Image Credits: Thomas Trutsche / Getty Images
Amazon said today it is working with the Federal Trade Commission’s investigation into consumer fraud allegedly committed by Sellers Playbook, a Minnesota-based business that claimed to help Amazon sellers make more money.
FTC and the state of Minnesota announced today that they have charged Sellers Playbook and its owner Jessie Tieva and CEO Matthew Tieva, a married couple who are not affiliated with Amazon.com, with running a large business opportunity scheme. Specifically, the FTC and the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office allege Sellers Playbook deceived consumers with a “get rich scheme,” marketing a system that it claimed could enable purchasers to make thousands of dollars per month selling products on Amazon.
In their complaint, the FTC and state of Minnesota wrote the defendants “lure[d] consumers into purchasing expensive business opportunities by deceptively offering consumers a ‘full-service, turnkey package’ for getting their ‘piece of the $400 Billion Amazon Pie,” but few, if any, of the system’s users achieved those earnings. In reality, most lost money.
Meanwhile, Jessie Tieva and Matthew Tieva allegedly made more than $15 million between April 2017 and May 2018, with some consumers forking over more than $32,000.
The FTC says Jessie Tieva and one of her businesses, Exposure Marketing Company (also known as Sellers Online and Sellers System), previously promoted and sold a similar “how to make money on Amazon” scheme called FBA Stores, which also resulted in many purchasers losing large amounts of money. Tieva “routinely made false and unsubstantiated earnings claims during her sales presentations at FBA Stores’ live events,” the FTC wrote in its complaint against Sellers Playbook.
FBA Stores stopped operating in March after reaching a settlement with the FTC that included a judgement of more than $102 million. Amazon and the state of Washington also filed separate lawsuits against FBA Stores, accusing it of “preying” on consumers. (The Tievas are not defendants in the FBA Stores case).
In a statement, an Amazon spokesperson said “the entrepreneurs and small businesses selling on Amazon are incredibly important to us and our customers, and we aggressively pursue those that attempt to harm their selling experience. We invest heavily to protect the integrity of our stores and take action to protect customers and sellers, including working with consumer protection agencies and law enforcement. We have zero tolerance for fraud and abuse and will continue to cooperate with law enforcement to pursue criminals.”
TechCrunch has reached out to Sellers Playbook for comment.