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FleetCor Is Charged by FTC With 'Fleecing Small Businesses'

FleetCor allegedly falsely told its business customers that they would save money and be protected from unauthorized charges, the FTC says.
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FleetCor Technologies  (FLT) - Get FLEETCOR Technologies, Inc. Report and its CEO allegedly fleeced small businesses by charging hundreds of millions of dollars in mystery fees associated with fuel cards, the Federal Trade Commission said Wednesday.

Shares of the Atlanta-based payment-technology company were down 2.53% at last check.

FleetCor said it "continues to believe that it is in full compliance with the law" and maintained the FTC was "maneuvering to have the case decided through a partisan Commission vote."

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The FTC sad it filed the complaint against FleetCor and CEO Ronald Clarke.

The agency said that the company, marketing under the “Fuelman” brand name and through co-branded cards with businesses around the country, falsely told its business customers that they would save money, be protected from unauthorized charges, and have no set-up, transaction or membership fees.

In reality, the commission said, citing FleetCor’s own records, customers generally have not achieved the advertised per-gallon savings by using FleetCor’s cards.

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The FTC said it issues an administrative complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the commission that a proceeding is in the public interest.

The FTC said it had filed suit against the company and Clarke in December 2019, alleging that they charged hundreds of millions of dollars in hidden and undisclosed fees to their customers after making false promises they could save customers on their fuel costs.

However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that the agency could not seek redress for consumers under section 13(b) of the FTC Act, stating that section “does not grant the Commission authority to obtain equitable monetary relief.” The section, the court said, 'focuses upon relief that is prospective, not retrospective.”

In response, the FTC  filed a new administrative complaint which alleges that FleetCor and Clarke violated section 5 of the FTC Act.

“FleetCor fleeced its customers out of hundreds of millions of dollars through its dishonest practices,” Samuel Levine, acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. "“The FTC will do everything it can to get money back to FleetCor’s business customers and unsuspecting fuel card users by refiling this complaint administratively."

Levine said the FTC will also also continue to work with Congress on a broader legislative solution following the Supreme Court’s decision, which "has hindered our ability to recover redress for families and honest businesses.”

"Despite more than a dozen depositions of senior executives and thousands of pages of documents disclosed, there is not a single new allegation in the refiled complaint," Fleetcor said in its statement. "FleetCor has spent millions defending this case in federal court and the FTC has wasted millions of dollars of taxpayer money."