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Adult Web sites accused of charging for ‘free’ tours

SHARE Adult Web sites accused of charging for ‘free’ tours

WASHINGTON — Owners of scores of adult Web sites have been charged with billing thousands of Web users for supposedly free services and billing other consumers who have never visited the Web sites at all, the Federal Trade Commission announced Wednesday.

Both the FTC and the New York attorney general's office filed suit in U.S. District Court seeking to halt the billing practices and have asked the court to freeze the defendants' assets in order to reimburse consumers.

Crescent Publishing Group Inc., based in New York City, and its owner, Bruce Chew, as well as David Bernstein are named as defendants in the complaint, along with 64 affiliated corporations that operate the adult Web sites, which include Playboy.com and Highsociety.com.

According to the complaint, the "Free Tours" generated income of $188 million between 1997 and 1999 — $141 million of which was generated in the first 10 months of 1999.