Fertility Company Bullies Unhappy Customer With Bogus Legal Threats And Nonexistent Lawyers

from the reputation-still-feeling-protected? dept

It looks like another company wants to ruin its reputation by "protecting" its reputation. Paul Alan Levy of Public Citizen is helping an unhappy customer fight back against the litigious threats of Fertility Bridges, which allegedly promised her one thing, but delivered another.

After searching the Fertility Bridges web site, identifying what appeared to be an ideal donor, and receiving confirmation from Fertility Bridges that the donor had confirmed her willingness to proceed, Oliver wrote a large check to Fertility Bridges. However, as soon as the company had received Oliver’s payment, Fertility Bridges went dark concerning the donor's availability instead of moving forward with an egg donation. Then, just after Oliver’s check had cleared, Fertility Bridges admitted that the donor was unwilling to go forward with the procedure, without giving any reason, and suggested that she choose another of the company's available donors. But when Oliver asked for a refund of the entire fee that she had paid Fertility Bridges, the company temporized for a while, and then refused. In the circumstances, Oliver suspected that she had been the victim of a bait and switch.
Oliver took her complaint to the Better Business Bureau. Shortly thereafter, she received a threatening email (the first of several) from Fertility Bridges stating that the agreement it had failed to uphold on its end had been violated by Oliver's complaint.
"You directly violated our legal agreement by attempting to post an online review. As such, we are setting the plans in motion for a multi-million dollar defamation case against you. . . . unless you withdraw your unwarranted BBB complaint or any illegal online reviews, we will proceed at lightening [sic] speed in a defamation case against you to minimize as much damage as possible. We have your signed legal agreement clearly stating you will NOT post online reviews."
The provisions the threatening email alluded to are these:
"M. ONLINE REVIEWS
"Because of the extremely private and emotionally delicate nature of the egg donation business Recipients agree NOT to post any online reviews anywhere on the Internet without first presenting it to Fertility Bridges for legal review. . . .


"N. APPLICATION OF LAW
"Recipients agree that this Agreement will be governed and interpreted by California jurisdiction. . . .

"Q. SETTLEMENT OF DISPUTES
"Recipients agree to mediation to resolve any disputes. If mediation does not resolve the issues then Recipients agree to binding arbitration to settle disputes [and] in California Jurisdiction..."
Fertility Bridges' own agreement immediately undercuts its threats of a (baseless) "multi-million dollar defamation case," as it binds both parties to mediation and arbitration. The parts about California's jurisdiction undercut the rest.
[G]iven the (oddly-worded) provision subjecting the agreement to California law, even if the clause were construed as forbidding disparaging reviews without prior approval, the clause would be forbidden by the new California law that prevents companies from imposing non-disparagement clauses in consumer agreements.
The combination of legal errors might cause one to wonder what sort of lawyer helped compose the threatening emails sent to Oliver. Levy tried to speak to Fertility Bridges' legal representation on behalf of Oliver. His attempt was met by Fertility Bridges tugging at its suspenders and claiming it was just a humble, small-time fertility consulting company that didn't much care for big city lawyerin' -- despite its succession of escalating emails suggesting Oliver would be sued into the ground for attempting to badmouth the company.

In fact, for all of its assertions that any review or complaint about its services would first need to be viewed by Fertility Bridges' legal team before publication, the company appears to have no legal representation retained to handle this task. In an email conversation with Levy, the company (comically) makes it clear it would need to retain a specific type of lawyer to handle Oliver's challenge of its non-disparagement clause. [All spelling and grammatical errors in the following are quoted directly. Emphasis added.]
Thanks for your prompt response. If the Olivers feel the need to post something on the Internet, we can't stop them. As you have read we do not have a gag clause, we ask that they present to our attorney or mediator to verify the facts are truthful and void of medical privacy data so that they do not subject themselves to libel.

Do have them post away and we will hire a separate attorney who focuses specifically on false claims (not truthful ones - since those are ok to post and have always been.) As you know different attorneys specialize in different types of the law so we will hire one who specializes in this. We are not lawyers and don't intent to be. Our goal is to create a service that helps and leave the legal matters up to the experts.

We have an attorney who is responding to their NJ claim but we don't feel she has the expertise to advise on libel claim since it will be important to learn the details of libel once we head into mediation with the client.

Will you serve as their lawyer defending them against their lies they are intending to write online? Are you libel attorney?

[...]

If you feel there is anything else we need to know about this case, please pass all and we will share with our with a specialized libel attorney when we hire one. 9 days is too short a time to find and hire This special kind of attorney so we will do this after posts are made and take the right amount of time to find the right one. Once they are made, we will know how extreme the situation is, exactly the nature of their post and we will have a chance to state our response refuting their claims in the public forum they are posting on and what potential damages that might occur as a result. I am sure there is some case law that already defines what the legal remedies are for posting libelous remarks online and we will aim to find an attorney who knows.
I assume once an actual lawyer is retained by Fertility Bridges, all communication along these lines will cease. The non-disparagement clause Fertility Bridges claims isn't a non-disparagement clause is actually unenforceable in California -- the state it's chosen to handle its litigation in. And if Oliver's review actually contains defamatory statements, there are legal remedies the company can pursue that have nothing to do with its shady "run it by our [nonexistent] lawyers first" clause. As Levy points out, given the legal remedies readily available, the only reason to insert language like this into service agreements is to discourage unhappy customers from making their complaints public.






