(KMOV.com) - News 4 continues to investigate a company accused of billing consumers for confusing credit card charges.
Consumers tell News 4 they never authorized charges to membership clubs operated by a Minnesota company called Sempris. Some of the confusing charges appear as Budget Savers, Value Plus, Pulse and Cooking in Style. Sempris denies the consumer claims saying each consumer clearly consented to the charges, and that each consumer is on tape, and those tapes were reviewed. News 4 requested those audio tapes, the request was denied.
In some cases, consumers claim Sempris got their credit card information when they purchased unrelated products advertised on television and in catalogs. Mary Hynes of Chesterfield thinks she got signed up to Value Plus after purchasing clothes from a catalog. Hynes recalls a "barrage" of offers, but says she never wanted to pay a reoccurring monthly membership charge for Value Plus.
Hynes says she paid more than 8 hundred dollars from 2009 until August of last year for a service she claims she never used. Hynes has since received a full refund for the charges, but is convinced it would not have happened without News 4's involvement.
According to Sempris attorneys, the company provides full refunds for any or no reason.
Joseph Pickett of Ballwin says he was billed by two Sempris programs after purchasing cookware off television. Pickett and his son say they tried getting a refund, but the company's operators were "rude" and refused to provide Pickett his money. According to Sempris attorneys that claim is false.
On January 14th, News 4 inquired about Pickett's refund claim, according to Sempris attorneys Pickett never made a refund claim prior to that date. After reviewing a previous phone call involving Pickett, Sempris claims customer service representatives were "unfailingly polite, courteous and responsive to all of Mr. Pickett's claims."
After the email exchange between News 4 and Sempris attorneys, Pickett received two letters regarding his Sempris memberships. The letters stated, "you are not eligible for a refund." The letters were dated January 23rd, 2013. According to Pickett's son, a Sempris manager called on Friday January 31st to discuss a refund, Mr. Pickett received a check for a refund the same day.
Jack Berman of Chesterfield received a similar letter regarding his membership to Budget Savers. The letter also stated, "you are not eligible for a refund." Berman tells News 4 the letter appeared to be a clear denial of a refund, however Sempris claims they still offer refunds to consumers even after letters like the ones received by Berman and Pickett.
Sempris is a fairly new company, the C.E.O is George S. Richards of Naples, Florida. According to property records Richards owns an 18.5 million dollar home in an exclusive community. Richards also ran a similar company called Provell, which was previously known as Damark and was the focus of an investigation conducted by the Minnesota Attorney General.
Public records reveal Damark signed up 3 million members a year as far back as 1999, and that Richards was C.O.O. the year Damark settled with the Minnesota Attorney General. In that settlement, Damark agreed to provide double refunds in some circumstances to consumers who claimed they were deceived.
More than a decade later, Sempris is the focus of three class action lawsuits in three states. Chicago law firm Edelson McGuire filed the lawsuits in Michigan, Illinois and California. A previous lawsuit filed by Edelson McGuire against Sempris was dismissed.
If you are confused about charges that appear on your credit card statement, email Investigative Reporter Chris Nagus at firstname.lastname@example.org