Just days after FleetCor Technologies Inc. agreed to settle a $50 million class-action securities fraud lawsuit, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed suit against the fuel card company over its alleged predatory fee practices.
According to the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia,
FleetCor allegedly charged customers hundreds of millions of dollars in hidden fees "after making false promises about helping customers save on fuel costs."
FleetCor, a publicly traded company headquartered in Atlanta, reported $2.4 billion in annual revenues in 2018.
The company markets its fuel card services under its own "Fuelman" brand name, as well as through co-branded cards to other businesses, according to the FTC release on Dec. 20.
The fuel cards, which are charge cards customers can use to purchase fuel and other transportation-related products and services, stated that signing up for FleetCor cards had no "set-up, transaction or membership fees."
The FTC suit alleges FleetCor's claim of no hidden fees is false and that tens of thousands of its customers have complained about unexpected fees to the company, government agencies and the Better Business Bureau.
Besides FleetCor, Ronald Clarke, the company's chief executive, has been named in the suit. The company and Clarke have been charged with violating the FTC Act's "prohibitions on unfair and deceptive acts and practices."
"FleetCor's [Clarke] was actively involved in efforts to create fees, knew how and when the company was charging them and that the company re-enrolled customers in certain fees after those customers asked FleetCor to remove the fees from their statements," court documents allege.
The FTC complaint alleges that customers generally have not achieved the advertised per-gallon savings by using FleetCor's cards. According to an analysis requested by Clarke, on average fuel card customers saved a fraction of a cent per gallon – "far less than the 5-10 cents per gallon frequently touted by the defendants," the suit claims.
"The hidden fees exceeded any savings otherwise obtained using FleetCor's cards," the FTC said.