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Great Expectations Milwaukee Settles Allegations of Deceptive Advertising and Enrollment in Dating Service and Membership Program
MADISON — Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced today that his office has reached a settlement with a Texas-based dating membership company, JRM Management, LLC, and its Wisconsin affiliate Great Expectations Milwaukee. The consent judgment requires GE-Milwaukee, LLC and JRM Management, LLC to pay $500,000 to resolve allegations that they misled consumers into signing up and paying for dating service contracts.
In June 2009, the Department of Justice filed an enforcement action in Milwaukee County Circuit Court against GE-Milwaukee, LLC, d/b/a Great Expectations, and its parent company, JRM Management, LLC, formerly known as Meriggi Management, LLC. The complaint was thereafter amended to add their managing member John Meriggi. The State’s complaint alleged that the defendants committed numerous violations of Wisconsin’s consumer protection laws relating to deceptive marketing practices, dating service contracts and credit transactions. Great Expectations Milwaukee closed its doors in the fall of 2009.
“This judgment offers relief to Wisconsin consumers, but importantly, it also sends a message to other businesses that they will be held accountable if they mislead Wisconsin consumers,” Attorney General Van Hollen said. “Business practices in violation of Wisconsin laws not only harm consumers but are also unfair to law-abiding competitors.”
According to the complaint, Great Expectations used websites that appeared to connect singles in particular Milwaukee area communities, such as milwaukeesingles.com, brookfieldsingles.com, and shorewoodsingles.org. The complaint alleged that the websites did not indicate any connection with Great Expectations, but consumers who completed online surveys then were called by Great Expectations telemarketers.
Further, the complaint alleged that in the course of selling dating services, Great Expectations made numerous misrepresentations, including: overstating the number of Great Expectations’ participating members, including representations like the number of Milwaukee-area members; overstating the number of members in particular age ranges or other categories; misrepresenting that Great Expectations conducts criminal background checks and screens out prospective members with criminal histories; misrepresenting the purpose for obtaining prospective members’ credit information; and misrepresenting that a professional photographer would take the members’ photographs and videos.
In addition, the State’s complaint alleged some of Great Expectations’ contracts violated the State’s law governing dating service contracts by exceeding the statutory maximum of two years’ duration. The complaint also alleged that Great Expectations offered financing for consumers without fully complying with the Wisconsin Consumer Act, which regulates credit transactions.
The Judgment, entered by the Honorable Mary M. Kuhnmuech, requires GE-Milwaukee, LLC and JRM Enterprises, LLC to pay $500,000 to the State of Wisconsin, $50,000.00 of which will be assessed as forfeitures, penalties and assessments and the remaining $450,000 will be used for restitution, attorneys’ fees and costs of investigations. The judgment also provides for injunctive relief, requiring compliance with Wisconsin’s consumer protection laws, and attempted removal of all negative credit reporting.
In the Consent Judgment, the Defendants denied they committed any violations of law.
The case was investigated and referred to the Department of Justice by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) and the Department of Financial Institutions (DFI). The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorneys General Lara A. Sutherlin and Phillip Ferris.