Company to refund healthcare professionals who bought its hand-washing poster
OLYMPIA – A company that deceived Washington businesses into purchasing labor law and safety posters is prohibited from mailing future advertisements that appear to originate from government-affiliated agencies, the Attorney General’s Office announced today.
Mandatory Poster Agency, Inc., of Lansing, Mich., sent notices under the names Washington Labor Law Poster Company, Washington Food Service Compliance Center and Washington Healthcare Compliance Center. The mailers arrived in envelopes labeled “2nd NOTICE” and included official-looking emblems and a postal drop box address in Olympia. The letters made it appear that businesses needed to immediately purchase and post certain government posters in order to comply with the law. The company was not registered to do business in Washington.
The Attorney General’s Office alleged that the company’s business practices violated the state Consumer Protection Act. The Mandatory Poster Agency agreed to enter into an Assurance of Discontinuance approved this week by a Thurston County Superior Court commissioner.
“The Mandatory Poster Agency made it appear that businesses needed to buy government-required workplace safety and labor law posters from the company in order to escape penalties,” said Assistant Attorney General Bob Lipson. “Employers have the option to purchase these posters from a for-profit company or obtain them at no charge from government agencies.”
The company will reimburse Washington customers who purchased hand-washing posters within the last year. The company marketed such a poster for $15-$20 to healthcare professionals in Washington about six months ago. Within 45 days, it must notify businesses in writing of their right to request a refund. Customers will then have 30 days to submit their request.
The agreement is not an admission or finding of wrongdoing but requires the company to clearly disclose that is not a government agency or affiliated with a government agency on all solicitations and inform potential customers that similar posters may be available free of charge from other sources.
In addition, the agreement prohibits the company from doing any of the following:
- Using a company name that may mislead recipients into believing a solicitation is from a government agency, including the use of the words “agency,” “mandatory,” “compliance,” “advisory,” “advisement,” “education” or “research.” Or using fictional names of state, local or federal departments.
- Printing terms such as “government information,” “official business,” or “2nd Notice” on envelopes that make it appear the letter was sent from an official agency or that negative consequences will result if the recipient fails to respond.
- Using symbols that depict the United States, the State of Washington, the official seal of Washington or any Washington state agency, or any similar design.
- Representing that solicitations were sent via express or registered mail or any other form of delivery other than what actually applies, such as bulk rate.
- Using business identification numbers or notice numbers, unless there is a specific business purpose.
- Referring to any possible civil or criminal penalties or other government actions that many occur for failure to comply with workplace poster requirements that suggest that penalties will be imposed for failure to purchase the company’s products.
- Doing business in Washington without being properly licensed.
In addition to refunding customers who bought the hand-washing posters, the company will pay $3,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs. If the company fails to comply with the agreement, the state can seek civil penalties of up to $25,000 for breaking the agreement plus an additional $2,000 for each violation of the law.
Required posters are available at no charge from government agencies. Food establishments are required to post hand-washing reminder signs in restrooms. You may create your own or download poster from the Department of Health Web site at http://www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/sf/food/handwashsigns.htm.
A list of other mandatory posters, including those that provide minimum wage and unemployment benefit information, is available on the Department of Labor and Industries Web site at http://www.lni.wa.gov/IPUB/101-054-000.pdf, along with Web links and phone numbers you can use to obtain free copies.
Mandatory Poster Agency AOD
Court Order Approving AOD
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Media Contact: Kristin Alexander, Media Relations Manager – Seattle, (206) 464-6432