FTC halts ‘misleading’ real estate seminars with HGTV stars
New York – A federal court has agreed to put temporary restrictions on a pricey real estate seminar business fronted by HGTV stars after the Federal Trade Commission said promises that the classes could make people rich were “misleading” and “bogus.”
In its complaint Friday, the FTC said that Utah-based Zurixx LLC would hold free real estate events endorsed by HGTV stars, including Tarek El Moussa and Christina Anstead of “Flip or Flop” fame. But at the events, attendees would be asked to pay for another three-day class that cost $1,997. And those who paid for those classes would be taught how to apply for new credit cards and increase the credit limits on existing cards. Then, according to the FTC, instructors would suggest using the credit to pay for additional training that cost more than $41,000.
When customers complained, the FTC said, Zurixx would offer refunds, but only if customers signed an agreement barring them from writing negative reviews or speaking to regulators. The court order prohibits Zurixx from making unsupported marketing claims and interfering with customers’ ability to leave reviews.
The court also named a monitor to the company and asked Zurixx to preserve its assets and not spend more than $25,000 without the monitor’s approval. The FTC typically asks courts to restrict businesses in order to investigate them further.
Zurixx said in a statement that it welcomes the scrutiny and anticipates “a positive outcome as we work directly and openly with the agencies involved.”
HGTV did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A hearing is scheduled for next week, according to the complaint.
In 2016, The Associated Press spoke to about a dozen people who took classes by Zurixx, saying that they were pushed to buy pricey classes, but learned very little about the real estate business.