the Commission Rules of Practice, 16 CFR 2.34, notice is hereby given that the above-captioned consent agreement containing a consent order to cease and desist, having been filed with and accepted, subject to final approval, by the Commission, has been placed on the public record for a period of thirty (30) days. The following Analysis to Aid Public Comment describes the terms of the consent agreement, and the allegations in the complaint. An electronic copy of the full text of the consent agreement package can be obtained from the FTC Home Page (for March 11, 2009), on the World Wide Web, at (http://www.ftc.gov/os/2009/03/index.htm). A paper copy can be obtained from the FTC Public Reference Room, Room 130-H, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20580, either in person or by calling (202) 326-2222.
Public comments are invited, and may be filed with the Commission in either paper or electronic form. All comments should be filed as prescribed in the ADDRESSES section above, and must be received on or before the date specified in the DATES section.
Analysis of Agreement Containing Consent Order to Aid Public Comment
The Federal Trade Commission has accepted, subject to final approval, an agreement containing a consent order from American Telecom Services, Inc. (“ATS”). ATS, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, is a distributor of telephones and phone services.
The proposed consent order has been placed on the public record for thirty (30) days for reception of comments by interested persons. Comments received during this period will become part of the public record. After thirty (30) days, the Commission will again review the agreement and the comments received and will decide whether it should withdraw from the agreement or make final the agreement’s proposed order.
This matter concerns ATS’s cash rebate promotions. To make its products more attractive to retailers and their customers, ATS has offered numerous mail-in rebates ranging from $5 to $50 in value. In implementing these promotions, ATS used third party fulfillment houses to process and pay rebate requests received from its customers. The complaint alleges that ATS engaged in deceptive practices relating to these rebate offers. Specifically, the complaint alleges that ATS falsely represented that purchasers of eligible ATS products will receive rebate checks within eight weeks after receipt of their properly completed requests. The proposed complaint further alleges that tens of thousands of consumers who submitted properly completed requests for rebates since 2006 have experienced substantial delays, including delays of one year or longer. According to the complaint, Start Printed Page 11376these delays have been due, in part, to ATS’s inability to pay its third party fulfillment houses, as well as its refusal to timely pay third party fulfillment houses with which it had disagreements.
The proposed order contains provisions designed to prevent ATS from engaging in similar acts and practices in the future. Part I of the proposed order prohibits ATS from misrepresenting the time in which any rebate will be mailed and from failing to provide any rebate within the time specified, or if no time is specified, within thirty days. This provision also prohibits the company from misrepresenting any material terms of any rebate program, including the status of or reasons for any delay in providing any rebate.
Parts II through V of the proposed order are standard reporting and compliance provisions. Part VI provides that the order will terminate after twenty (20) years, with certain exceptions.
The purpose of this analysis is to facilitate public comment on the proposed order, and it is not intended to constitute an official interpretation of the agreement and proposed order or to modify in any way their terms.
By direction of the Commission.Start Signature
Donald S. Clark
1. FTC Rule 4.2(d), 16 CFR 4.2(d). The comment must be accompanied by an explicit request for confidential treatment, including the factual and legal basis for the request, and must identify the specific portions of the comment to be withheld from the public record. The request will be granted or denied by the Commission’s General Counsel, consistent with applicable law and the public interest. See FTC Rule 4.9(c), 16 CFR 4.9(c).Back to Citation
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