ST. PAUL -- Boston-based Fleet Mortgage Corp. shared customers' account numbers and other personal information with telemarketers and profited by the companies' deceptive marketing schemes, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch.
The lawsuit, the latest in a series of Hatch efforts to fight corporate invasions of privacy, seeks an injunction, restitution for consumers and other relief under state laws.
Company officials said the lawsuit, filed in Hennepin County District Court, contains inaccuracies and is based on incomplete facts.
"We will vigorously defend against these allegations," said a statement issued by spokesman Bruce Spitzer.
The complaint asserts that the company allowed information about its mortgage clients to be used in efforts to sell memberships in organizations that offer discounts on such services as car maintenance, credit card protection or attorney fees.
Though the telemarketers lead customers to believe they are getting free trial memberships, Fleet bills the customers' mortgage accounts unless they cancel within 30 days, the complaint says.
Fleet retains a percent of the sales and in some cases charges a fee for the information released to the telemarketer, the lawsuit alleges.
"It's simply unheard of," Hatch said of the practice of attaching fees to a mortgage bill. "The customer has no clue that they could actually charge their mortgage statement."
He also said Fleet's own customer service representatives have questioned the practice in internal memos, noting the large number of complaints they receive.
Hatch said hundreds of Minnesotans are among thousands who have complained.
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