Attorney General Cuomo Sues Florida Marketing Company For Deceptive "free Gas" Card Promotion At Cny Auto Dealership
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (July 15, 2009) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced his office is suing a Florida-based marketing company for employing a deceptive promotion involving “free gasoline” cards that actually was a rebate scheme with nearly impossible conditions.
Attorney General Cuomo’s Office is suing Tidewater Marketing Global Consultants, Inc., headquartered in Clearwater, Florida, and President Crystal M. Clark for repeatedly deceiving consumers through a promotional free gas gift card program in order to generate business for several New York-based companies.
The Attorney General’s Office began investigating the company earlier this year after Cuomo put a stop to similar deceptive promotions being run by Tidewater at a Skaneateles auto dealership. The Attorney General’s lawsuit seeks to bar Tidewater from operating in New York State, restitution for wronged consumers, and penalties and costs to the state.
“This company chose to disregard important consumer protections that exist in New York and instead engage in a deliberately deceptive scheme,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Consumers who thought they were taking part in a free promotion instead ended up shelling out hundreds of dollars in order to get their ‘free gas.’”
Since at least February of 2008, Tidewater Marketing, which also does business as Free Gas Central, Freegasredemption.com, FreeBeeGas.com, and FreeBieGas.com, touted itself as a redemption center for various marketing programs, including vacation packages, rebate offers and - most notably - gas gift card programs on behalf of various businesses across the country. These businesses - primarily car dealerships - offered gasoline certificates to customers as marketing tools, supposedly allowing the customer to redeem the certificate for free gasoline gift cards.
In reality, many consumers never received the cards despite repeated inquiries to the company. The rebate program also had unreasonable conditions that were nearly impossible to meet. For example, for a consumer to fully redeem a $500 gasoline redemption certificate through Tidewater, a consumer would have to spend at least $2,000 at a local gas station over the course of 20 months in order to fully redeem a $500 gasoline redemption certificate through Tidewater (the redemption would be in the form of 20 $25 gas gift cards).
The Attorney General’s lawsuit seeks to bar Tidewater Marketing Global Consultants, Inc. and Clark, from conducting business in New York State and to recover restitution to each customer defrauded by the scheme. The lawsuit also seeks penalties and costs to be paid to the state.
The action follows an investigation of Skaneateles-based car dealership Bombard Car Company, which contracted with Tidewater. That case resulted in a court-ordered settlement putting a stop to deceptive practices, including the aforementioned “free gas card” scheme.
Consumers who believe they may be a victim of deceptive advertising are encouraged to contact the Attorney General’s Syracuse Regional Office at 315-448-4848 or visit www.ag.ny.gov.
The Tidewater case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Juanita Williams under the supervision of Ed Thompson, Assistant Attorney General-in-Charge of the Syracuse Regional Office.