St. Louis, Mo., Oct. 30, 2013 – Better Business Bureau (BBB) is advising businesses in Missouri, Illinois and across the nation to be alert to potential sales calls from Progressive Business Publications, a Malvern, Pa., company that has spawned more than 2,400 complaints with BBB.
BBB also is warning businesses to be extremely cautious when dealing with representatives of International Credit Recovery of Vestal, N.Y., a firm that collects past-due bills for Progressive. Consumers have filed more than 900 BBB complaints against International Credit Recovery.
Consumers have said Progressive and International each have demanded payment for publications and newsletter subscriptions that were never ordered and, in many cases, never received.
Some complainants said Progressive offered them what were marketed as free publications, only to bill them later when the businesses did not cancel the mailings.
Both businesses have “F” ratings with BBB, the lowest possible.
In July 2012, BBB issued a warning about Progressive and International, citing large numbers of similar complaints against the firms, including more than 80 complaints from businesses in Missouri and Illinois.
“BBB continues to receive phone inquiries and complaints about these businesses,” said Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO. “Based on what we are hearing, it seems clear that Progressive and International have done little to address serious and ongoing issues with the way they transact business.”
An accountant with a Maryland Heights, Mo., firm called Progressive’s business tactics “sleazy . . . very tricky . . . horrible.”
A business from Lebanon, N.H., wrote in a complaint with Progressive that “This organization is constantly hounding several employees with calls and invoices for publications we DID NOT ORDER!”
A business from Westbrook, Maine, called the collection methods of International Credit Recovery “shameful . . . and cruel.”
Philadelphia businessman and philanthropist Edward M. Satell, is founder and president of American Future Systems, parent company of Progressive Business Solutions. Progressive’s website describes Satell as the founder and CEO of that company.
The most recent Division of Corporations filing for the New York Department of State lists Richard A. Diorio as chief executive, but the file says the firm’s registration was dissolved in 2004.
The Maryland Heights accountant said her office began receiving phone calls earlier this year from International, demanding a $250 payment for newsletters that International claimed had been sent by Progressive. “We never received one thing,” the accountant said.
An official with a Clayton, Mo., nonprofit said her office was contacted by International, demanding $240 payment for what International said was an overdue bill for a newsletter from Progressive. The nonprofit official said her four-person office never received the newsletter. “It certainly seems shady,” the woman said.
The office manager of a Jonesburg, Mo., business said her office has had issues with Progressive dating back almost a decade. On several occasions, she said, Progressive has billed the firm for publications that were never ordered. She said that most recently, a Progressive representative told the office manager that she had confirmed her order by giving her birth date. The office manager said the birth date relayed by the Progressive representative was not correct. On another occasion, she said, Progressive claimed that it had received an order from a company employee who had been dead for several years.
Mike Gorton, an official with Progressive, said the company’s complaint level “continues to be far less than one-half of 1 percent of our several hundred thousand annual transactions. This miniscule percentage is a result of our strict training and quality control practices,” he said. He said the number of complaints is declining.
He also said that Progressive’s high renewal rates and low complaint level shows that “our reputation with our customers is very strong as evidenced by our high renewal rates and de minimis complaint level.”
He also said that the company investigates and responds to all complaints.
International said it would respond to BBB questions, but has not done so. A company official did say that even though Progressive is its largest client, it also does business with other companies.
In the large majority of cases, Progressive and International have stopped pursuing bill collections against businesses after the businesses file BBB complaints.
BBB offers the following advice to consumers and businesses receiving phone solicitations:
BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. All BBB services to consumers are free of charge. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Reviews on more than 4 million businesses, 11,000 Charity Reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information.