McKenna says Redmond-based company violated court order
SEATTLE – The Washington Attorney General’s Office announced today that it filed a petition to enforce a court order concerning Internet Advancement, a Redmond-based company that sells search-engine optimization services for thousands of dollars to small businesses.
The petition filed Tuesday in King County Superior Court accuses Internet Advancement, which also does business as 4GreatBuys.com, of misrepresenting its ability to provide top search-engine rankings and increase Web traffic. The company is also accused of making unauthorized charges to consumer credit cards, failing to honor guarantees and refunds, unfairly structuring its cancellation policy terms and making false statements concerning its standing with the Better Business Bureau and the Attorney General’s Office.
Attorney General Rob McKenna said Internet Advancement’s actions violated the Consumer Protection Act and a settlement in which the company promised to change its business practices. Today’s petition alleges that the company has continued to engage in essentially the same unlawful acts that gave rise to the original lawsuit filed in August 2004.
“Despite our 2004 lawsuit and Internet Advancement’s promise to provide good customer service, we’ve received more than 60 additional complaints from customers that are small businesses,” McKenna said. “We will not tolerate Internet Advancement doing business in this manner.”
According to the state’s petition, Internet Advancement guarantees that a customer’s Web site will appear within the first 25 hyperlinks on major search engines, such as Google, Yahoo and AOL, when consumers search for specific keywords. Customers pay $999-$3,000 in “set-up” fees and a $149 monthly fee.
The Attorney General’s lawsuit was spurred by more than 100 consumer complaints received by the office, the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau. Consumers who purchased Internet Advancement’s service complained that they didn’t receive the promised placement, failed to receive refunds and that the company was unresponsive to their complaints. The parties reached a stipulated judgment requiring the company to stop its illegal practices, issue consumer refunds and pay the state a $25,000 civil penalty and attorneys’ fees. An additional $25,000 civil penalty was suspended on condition of compliance.
Senior Counsel Paula Selis, an assistant attorney general who leads the Consumer Protection High-Tech Unit, said the frequency of complaints about Internet Advancement has remained steady.
“Consumers overwhelmingly report that they see no improvement in their Web site rankings, despite Internet Advancement’s promises,” Selis said. “We also allege the company misrepresented to prospective customers that it was in good standing with the Better Business Bureau and the Attorney General’s Office and had no complaints.”
The state is asking the court to enforce the terms of the original settlement agreement and requests additional civil penalties be levied against the company and its officers: CEO Todd Wickham, president Ken Committee and secretary and treasurer Ernesto Villamor.
Internet Advancement Petition
- 30 -
Contact: Kristin Alexander, Media Relations Manager, (206) 464-6432