Fuelman Fires Back Against Allegations it Schemed Millions From Truckers
Atlanta, GA – On Friday, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a lawsuit against FleetCor Technologies, Inc. alleging that it has charged customers “at least hundreds of millions of dollars in hidden fees after making false promises about helping customers save on fuel costs.”
The publicly traded Atlanta-based company reported $2.4 billion in annual revenues in 2018 and is best known for its branded “Fuelman” fuel card services.
According to the FTC’s 55-page complaint against FleetCor and its CEO, Ronald Clarke, the defendants have falsely told potential customers they would “save money, be protected from unauthorized charges, and have no set-up, transaction, or membership fees.”
The complaint outlines a broad array of fees that the defendants have charged customers in ways that customers did not agree to.
To avoid detection, the complaint alleges FleetCor waited to begin charging many of the unauthorized fees until a few billing cycles passed.
The complaint also alleges that FleetCor’s invoices often failed to disclose that any fees were being charged.
The FTC argues that the fees, despite the defendants’ promises and advertising claims to the contrary, often have been charged on a per-transaction basis or have been required for membership in FleetCor’s programs.
FTC’s complaint describes one of FleetCor’s alleged schemes this way:
FleetCor has enticed businesses to sign up for its fuel cards by making three main claims: that customers will save money; that the cards provide fraud controls that protect customers from unauthorized transactions; and that the cards have no set-up, transaction, or membership fees, including when used to purchase fuel at any of the thousands of locations nationwide that accept FleetCor fuel cards. Each of these claims is false or unsubstantiated.
After sign up, FleetCor has charged customers at least hundreds of millions of dollars in unexpected fees, a practice one FleetCor employee has referred to as “adding arbitrary fees and runing off the accounts.”
Further, the FTC alleges that once a customer complained about being charged additional fees, FleetCor employees would agree to remove the fees, and then begin charging different fees to “make up the difference.”
“At least tens of thousands of customers have complained about these practices to the company, government agencies, and the Better Business Bureau (BBB),” the FTC asserts.
Fuel Savings Claims Challenged
The complaint also charges FleetCor and Clarke with violating the FTC Act’s prohibitions on unfair and deceptive acts and practices.
FTC alleges that customers generally have not achieved the advertised per-gallon savings by using FleetCor’s cards.
To support this allegation, the complaint cites FleetCor’s own documents, which show that customers’ average savings on fuel have fallen far short of the defendants’ marketing promises.
The complaint also alleges that an analysis requested by Clarke in response to negative press coverage about these marketing practices showed that, on average, customers have saved a fraction of a cent per gallon — far less than the 5-10 cents per gallon frequently touted by FleetCor.
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In addition, the fees charged by the defendants have exceeded any savings otherwise obtained using FleetCor’s cards.
The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.
FleetCor Issues Defense, Blasts the FTC’s “Unreasonable Demands for Redress”
In a newly released statement, the company says it “strongly disagrees with the FTC’s complaint (and) believes the FTC’s claims are without merit.”
“We intend to vigorously defend ourselves against the FTC in court,” the company says.
FleetCor says its customer disclosures are “clear and communicated repeatedly” and customers receive an “extensive on-boarding process” in which both written and online materials are provided.
The fuel card company brushed aside FTC’s claims it was engaging in false advertising saying, “FleetCor savings offers are clearly articulated, defined and disclosed in its advertising.”
Further, FleetCor says it has attempted to engage “constructively with the FTC to resolve this matter.”
However, the company says the discussions reached an impasse due to “unreasonable demands for redress” made by the FTC.
Additionally, FleetCor argues the FTC’s complaint is based on “fundamental misconceptions” of the company, its customers and its products.
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