On June 30, 2015, the Florida Attorney General's Office a Complaint sues Alumni Research, Inc and CEO Robert Laping (Case Number: 2015CA002015CAAXWS) for Injunctive Relief, Civil Penalties under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. Some of the allegations against the company include:
-As of June 24, 2015, the Attorney General has received over 350 consumer complaints concerning Defendants' failure to deliver alumni directory books, which have been ordered and prepaid by the consumers, most of whom are senior citizens.
-Engaging in unlicensed commercial telephone sales, in violation of Sections
501.616(4) and 501.623(3), Florida Statutes.-Currently, Defendants are violating the Florida Telemarketing Act by contacting alumni via telephone for the purposes of selling the alumni directory books without having a license to conduct these commercial telephone solicitations or employing licensed salespersons.
-Defendants willfully engaged in and continue to engage in deceptive and unfair
acts and practices in that Defendants knew or should have known that the methods, acts or
practices alleged herein were and are prohibited by law as Defendants must either have a license
to conduct these commercial telephone solicitations or employee licensed salespersons.
-Alumni from several schools around the country have ordered (and paid for) alumni directory books from Alumni Research, but have never received the books and have never been issued refunds. In many cases, the consumers have been waiting for several years to receive the ordered and prepaid alumni directory book. The amounts paid by consumers for alumni directory books range from approximately sixty dollars ($60.00) to approximately seventy dollars ($70.00).
-In addition, consumers allege that Defendants fail to provide customer service, including that Defendants refuse to respond to consumer emails and telephone calls and refuse to provide requested status updates for ordered and prepaid directories. Defendants have also refused to issue refunds to consumers unhappy about the delayed publication of their ordered and prepaid directories. On numerous occasions, consumers are unable to reach Defendants because the phone number the consumers have has been disconnected or else the phone rings continuously without anyone answering it. When the phones are answered, Defendants' employees refuse to give consumers the information consumers request and refuse to forward the call to a supervisor. Sometimes, Defendants' employees promise consumers a return call from a supervisor or additional information through the mail, but Defendants fail to follow up.
-Plaintiff's investigation also has uncovered that, since at least the beginning of
2015, Alumni Research has been actively soliciting alumni from at least two (2) schools for which Alumni Research has no written agreement to update the school's prior outdated directory and no permission from the school to contact its alumni for the purpose of trying to sell those alumni an updated directory
-As of the date of filing of this action, to the best of Plaintiff's knowledge, Alumni
Research has not fulfilled thousands of outstanding purchase orders for alumni directory books
associated for at least the following 43 schools located throughout the country:
1) Abraham Lincoln High School (Iowa);
2) Ashtabula/Lakeside/Harbor High School (Ohio);
3) Bellflower High School (California);
4) Bowling Green High School (Kentucky);
5) Brookline High School (Massachusetts);
6) Brother Martin High School (Louisiana);
7) Camden Military Academy (South Carolina);
8) Concordia Lutheran High School (Indiana);
9) Dupont High School (Tennessee);
10) El Dorado High School (Kansas);
11) Erasmus Hall High School New York);
12) Grants Pass High School (Oregon);
13) Green Castle High School (Indiana);
14) Holt/Dimondale High School (Michigan);
15) International Falls Senior High School (Minnesota);
16) Kapaun Mt. Carmel Catholic High School (Kansas);
17) Keokuk High School (Iowa);
18) Lower Merion/Harriton (Pennsylvania);
19) Manheim Township High School (Pennsylvania);
20) Milton Area Senior High School (Pennsylvania);
21) Mt. Healthy High School (Ohio);
22) Newberry College (South Carolina);
23) Nicolet High School (Wisconsin);
24) North Augusta High School (South Carolina);
25) Omaha High North Magnet School (Nebraska);
26) Our Lady of Mercy High School (New York);
27) Plymouth High School (Wisconsin);
28) Richmond High School (Indiana);
29) Rogers High School (Rhode Island);
30) Saline High School (Michigan);
31) St. Bernard High School (Connecticut);
32) St. Cloud Technical High School (Minnesota);
33) Storm Lake High School (Iowa);
34) Taylor Allderdice High School (Pennsylvania);
35) Taylor School District (Michigan);
36) Union College (Missouri);
37) University City High School (Missouri);
38) Versailles High School, (Ohio);
39) Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School (Ohio);
40) Villa Maria Academy (Pennsylvania);
41) Virginia Intermont College (Virginia);
42) Williamston High School (Michigan); and
43) Woodruff High School (Illinois).
On February 26,2016 Florida Attorney General's office announced the entry of a consent judgment against Alumni Research, Inc. and its CEO Robert Laping for violations of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and the Florida Telemarketing Act. Alumni Research solicited payments over the phone for the purchase of high school and college alumni directory books for dozens of schools nationwide. According to the investigation, the defendants either failed to publish the directories or failed to produce the directories within the time promised.
The consent judgment bans the defendants from marketing and selling alumni directory books and from engaging in telemarketing or any other commercial telephone solicitation. The judgment also requires payment of almost $4.5 million, including full consumer restitution and civil penalties. Given the current insolvency of the business and its principal, it is unlikely that there will be funds available to pay consumer restitution or penalties. The Attorney General's Office will continue to seek funds for consumer refunds through post judgment proceedings, should the office find any evidence of available assets.
The consent judgment includes the following terms for the defendants:
ï Engaging in or assisting in any charitable solicitation activity is prohibited;
ï Making any false or misleading representations, or false or deceptive statements, in any communications with consumers is prohibited;
ï Confirming that the business is completely shut down is required, including disabling the website, closing bank accounts and credit card accounts and disconnecting any phone numbers advertised to consumers;
ï Issuing a separate, formal written apology to the affected schools and alumni associations is required;
ï Returning to schools and alumni associations any proprietary or otherwise historical or valuable artifacts, photographs, yearbooks or other items in the defendants' possession is required; and
ï Making alumni data available upon request and free of charge to any school or alumni association currently under contract with Alumni Research for collection or storage of alumni data is required.
On August 05, 2015, the business filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 of the federal Bankruptcy Code, case number 15-8051, Florida Middle Bankruptcy Court CM/ECF, Tampa, FL.
Those with monetary claims against the business are advised to electronically file a Proof of Claim form for submission to the Bankruptcy Court. Proof of Claim forms for the United States Bankruptcy Court, Middle District of Florida can be filed electronically at http://pacer.flmb.uscourts.gov/cmecf/proofofclaim.htm.
The case number should be entered on the form.