The Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona is warning businesses of misleading invoices being mailed to companies — including businesses in Southern Arizona — by an Ontario, California-based company, US Telecom (UST).
The invoices are actually solicitations for UST’s services, but they appear to be standard invoices, billing companies $425 for services rendered. Nowhere on the solicitation does UST disclose that the invoice is actually a solicitation.
It is against U.S. Postal Service regulations to mail a bill or invoice that is actually a solicitation, the BBB noted, unless it bears a clear disclaimer that such unsolicited invoice is for information only and not a request to pay.
US Telecom, also known as UST or UST Development, has been the subject of 461 consumer complaints with the Los Angeles BBB in the past year, including 182 unanswered complaints. In September, 2011 the Los Angeles BBB conducted an advertising review of UST’s solicitations and requested that the company include a disclosure statement to let businesses know that the mailer is a solicitation, and to change their layout to avoid confusion, the BBB said.
U.S. Telecom did not respond to either of BBB’s requests, the agency said.
In February, the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office filed a cease-and-desist order against U.S. Telecom, and its principal, David Bell, for “engaging in unlawful acts or practices” by mailing businesses solicitations that could “reasonably be interpreted” as a bill or invoice. Earlier this month, Connecticut regulators said they launched an investigation of the company, noting that state agencies had received the solicitations.
The BBB urged businesses in Southern Arizona that receive or mistakenly pay this invoice to file a complaint with the Arizona Attorney General’s office at www.azag.gov/AllComplaints.html