CHICAGOIllinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced a settlement agreement with a Naples, Fla., corporation pertaining to allegations the company deceptively marketed services to assist consumers in applying for prescription drugs from pharmaceutical companies when, in fact, consumers could obtain information about pharmaceutical assistance programs for free.
Under the settlement agreement, Illinois consumers who purchased services from Consumer Savings Direct, Inc., doing business as Free Medicine Direct, have until Dec. 31 to file complaints with the Attorney Generals Consumer Fraud Bureau to be eligible for a refund.
Madigans lawsuit alleged that in promising consumers access to free prescription drugs, Free Medicine Direct failed to disclose all of the terms and conditions of the process for determining eligibility for pharmaceutical assistance programs. Specifically, according to the complaint, Free Medicine Direct misled consumers into believing that if they answered a set of preliminary questions regarding age and income, they would automatically qualify for free medicine. However, pharmaceutical companiesand not Free Medicine Directactually made the eligibility determinations for these programs.
In addition, Madigans complaint alleged that Free Medicine Directs print advertisements failed to disclose the registration fee of at least $199.95. During a high-pressure sales call, Free Medicine Directs customer service agents allegedly assured consumers that the registration fee would be 100 percent refundable. However, according to the lawsuit, Free Medicine Direct refused to make refunds to consumers.
When consumers see a service or product advertised as free, I urge them to carefully research the offer before providing payment information, Madigan said. These types of scams are so unfortunate because they target vulnerable consumers who suffer most when the loss occurs.
As part of the consent decree, filed Oct. 30 in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Free Medicine Direct agreed to refrain from engaging in the business that was the subject of this lawsuit. Specifically, the company agreed to refrain from (1) selling services to assist Illinois consumers in applying for pharmaceutical companies patient assistance programs; (2) representing a product or service is free unless it is actually free; (3) representing that their company is affiliated or associated with pharmaceutical companies when that is not the case; (4) representing a service or product is refundable without disclosing all material terms and conditions; and (5) charging fees or withdrawing funds from consumers accounts without full disclosure of all terms and the consumers express approval.
In addition, Free Medicine Direct has agreed to pay $5,000 to the state, and has made additional payments to reimburse consumers who had previously complained to the Attorney Generals Office.
The defendants agreement to the provisions of the consent order does not constitute an admission of liability.
Assistant Attorney General Ryan Tyrrell handled the case for Madigans Consumer Fraud Bureau.
Consumers who purchased services from Consumer Savings Direct or Free Medicine Direct should file a complaint and seek a refund. To file a complaint and be eligible for a refund, consumers should call the Attorney Generals Consumer Fraud Hotline at the following numbers:
Chicago1-800-386-5438 and 1-800-964-3013 (TTY); and
Springfield1-800-243-0618 and 1-877-844-5461 (TTY).
From the Dec. 6-12, 2006, issue