Roughly 2,900 small businesses may receive refunds
OLYMPIA— The Attorney General’s Office recently filed suit in King County Superior Court against Mandatory Poster Agency (MPA), doing business as Corporate Records Service, and its top corporate officers, for unfair and deceptive business practices in violation of Washington’s Consumer Protection Act.
The company duped more than 2,900 Washington businesses into paying $125 each to prepare unnecessary documents that Washington businesses are not required to file with the Secretary of State.
“People who prey on unsuspecting business owners need to know we will hold them accountable,” Ferguson said. “The Attorney General’s Office will make these scammers pay for their actions.”
In September 2012, Corporate Records Service sent envelopes marked “Important: Annual Minutes Requirement Statement” to roughly 60,000 Washington businesses. The envelopes contained a document called “2013 Annual Minutes Form; Shareholders, Directors and Officers” and a one-page sheet of instructions.
The form came preprinted with the corporation’s name and referenced several Washington laws.
The instructions directed business owners to send the completed form with a $125 payment to a PO Box in Olympia to “satisfy the annual minutes requirement for your corporation.”
There is no requirement for Washington corporations to prepare minutes of their shareholder meetings and the PO Box is registered to “Labor Law Poster Service” of Lansing, Michigan.
The Attorney General’s Office requests restitution for all consumers who paid Corporate Records Service— a total of $362,500. The organization could also be required to pay civil penalties of $2,000 per violation.
Actions violate 2008 agreement with Attorney General’s Office, MPA could face even larger penalties
The AGO previously entered into an agreement with MPA in 2008 after MPA made similar solicitations under the names “Washington Labor Law Poster Service,” “Washington Food Service Compliance Center,” and “Washington Healthcare Compliance Center.”
Those mailings also appeared to be government documents and urged businesses to immediately purchase and post certain government safety and labor law posters to comply with the law and avoid government penalties.
The posters required by law are actually available free from government agencies.
In the agreement, MPA assured that it would not, among other things, use “words or terms that have a tendency to mislead recipients to believe the solicitation is from a government agency” or represent “on envelopes or exterior mailings that an enclosed solicitation requires immediate or other mandated response.”
Under the terms of that agreement, MPA could be liable for additional civil penalties.
Representing the state in this case are Assistant Attorneys General Marc Worthy and Kim Gunning.
The legal complaint can be found, here.