Federal watchdogs are suing FleetCor, alleging that the Atlanta-based company wrongfully charged customers hundreds of millions of dollars in fees. AJC File Photo
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

FTC alleges Atlanta-based FleetCor hid hundreds of millions in fees

Fuel card marketer says FTC lawsuit is without merit

Federal authorities filed suit Friday against Atlanta-based FleetCor Technologies, alleging that the fuel card marketer made false promises and charged business customers hundreds of millions of dollars in hidden fees.

FleetCor and Chief Executive Ronald Clarke told potential customers they would “save money, be protected from unauthorized charges, and have no set-up, transaction, or membership fees,” according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Instead, the FTC alleges, the company charged “a broad array of fees,” many of them timed to make it difficult to detect. For example, according to the FTC, FleetCor often waited to charge the fees so that the added expense would be shrouded by fluctuations in monthly bills.

FleetCor, which is publicly traded, issued a statement Friday in response to the FTC action.

“FleetCor strongly disagrees with the FTC’s complaint (and) believes the FTC’s claims are without merit,” the company stated. “We intend to vigorously defend ourselves against the FTC in court.”

The complaint, FleetCor added, is “based upon fundamental misconceptions of the company, its customers and its products.”

In a filing Thursday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, FleetCor said negotiations with the FTC had reached an impasse because of “unreasonable demands for redress.”

The FTC has asked the court to issue an injunction against the alleged practices and make FleetCor refund all “ill-gotten” payments.

Ronald F. Clarke, CEO of FleetCor
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Among other allegations, the FTC said FleetCor’s invoices did not mention the fees; FleetCor did not post customer payments when they were received, triggering late fees and “high credit risk” fees; and FleetCor promised to stop unauthorized charges but did not do so.

The company last year reported revenue of $2.4 billion and has about 7,600 employees, including at least some overseas.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, which is in Atlanta.

In November, FleetCor agreed to settle a class action securities fraud lawsuit for $50 million, according to a report in Law.com, which was based on court filings.

That suit was based on allegations that FleetCor used “predatory” fee practices that inflated company stock in 2016 and 2017, according to Law.com.

Notice of the settlement was filed by the lead plaintiff in the case, the City of Sunrise General Employees’ Retirement Plan, a public pension fund in suburban Miami.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.