Massachusetts based American Consumer Credit Counseling has just filed a lawsuit against Florida based American Consumer Credit alleging trademark infringement and unfair competition.
In the complaint the American Consumer Credit Counseling made a number of statements which may raise some concern.
The suit states:
“Between August 2015 and August 2016, ACCC’s counsel sent 4 letters and emails to American Consumer Credit, LLC (ACC Florida) and made two telephone calls to ACC Florida’s attorney, Mr. Michael Saracco. These communications made ACC Florida aware of ACCC’s incontestable federal registrations.
ACC Florida responded to one of the emails on August 15, 2016 stating “we are currently working on a solution,” and then went silent. ACC Florida has not responded to ACCC’s latest cease and desist letter of August 19, 2016, and has not ceased its infringing activity.”
But the suit doesn’t get juicy till ACC writes:
“Although Defendant ACC Florida claims to have been in business “since 2004,” ACC Florida was in fact not formed until 2013, and its website address URL aconsumercredit.com was not created until January 7, 2013.
Upon information and belief, Defendant ACC Florida began using the marks AMERICAN CONSUMER CREDIT in 2013.
Upon information and belief, Defendant ACC Florida began using the mark ACC in 2013.
Upon information and belief, Defendant ACC’s statements that it was founded or established in 2004, and that it has been providing services since 2004, are false statements.
From at least September 22, 2012 until at least April 8, 2016, Defendant ACC Florida used the web address consumeraide.org, on which it prominently used the AMERICAN CONSUMER CREDIT mark in connection with offering “consumer education and fraud alerts” and “contract disputes and restitution from Fraud,” and described itself as “A Consumer Advocacy Group.” Defendant ACC Florida’s statement that it is a “A Consumer Advocacy Group,” falsely suggests it is something other than a for-profit enterprise that charges people for its services, and thus this statement is false.
On its current Facebook and Yelp pages, Defendant ACC Florida falsely states: “Our 12 Year Established BBB Rated A+ team of counselors will help you ….”. At least one customer actually relied on this false statement, noting in her BBB complaint: “I am looking for this company to have a decreased rating on bbb. It now has A+ which is beyond me as this is evidently a scam/fraud.” The false A+ rating was also found on the website at aconsumercredit.com as late as 2014, and as late as 2013 on the website at consumeraide.org, at the top of the home page along with the AMERICAN CONSUMER CREDIT mark.
Defendant ACC Florida also repeatedly claims to have “staff” of attorneys. However, ACC Florida’s website indicates it merely uses a single outside attorney, not a “staff” of in-house attorneys. Upon information and belief, ACC Florida does not in fact have a staff of attorneys, and thus ACC’s statement is false.
Upon information and belief, Defendant ACC Florida is advertising, soliciting and providing legal services throughout the country without proper licensing. ACC Florida has solicited at least one client through a cold call, and has national advertising that includes its website and social media sites, including Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, and Yelp. ACC Florida’s Twitter feed from May 17 to October 10, 2016, shows over 20 instances of ACC Florida offering “legal services” and touting its “legal team.” This national advertising and solicitation, along with actual evidence of clients throughout the country, indicates that ACC Florida is advertising, soliciting and providing legal advice throughout the country, despite the fact that ACC Florida’s only self-described “staff attorney,” Michael Saracco, is licensed to practice only in Florida.
Defendant ACC Florida is willfully and purposefully using the marks AMERICAN CONSUMER CREDIT, AMERICAN, and ACC in connection with its services in such a way as to create a false impression that ACC Florida and its services are affiliated or related to ACCC and its services.
Upon information and belief, Defendant ACC Florida chose the domain name aconsumercredit.com because of its similarity with Plaintiff ACCC’s consumercredit.com domain name, and used the domain name aconsumercredit.com in conjunction with the marks AMERICAN CONSUMER CREDIT, AMERICAN and ACCC, and in conjunction with the false statements made as alleged in paragraphs 30, 31, 32, and 33 above, in an effort to cause confusion and divert potential customers from Plaintiff ACCC to Defendant ACC Florida, and/or to create a false impression that ACC Florida and its services are affiliated or related to ACCC and its services, is likely to cause consumer confusion and harm to ACCC’s reputation in the marketplace. and is likely to cause such consumer confusion.”
You can read the full complaint, here.
If it proves to be true that ACC started after ACC and is provide similar debt relief services, you’ve got to wonder how they didn’t see the eventuality of this action coming.
Additional court documents go on to list “At Least 25 Recent Instances of Actual Confusion” which seems to support the ACCC claim.
This additional documentation attacks the alleged reputation and integrity of ACC.
You can read the supplemental information below.
It is interesting to note that as of today the Better Business Bureau shows a C+ rating for a company called American Consumer Credit and lists them as being in the payday loans business category. It says this is a Delaware company. But an additional BBB listing for American Consumer Credit in Florida shows they have no BBB rating.
The ACCC public records make the following comparison between them and ACC.
So I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume the ACC denies all of the allegations and objects to the characterization the nonprofit credit counseling group ACCC made about them in these public records.
At the end of the day we will just have to wait for the solution from the court action.
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