The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has settled with three people accused of running what it called a scheme promising the “secrets for making money on Amazon” and defrauding people by claiming they were affiliated with the Seattle retail and tech giant.
As a result of the settlement, Adam Bowser, Christopher Bowser and Jody Marshall are banned from marketing and selling business opportunities and business coaching services and profiting off consumer information they acquired as part of the program. The settlement imposes a maximum penalty of more than $102 million. The Bowsers and Marshall will pay the value of their assets — $10.8 million — and will have to pay the full $102 million if it turns out they lied about their holdings, an FTC spokesman said.
Amazon released this statement following the FTC decision:
Amazon has zero tolerance for fraud and abuse of our systems. We invest heavily to protect the integrity of the Amazon marketplace and take action, including working with consumer protection agencies and law enforcement, to protect our customers and sellers. We will continue to aggressively pursue those who harm our customer and seller experience.
The issue came to light last year when Amazon and the Washington state Attorney General sued the people running the scheme. The FTC followed by filing a complaint for “deceptive and unfair acts” against the Bowsers and Marshall in March.
The Bowsers and Marshall pitched their experience and track record to get people to attend seminars across the country at a cost of up to $35,000. In marketing materials, they claimed they made more than $50 million selling goods on Amazon, including $12 million last year alone. They used Amazon logos and other materials in mailers and emails to give people the impression that the seminars were associated with Amazon. They also employed shell companies with names similar to signature Amazon services like AWS — most recognized as Amazon Web Services — but in this case standing for Amazon Wealth Systems or Amazing Wealth Systems, and FBA — the initials of the Fulfillment by Amazon program.
Many of the people who bought in to the system ended up losing money and saw their Amazon stores get suspended or shut down.
Though the FTC’s case appears to be winding down, the lawsuits from Amazon and the Attorney General remain ongoing.