Mass. Sues N.Y. Web Site Owner for Selling Free Registry Forms

June 25, 2007

Massachusetts officials are suing a New York man who allegedly operated a Web site that mimicked the state’s Registry of Motor Vehicle site and misled consumers into paying a fee to download forms they could obtain for free.

The attorney general’s office filed the complaint June 21 against Chris Wiesner, 55, of Alpine, N.Y., and his business, www.Download-Forms-DMV.com, according to a statement.

“False government Web sites present a real danger to consumers,” Attorney General Martha Coakley said. “These Web sites confuse consumers, put their personal information at risk and often times charge fees for information that they can obtain for free.”

The Web site was pulled down last Friday to review concerns raised by Massachusetts officials.

The attorney general’s office said that since November 2005, about 28,000 consumers paid over $280,000 to Wiesner online to download forms from his Web site.

The state alleges that Wiesner crafted his Web site so that consumers using Internet search engines would locate the site in a sponsored link or have it listed as one of the primary Web sites on the response page.

Those accessing his site would be required to become a subscriber by entering their credit or debit card information and pay a $10 fee in order to get forms they could have obtained free if they went directly to the Massachusetts RMV or vehicle registry Web sites of 18 other states, the attorney general’s office said.

“We do not believe he’s done anything wrong. We believe he’s very clear what his site is and is not, and we are hopeful that a trial would clarify everything and result in him being found not civilly responsible for this,” Wiesner’s attorney Jeffrey Denner said.

“I don’t think he’s purporting to be the Registry of Motor Vehicles,” Denner said. “He provides information, it is very clear people are paying for information.”

The state is seeking restitution for consumers as well as a permanent injunction and civil penalties under the Consumer Protection Act.

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