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FTC punishes porn dialler firm

$17m in disputed bills

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A US adult content payment processing firm has agreed to tear up disputed bills of $17m to settle Federal Trade Commission charges. Alyon Technologies has agreed not to pursue an estimated 200,000 consumers for their supposed use of adult videotext services.

Another $22m in bills may be forgiven if consumers challenge their charges. According to the FTC, Alyon downloaded a modem-dialling program onto user's computers that changed redirected dial-up into Alyon's network, charging them $4.99 per minute in exchange for access to pornographic content.

The FTC alleged that many consumers never visited the defendants’ sites at all, and were charged due to billing service errors, of which the defendant was aware. Alyon also allegedly failed to get the informed content of its "customers" before installing its porn dialler software.

In May 2003, the FTC charged Alyon and its principal, Stephane Touboul, with illegally billing and collecting for videotext services. These charges were dropped this week after Alyon promised not to chase disputed bills predating June 2003. Alyon also pledged to clean up its business practices.

Widespread consumer complaints against Alyon resulted in charges against it in 16 US states. Alyon's Touboul told Reuters it expects to settle all 13 outstanding actions within a month. ®

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