Thursday, August 3, 2006

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Attorney General Abbott Obtains Court Action To Correct Practices Of Health Discount Card Company

DALLAS - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today obtained a court order correcting the fraudulent business practices of International Association of Benefits (IAB) of Richardson, which falsely promised consumers that its health care “discount cards” could reap significant savings.

The agreed final judgment includes a permanent injunction that requires IAB to disclose to prospective members that its health plans are not insurance, nor is the company licensed to offer insurance. In addition, the order prohibits the company from claiming its plans offer a range of discounts linked to health care access, specific provider networks and pharmacies unless those claims have a verifiable and factual basis.

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Agreed Final Judgment and Permanent Injunction
International Association of Benefits

“Texans deserve to have access to quality health care coverage works for them, not duped into paying lots of money for false, empty promises,” said Attorney General Abbott. “This company marketed itself as a cure-all for consumers whose hopes of finding health care coverage had faded, and, as that old saying tells us, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

The Attorney General’s investigation leading to the original lawsuit filed in April 2005 found that IAB made unfounded claims that its plans were recognized by numerous hospitals, clinics, physicians and pharmacies. When consumers attempted to use the “discount cards” they were told the cards were invalid, but only after they had paid up-front enrollment fees to become members and had authorized IAB to make monthly withdrawals from their checking accounts.

Under the terms of today’s order, IAB may only assess plan “enrollment fees” if they are of a nominal amount that reflect the actual cost of enrolling clients, and the company clearly explains the purpose of the fees and the terms of any refund policy. If IAB advertises “money back” guarantees, it must makes full refunds to consumers requesting them, including enrollment fees and monthly recurring fees. The Attorney General filed his original lawsuit, in part, based on complaints that IAB repeatedly failed to honor these claims, a violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

IAB also agreed to pay civil penalties and state attorneys’ fees of $150,000 and will make refunds to current or former clients who file complaints with the Attorney General or the Better Business Bureau about the company’s practices.

Texas consumers who wish to file complaints against this company or others misleading the public may contact the Attorney General toll-free at (800) 252-8011 or file a complaint online at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov