Last week, the Attorney General's office for the State of Maryland announced that its Consumer Protection Division had reached a settlement with Stanislav Komsky, operator of the Joomsef.net, a website that featured traffic citations issued to Maryland residents. The Maryland Attorney General office's announcement said that Komsky's website:
"... exaggerated the traffic offenses by representing that consumers had been "booked" or arrested, and by displaying a space on each webpage reserved for a photograph of the consumer that was captioned "Mugshot Unavailable," wrongly suggesting that a mugshot had been taken... In order to fully view the information about the "charged" offenses, Joomsef.net required a fee of $9.99..."
So, to view a full report, which was misleading, residents paid $9.99 per report. Residents who wanted their information removed Joomsef.net had to pay from $39.99 to $89.99, depending upon how quickly they wanted their information removed. Komsky has since taken down the Joomsef.net website.
Terms of the settlement agreement require Komsky to cease publishing false or misleading information about consumers' backgrounds (criminal or other), to refund payments he already collected from consumers to view or remove their information, and to pay a $7,500 penalty to the Consumer Protection Division.
Maryland Attorney General Gansler said:
"The Internet should be a resource for sharing information, not a vehicle for spreading misinformation... Businesses cannot be allowed to post half-truths on the Internet to make a quick buck."
A number of websites have emerged in several states where website operators post publicly-available mug-shot photos, and then charge large fees to residents who want the information removed. I agree and look forward to more states' attorney generals investigating and prosecuting this type of deceptive marketing.