Missouri sues TV psychic Miss Cleo's hotline
ST. LOUIS, Missouri (CNN) -- The Missouri attorney general has filed two lawsuits against a television psychic hotline for false advertising, fraud and other unlawful business practices, alleging the company bilked consumers out of money and caused them significant injury.
The hotline advertises services by Miss Cleo, who speaks with a Caribbean accent and promises psychic and tarot card readings. The commercial, which has been broadcast across the nation, offers to "find the answers for free" with the slogan "Keepin' it Real."
"They should've seen it coming, whether they were psychic or not," state Attorney General Jay Nixon told CNN.
"The fact that they didn't see it coming shows they aren't psychic."
In a suit filed in Jackson County Circuit Court, Nixon charges Access Resource Services Inc., based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, falsely advertises that certain services -- like tarot readings and psychic readings -- are free, and that no fees will be charged for the first three minutes of a call.
He said the company in fact uses the first three minutes to gather a customer's name and phone number, after which a caller is put on hold to wait for a "psychic" without being advised of the charges.
The company also has billed consumers for calls never made or calls made by minors who did not first receive parental consent, Nixon said. The TV ads say the services are only for people older than 18.
Nixon also said the company has sent bills to people for calls supposedly made after their death.
"These unfair and unlawful practices," Nixon said in the suit, "presented a risk of, and/or have caused, significant injury to consumers."
Nixon is seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prevent the company from selling or advertising "'psychic' or entertainment services or pay-per-call services of any stripe."
In the suit filed in St. Louis Circuit Court, Nixon says the company violated Missouri's "telemarketing no-call list" law by calling residents who have been placed on a list of customers who do not want telephone solicitations. Nixon said more than 1.65 million Missourians are covered by the law.
Nixon alleges 94 such violations of the law. The no-call list is available to any business, Nixon said, but Access Resource Services did not request a copy.
The company faces a fine of up to $5,000 for each violation of the no-call law.
"This group isn't really a psychic, obviously," Nixon told CNN. "This is a group that has been very aggressive in telemarketing, not only this product but others."
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