World Avenue is the latest company expressing gratitude for being compelled to “contribute” $1 million dollars to the cyber fraud fighting Florida Attorney General’s Office. The settlement follows an agreement between AzoogleAds and Florida AG Bill McCollum’s CyberFraud Task Force in November.
The crusading investigative unit has several firms allegedly perpetrating deceptive online ad practices in its crosshairs, and even promises to file a lawsuit against a Web site selling deceptive interactive ads. The AG’s Office has focused its efforts on companies allegedly fooling consumers, mainly kids, into signing up for supposedly “free” mobile content services and other gifts that in truth, will cost them.
World Avenue does very little by way of online offers for mobile ringtones, according to World Avenue USA president Dale Baker. The lead generation services company works with clients including Blockbuster, Netflix, credit card companies, and others, offering products in exchange for customer data. According to the AG’s Office document associated with the agreement, the settlement involves World Avenue’s advertising of incentive promotion offers or phone-billed offers.
World Avenue uses banner ads, landing pages and sponsored search links to drive traffic to its offers. Now, according to the settlement, those ads must conspicuously disclose terms of the offers. World Avenue owns online marketing firm TheUseful, formerly known as NiuTech.
“We’re very pleased with the outcome,” said Baker, who said the firm already has been abiding by the agreement’s compliance rules since before the investigation commenced in 2006.
Like Azoogle’s “contribution” to the Florida AG, World Avenue’s will supplement Florida’s Department of Legal Affairs Revolving Trust Fund, in part “to assist with future efforts in developing industry-wide standards and best practices,” according to a World Avenue statement.
According to Baker, the $1 million payout is “the cost associated with making this go away.”
World Avenue will be a resource for the AG’s office in future investigations of online lead gen firms and practices, he said. Azoogle‘s $1 million payout was also intended to help pay for future investigations of similar practices by other firms in the lead gen business.
In November, Florida Attorney General’s Office Financial Investigator Jonathan Gillman told ClickZ News the Task Force is conducting civil investigations of firms including Think Partnership, Intermark Media, Traffix and others, for allegedly deceptive lead gen practices.
World Avenue doesn’t seem to be in any danger of lessening its Web ad business. Indeed, according to ads placed on CareerBuilder recently, the company is recruiting a full-time Internet Advertising Operations Specialist.
While Florida continues its investigations of lead gen firms engaged in fraudulent practices, a similar process is underway at the national level. The FTC settled with lead gen firm Adteractive in November, and is expected to announce a settlement with ValueClick regarding its promotions-related lead gen transgressions soon.
Baker said he’d like to see the lead generation industry be more active in developing its own standards. “I think the lead generation industry would benefit from having a united voice,” he said, noting any new trade group should align its standards with those of the Interactive Advertising Bureau and Direct Marketing Association. The IAB’s Lead Generation Committee plans to focus more on improving the sector’s reputation among consumers and the government, and aims to introduce publisher best practices in the near future.
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