A Redmond search marketing firm that promised top results to small businesses is toning it down and paying for refunds under a settlement with the state.
The AG’s office has received about 160 complaints about Visible.net, which also does business as Captures.com and WebMarketingSource.com. In April a judge ruled that the company violated the state’s telemarketing law, leading to a settlement announced today.
The company agreed to pay $250,000, of which $50,000 will reimburse the state’s costs and $200,000 will be refunded to customers. Eligible customers will be notified by mail and could receive payments in early 2012.
Visible sells Web site design, search optimization, online payment processing and other marketing services, charging setup fees of $3,750 to $9,750 and monthly fees of $40 to $100, according to the state’s release.
It had promised too much. The settlement notes a sample pitch, deemed an unfair and deceptive trade practice:
“Just like my last client, you will be blown away when you can see what having a top search engine ranking can do for your business and pocketbook.”
Under the settlement, the company agreed to not:
— Misrepresent its ability to significantly increase traffic to customer Web sites by achieving top search-engine rankings.
— Fail to provide refunds or honor cancellation requests.
— Claim to provide around-the-clock customer support, technical advice or consultations, unless available. The attorney general’s office believes the defendants misrepresented customer service representatives could be reached at any time.
— Fail to register with the Department of Licensing as a commercial telephone solicitor.
— Charge consumers’ credit cards without authorization.
— Misrepresent its affiliation with other marketers.
UPDATE: The company posted a statement on its blog, asserting that competitors were behind some of the “so called ‘consumer complaints.'” It told customers that the settlement “will allow Visible to get back to doing what it does best: providing exceptional products and services to its customers.”