NASHVILLE, TN (WRCB) -- An estimated 5,500 consumers in and outside Tennessee will be eligible for refunds following an agreement today that permanently stops an East Tennessee group from conducting alleged unlawful telemarketing practices.

U.S. District Judge Ronnie Greer yesterday signed final agreements that provide an estimated $1 million to consumers who were harmed by the companies' alleged deceptive business practices. Attorney General Bob Cooper filed suit earlier this year on behalf of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance (TDCI) Consumer Affairs Division against several East Tennessee telemarketing firms and their operators.

The State's investigation focused on one of the top consumer complaint generators at the time in Tennessee running alleged boiler room-style operations which included using coercive tactics to sell long-term magazine subscriptions.

The agreement indicates that during their six years the defendants took in a combined $20 million in ill-gotten gains from consumers throughout the country.  While agreeing the money generated was ill-gotten, the defendants have denied liability under the terms of the agreements.

"We are pleased to be able to provide these consumers with some relief as a result of the Court's decision, " Attorney General Cooper said. "Our law enforcement action was commenced not just due to few complaints but thousands of similar accounts from people,  some of whom were on the Do Not Call Registry, who said they were verbally harassed and deceived by telemarketers."

Those named in the lawsuit are Mountain Area Communications, LLC, American Publisher's Service, LLC, Shawna R. McDonald, Eric N. McDonald, Zachary F. Haverland, Christopher M. McDonald, and G.H. McDonald. They are alleged to have broken several laws including the federal telemarketing law and state consumer protection laws.

If you have not yet filed a complaint, you have Until Feb. 11 to file a complaint with the Division of Consumer Affairs to receive restitution.

"Anyone who suspects they may have been a victim in this case is encouraged to contact our office to file a complaint," said Gary Cordell, director of the TDCI Consumer Affairs Division. Consumers may file a complaint online at visiting its website at or by calling the Division at (800) 342-8385 (toll-free in Tennessee) or (615) 741-4737.