Idaho is among 20 states that are part of a consumer protection settlement forcing the shutdown of a California-based website that targeted military veterans to attend for-profit colleges. The states charged that the company's websites, including GIBill.com, were deceptive and misleading, giving the appearance that they were operated or endorsed by the U.S. government or military. They directed users only to the website owner's clients, which were presented as "eligible GI Bill schools."
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said, “This settlement ends the deceptive practices this company used to mislead the people who risk their lives to protect our freedom. Our veterans and active duty military personnel have earned their educational benefits and should not be subjected to trickery when deciding where best to use those benefits.”
As part of the settlement, the company, QuinStreet Inc. of Foster City, Calif., will pay $2.5 million, including $100,000 to reimburse Idaho for its costs to participate in the case, and the firm will relinquish the domain "GIBill.com" to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which will use it to educate service members about benefits available to them. Click below for a full announcement from Wasden's office.
STATE OF IDAHO
OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
For Immediate Release
June 27, 2012
STATES SHUT DOWN DECEPTIVE WEBSITE TARGETING VETERANS’ EDUCATION BENEFITS
(Boise) – A California company that targeted military veterans to attend for-profit colleges has agreed to give up its “GIBill.com” website and pay $2.5 million to 20 states as part of a consumer protection settlement, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said today.
QuinStreet, Inc., of Foster City, California, operates websites that generate leads, primarily for the for-profit education industry. The states alleged that several of the company’s sites targeting military personnel, including GIBill.com, were deceptive and misleading in giving the appearance that the sites were operated, owned or endorsed by the U.S. government or military. The sites listed “eligible GI Bill schools” and gave the impression that veterans could use their education benefits only at those schools. In fact, the list only consisted of QuinStreet clients, which were primarily for-profit colleges.
“This settlement ends the deceptive practices this company used to mislead the people who risk their lives to protect our freedom,” Attorney General Wasden said. “Our veterans and active duty military personnel have earned their educational benefits and should not be subjected to trickery when deciding where best to use those benefits.”
QuinStreet will relinquish ownership and control of the domain “GIBill.com” to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which will use the domain to promote the GI Bill program and educate service members about the benefits available to them under the program. QuinStreet will also shut down and cease to use any domain names that include the term “GI Bill.”
In addition, QuinStreet agreed to:
- shut down the Twitter, Facebook, and other social media accounts associated with GIBill.com;
- disclose on all of QuinStreet’s education-related websites that schools responding to a consumers’ search are advertisers or pay to appear on the sites;
- place unavoidable disclosures on its military related websites making it clear that the site is not owned or operated by the U.S. government; and
- disclose on the websites that the schools listed on the sites are not the only schools that accept GI Bill benefits, and include links to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ page that provides a complete list.
Idaho will receive $100,000 from the settlement to reimburse the Attorney General for his costs in the investigation. The money will be deposited in the Consumer Protection Account.
State Attorneys General have seen for-profit colleges intensify their recruitment of veterans since Congress enacted the Post 9/11 GI Bill in 2008. Military personnel and veterans received $9 billion in educational benefits in Fiscal Year 2010. Military benefits paid to 20 for-profit colleges increased 683 percent, from $66 million in 2006 to a projected $521.2 million in 2010, according to an analysis by a U.S. Senate Committee.
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