A New York company is facing multiple charges after trying to bilk 110 businesses, including five in Manitoba, by charging them for cleaning supplies they hadn’t ordered.

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This article was published 15/11/2017 (1684 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A New York company is facing multiple charges after trying to bilk 110 businesses, including five in Manitoba, by charging them for cleaning supplies they hadn’t ordered.

A1 Janitorial Supply Corporation, three related companies, and two individuals have been charged by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) under a number of U.S. statutes, including the FTC Act, the FTC Telemarketing Sales Rule, and the Unordered Merchandise Statute.

The charges were filed after a lengthy investigation by the FTC, which worked closely with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario and a number of BBBs in the United States.

Len Adrusiak, president and CEO of the local BBB, said it was involved in all 110 cases — 96 in Canada and 14 in the United States — because the cleaning supplies were shipped from a distribution centre the New York company had set up in Thunder Bay, Ont., which is within its territory,

The BBB reported that A1 Janitorial Supply Corp. would contact a company and offer up a free sample of its cleaning products.

Then it would bill the company for the "free" samples and continue sending more products and more invoices, even though the companies hadn’t agreed to purchase any of them.

Adrusiak said the five Manitoba companies were in Brandon, East Selkirk, Headingley, Arborg and Eriksdale. He said all five refused to pay for the products, so aren’t out any money. But some of the others that were targeted weren’t as fortunate.

"Numerous businesses paid their invoices in the hopes that the supply company would cease contact. However, more shipments followed," he said.

He noted the 110 cases are just the ones where a formal complaint was filed with the BBB.

"We don’t know how many thousands of companies across North America were targeted by the organization that never filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau," he said.

Adrusiak said the the first complaint was received in January 2015, and the last one Oct. 17 of this year. He said the bureau sent a warning to the company in April 2015, and also attached a warning to its business profile stating complaints about it had been received.

He noted the New York company did respond to every complaint the BBB received, and in many cases cancelled any outstanding invoices and agreed not to contact the complainants again.

However, "the defendants often denied refund requests, claiming that as chemicals, their cleaning product cannot be returned," he said.

He said the FTC is seeking restitution for the victims, and also has filed a temporary restraining order against the company. Adrusiak said the message to local businesses and consumers is to contact the BBB if they have any questions or concerns about a company.

"We can help you get things done," he said.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca