People ex rel. Brown v. IMERGENT, Inc., No. B201302.

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtPerren
Citation87 Cal. Rptr. 3d 844,170 Cal.App.4th 333
PartiesTHE PEOPLE ex rel. EDMUND G. BROWN, JR., as Attorney General, etc., et al., Plaintiffs and Respondents, v. iMERGENT, INC., et al., Defendants and Appellants.
Decision Date20 January 2009
Docket NumberNo. B201302.
170 Cal.App.4th 333
87 Cal. Rptr. 3d 844
THE PEOPLE ex rel. EDMUND G. BROWN, JR., as Attorney General, etc., et al., Plaintiffs and Respondents,
v.
iMERGENT, INC., et al., Defendants and Appellants.
No. B201302.
Court of Appeals of California, Second District, Division Six.
January 20, 2009.

[170 Cal.App.4th 336]

Greenberg Traurig and Raymond B. Kim for Defendants and Appellants.

Edmund G. Brown, Jr., Attorney General, Albert Norman Shelden, Assistant Attorney General, Ronald A. Reiter, Michele R. Van Gelderen and Benjamin G. Diehl, Deputy Attorneys General, Gregory D. Totten, District Attorney, and Mitchell F. Disney, Deputy District Attorney, for Plaintiffs and Respondents.

OPINION

PERREN, J.


Defendants, iMergent, Inc., and its subsidiary, StoresOnline, Inc., are self-described providers of "eCommerce" technology, training, and other Web-based programs that purport to help start, operate, and maintain home-based businesses. Recognizing the danger that such products and services present to unsophisticated purchasers, California enacted the Seller Assisted Marketing Plan (SAMP) Act (Civ. Code, § 1812.200 et seq.).1 Among other things, this legislation imposes a duty on the seller of SAMP's to make certain disclosures to the Attorney General and the prospective purchasers (§§ 1812.203, 1812.205, 1812.206, 1812.207), and provides a procedure for the purchaser to cancel any contract for the sale of a SAMP (§ 1812.209). The law applies to all sellers who represent that the purchaser "will earn, is likely to earn, or can earn an amount in excess of the initial payment paid by the purchaser for participation in the seller assisted marketing plan." (§ 1812.201, subd. (a)(1).) Defendants contend that this phrase is unconstitutionally vague. As we shall explain, the words to which defendants object cannot, in any rational way, be construed as failing to provide adequate notice of the conduct that triggers the requirements of the SAMP Act. The statute, sub judice, gives "`". . . the person of ordinary intelligence a reasonable opportunity to know what is prohibited, so that he may act accordingly. . . ."'" (Williams v. Garcetti (1993) 5 Cal.4th 561, 567-568 [20 Cal.Rptr.2d 341, 853 P.2d 507].) Defendants' contention is further called into question by the stipulated judgment and permanent injunction, entered in a prior action less than a year before the instant complaint was filed, in which they agreed to refrain from violating the very act whose clarity of language they now question.

Defendants appeal from an order granting a motion for a preliminary injunction filed by the Attorney General and the Ventura County District

170 Cal.App.4th 337

Attorney on behalf of the People of the State of California (plaintiffs). The injunction prohibits defendants from selling their products and services without first complying with the disclosure provisions of the SAMP Act and the unfair competition law (UCL) (Bus. & Prof. Code, § 17537.1). Defendants contend the order granting the injunction must be reversed because the SAMP Act is unconstitutionally vague on its face. They alternatively claim the trial court abused its discretion in issuing a mandatory injunction that prohibits them from engaging in lawful conduct. We affirm.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Defendants sell a package of services and products that purport to assist in the establishment of home-based Internet businesses or, as defendants put it, "a fully functional eCommerce website." Defendants market these services and products by conducting sales presentations at hotels and conference centers throughout the United States. Consumers are solicited by mail with offers of free gifts and meals to attend an initial 90-minute presentation. Those who attend are invited to pay $20 to attend what defendants characterize as "a full-day Internet marketing training workshop" valued at $1,889. Plaintiffs contend this "workshop" is actually "a vigorous all-day sales pitch for [defendants'] Internet storefronts, website design and Internet marketing services."

During the second presentation, defendants offer packages containing either three or six licenses for Web sites, at costs ranging from $2,700 to $4,900. Customers are encouraged to purchase the more expensive package, regardless of whether they have any business experience or a product to sell. Both presentations include numerous testimonials from prior customers who claim to have earned large incomes using defendants' products. As of July 24, 2007, defendants' Web site (Storesonlinepro.com) included several such testimonials, all of which included representations that the customer had recouped his initial investment.

Similar representations were made at sales presentations held in Pasadena, Van Nuys, and Oxnard in 2007. For example, one speaker represented that "the average successful merchant on StoresOnline replaces their entire income and on average works two hours a day." Another speaker stated that while "all testimonials are not earnings claims" and "you could make less money than my examples today, . . . by the same token, you can make, what? More; and a lot more."

170 Cal.App.4th 338

In December 2003, defendants conducted two sales seminars in the city of Ventura, at which 61 consumers purchased defendants' products. Plaintiffs located and interviewed 27 of these individuals in May 2007. Most had purchased six Web sites at a cost of $4,700 to $4,900, and almost all had spent a considerable amount of time (up to hundreds of hours) attempting to start businesses. Twenty-four of the 27 were unable to even activate any Web sites, and the remaining three generated less than $1,000 in sales.

In 2006, plaintiffs filed a complaint against defendants alleging violations of the SAMP Act, the UCL, and the false advertising law (FAL) (Bus. & Prof. Code, § 17200 et seq.). In conjunction with the filing of the complaint, the parties stipulated to a final judgment in which defendants agreed to pay over $1.2 million in restitution and costs. Defendants were also permanently enjoined from selling or offering to sell SAMP's (1) prior to timely filing the required disclosures with the Attorney General; (2) without providing data substantiating any claims regarding the SAMP's income or earning potential to prospective purchasers at the first in-person communication; and (3) without providing other disclosures and information to potential purchasers as provided in the SAMP Act. Defendants were also required to provide plaintiffs with advance notice of the time, place and location of any seminars to be held in California, and to comply with any requests for copies of the invitations used to market the seminars and audio recordings of those seminars.

On July 24, 2007, approximately 10 months after the stipulated judgment and permanent injunction were filed in the prior action, plaintiffs filed the instant complaint alleging that defendants had violated the stipulated final judgment in the prior action, the SAMP Act, the UCL, and the FAL. The allegations in the complaint were based on information obtained by investigators who attended sales presentations, as well as a review of defendants' current marketing materials and Web site. On August 7, 2007, the trial court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) under authority of Business and Professions Code sections 17203 and 17535 that was substantially identical to the permanent injunction filed in the prior action.

On August 21, 2007, defendants filed a petition for a writ of supersedeas in this court challenging the TRO. While that petition was pending, the trial court issued a preliminary injunction containing the same restrictions as the TRO. We subsequently denied the writ petition challenging the TRO. Defendants filed a second writ petition challenging the preliminary injunction, which we denied on October 12, 2007. This appeal followed.

170 Cal.App.4th 339
DISCUSSION
I.
Constitutionality of the SAMP Act

The SAMP Act defines a SAMP as "any sale or lease or offer to sell or lease any product, equipment, supplies, or services that requires a total initial payment exceeding five hundred dollars ($500), but requires an...

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22 practice notes
  • Oiye v. Fox
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • December 11, 2012
    ...illegal conduct is prohibitory, not mandatory, and does not require heightened appellate scrutiny. ( People v. iMERGENT, Inc. (2009) 170 Cal.App.4th 333, 342–343, 87 Cal.Rptr.3d 844.) Defendant asserts that the court has affirmatively required him to “not transfer any assets other than for ......
  • People v. Uber Techs., Inc., A160701, A160706
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 22, 2020
    ...that restrains a continued violation of state law is prohibitory in nature (see People ex rel. Brown v. iMergent, Inc. (2009) 170 Cal.App.4th 333, 342, 87 Cal.Rptr.3d 844 [prohibition on continued violation of consumer protection laws] ), and second, that the IT Corp . framework applies eve......
  • Oiye v. Fox, H036065
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • March 13, 2013
    ...illegal conduct is prohibitory, not mandatory, and does not require heightened appellate scrutiny. ( People v. iMERGENT, Inc. (2009) 170 Cal.App.4th 333, 342–343, 87 Cal.Rptr.3d 844.) Defendant asserts that the court has affirmatively required him to “not transfer any assets other than for ......
  • In re Noreen G., No. A122651.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • February 9, 2010
    ...requirements of law, and permits meaningful judicial review." [Citation.]' [Citation.]" (People ex rel. Brown v. iMergent, Inc. (2009) 170 Cal.App.4th 333, 339 [87 Cal.Rptr.3d 844].) "`"`A statute must be definite enough to provide a standard of conduct for those whose activities are proscr......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
22 cases
  • Oiye v. Fox
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • December 11, 2012
    ...illegal conduct is prohibitory, not mandatory, and does not require heightened appellate scrutiny. ( People v. iMERGENT, Inc. (2009) 170 Cal.App.4th 333, 342–343, 87 Cal.Rptr.3d 844.) Defendant asserts that the court has affirmatively required him to “not transfer any assets other than for ......
  • People v. Uber Techs., Inc., A160701, A160706
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 22, 2020
    ...that restrains a continued violation of state law is prohibitory in nature (see People ex rel. Brown v. iMergent, Inc. (2009) 170 Cal.App.4th 333, 342, 87 Cal.Rptr.3d 844 [prohibition on continued violation of consumer protection laws] ), and second, that the IT Corp . framework applies eve......
  • Oiye v. Fox, H036065
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • March 13, 2013
    ...illegal conduct is prohibitory, not mandatory, and does not require heightened appellate scrutiny. ( People v. iMERGENT, Inc. (2009) 170 Cal.App.4th 333, 342–343, 87 Cal.Rptr.3d 844.) Defendant asserts that the court has affirmatively required him to “not transfer any assets other than for ......
  • In re Noreen G., No. A122651.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • February 9, 2010
    ...of law, and permits meaningful judicial review." [Citation.]' [Citation.]" (People ex rel. Brown v. iMergent, Inc. (2009) 170 Cal.App.4th 333, 339 [87 Cal.Rptr.3d 844].) "`"`A statute must be definite enough to provide a standard of conduct for those whose activities are......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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