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Archive for Thursday, September 27, 2001

Kansas investigating Miss Cleo’s ‘psychic hotline’

September 27, 2001

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The Kansas Attorney General's Office may be in Miss Cleo's future.

The state's top prosecutor is looking into the "psychic hotline" advertised on television to promote Miss Cleo's readings. So far, Atty. Gen. Carla Stovall has received about 160 complaints from Kansans, alleging the TV ads are misleading, said Mark Ohlemeier, a spokesperson for the attorney general.

"We are continuing to investigate as complaints come in," Ohlemeier said.

Speaking with a Caribbean accent, Miss Cleo appears in national television commercials promising insights into love, money and other personal matters.

Most of the complaints, Ohlemeier said, deal with the ad's claim that during a call to the hotline, the first few minutes of the reading are free.

Ohlemeier said those minutes are exhausted by the caller giving personal information.

"You don't actually get a reading," he said.

Miss Cleo's attorneys disagree.

Sean Moynihan, of New York, is an attorney representing Access Resource Services Inc., the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., company behind Miss Cleo's hotline.

He said it was true that some of the free three minutes is used to get information to help the psychic get oriented with the customer.

But the allegation that there is no free reading "is just absolutely not true," Moynihan said.

Other states have already gone after Miss Cleo. In Missouri, the company paid $75,000 for making telemarketing calls to Missourians who have their name on the state's no-call list, according to the Missouri Attorney General's Office.

Under a new law in Missouri, once residents place their names on the no-call list, telemarketers are prohibited from calling them.

Moynihan said the calls were made to Missourians who in the past six months had contacted Miss Cleo. That is allowable under the no-call law, Moynihan said, but the company agreed to pay the $75,000 because negative publicity emanating from Missouri Atty. Gen. Jay Nixon was hurting the company.

"He did millions of dollars of damages to the company. I've never seen an office act like that," Moynihan said.

Ohlemeier said some of the complaints in Kansas are from people saying the Miss Cleo psychic hotline has made calls to their homes, but he said, there is nothing the state can do about that because Kansas does not have a no-call law.

A proposal for such a law has been bottled up in the Legislature for a couple of years.

Ohlemeier said there was no specific timetable on when the Kansas Attorney General's Office will decide what to do with its investigation.

The company promoting Miss Cleo is not backing down. Recent television ads show Miss Cleo telling viewers that she will stay in business despite attempts to rein her in.

Moynihan said the company receives millions of calls every year and that there are bound to be people who are disgruntled about their bills. Sometimes, he said, customers lie about calling Miss Cleo when the bill comes due.

He said that Miss Cleo may rub Midwestern sensibilities the wrong way, but that the psychic hotline is a thriving and legitimate business.

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