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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Oct 2015 @ 6:36am

    Streisand is burning Bridges...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 29 Oct 2015 @ 6:39am

    Perhaps the FTC would like to send over a copy of the paperwork they dropped on Roca Labs.

    Their actions paint a picture of a company willing to lie to their customers. One wonders how they stay in business until one remembers that even baseless legal threats work on many people.

    I wonder how many times this company violated customers rights with this "legal" silencing of customers who did not get what they were promised. If only there were state agencies empowered to look through the records to see how many times consumers paid and got nothing other than a legal threat for their fee.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Oct 2015 @ 7:23am

    The email exchange is really weird. The initial response from Maria at Fertility Bridges is rambling and excessively long. It reads like a freshman university student trying to pad the length of an essay. Page 3 is exceedingly unprofessional and highly amusing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Yoda, 29 Oct 2015 @ 7:38am

    Scammers

    Scammers attack, revealed truth you have of them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Oct 2015 @ 8:12am

    Someone needs to tell Fertility Bridges that the Better Business Bureau is a non profit organization that allows consumers to get action against any business that operates within the borders of the United States.

    Not only that but the Better Business Bureau is NOT a review site and that it has never been a review site.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Oct 2015 @ 8:47am

      Re:

      The BBB's only action is to publicize the bad business. This is a case that needs sanctions of some kind, either financial penalties or loss of business license. The BBB can do none of that.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Quiet Lurcker, 29 Oct 2015 @ 8:23am

    Hmmm...

    Wonder what other nasties might be lurking under that rock with the label 'fertility bridges' on it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Kal Zekdor (profile), 29 Oct 2015 @ 8:33am

    Fertility Bridges

    Is that where baby trolls come from?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Oct 2015 @ 10:43am

    smells like a bait-and-switch scam

    This company, Fertility Bridges, seems very shady. First of all, it's highly unethical for a company to pressure its employees into becoming egg 'donors' (ostensibly in order to secure their jobs) but the fact that most of the staff are listed as multi-time egg 'donors' certainly leaves that impression.

    So when you consult with "Jessica Stelzer – Egg Donor Match Coordinator", don't be surprised if she downplays all the other advertised 450 egg donors and recommends herself for the role -- which she has apparently done many times before.

    Fertility Bridges is not a fertility clinic, has no medically-trained staff, offers no legal advice, or has anyone with any kind of professional qualifications of any kind. The company itself basically just acts as a middleman, charging a $7000 'finders' fee ... just for setting people up with (probably) one of the employees, who then charges a similar amount as a "egg donation fee".

    Is that a scam or what?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Oct 2015 @ 12:13pm

    The Levy/Fertility Bridges e-mail exchange (html version here) shows the "large check" in question was for $ 3000. For what services is anyone's guess, since according to the e-mails Fertility Bridges doesn't guarantee anything, not even pre-checking the legal marketability of donors it recommends. While I think they do deserve reasonable compensation (for their go-between efforts), $ 3000 is overpriced. Let's have a look at that spread sheet.

    On the other hand, being prevaricating and litigious, if not outright lying, they deserve a slap and a fee for wasting everybody's time and nerves. I'd be unsurprised if this company consisted of one or two guys/gals with nothing but a basic clue about what they're doing. Clearly they talked to a lawyer some time before the current California non-disparagement clause law took effect, and not since.

    The Olivers allegely also filed a lawsuit in New Jersey, if true it would be interesting how that pans out.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Blackfiredragon13 (profile), 29 Oct 2015 @ 12:22pm

    lightening

    They misspelled lightning. The clinic is a joke. Couldn't even bother to spell check their threat letter.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 29 Oct 2015 @ 8:02pm

    Pregnant idea

    Bait and switch!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 31 Oct 2015 @ 12:22pm

    No legal help?

    How does any company, especially a fertility clinic, not have legal counsel? Even if they can't afford a legal department, don't they have someone on retainer? Of the top of my head, I can think of 50 different legal issues that could occur, yet they think it's okay to start looking for a lawyer when they have an issue?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Fertility Bridges, 3 Nov 2015 @ 10:11am

    Court Date to Determine Truth in Frivolous Lawsuit

    Fertility Bridges has an upcoming court date on this subject and will release the outcome as soon as it is determined. The company refunded fees related to a specific donor 3 days after request. Clients are not banned from writing a truthful review and have been informed as such. Clients were informed if they published lies online they would be subject to a libel lawsuit. Please call us if you have any questions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Johndoe, 11 Jan 2016 @ 5:10pm

    NO a THANK YOU!!!!!

    I guess what appeared to be a legitimate business turned out to be the opposite. I am a potential intended parent looking for an egg donor and was planning on using FB, but after coming across this pending lawsuit.... NO THANK YOU!!!!! I do not need added headache and stress. Finding an egg donor and surrogate is stressful enough and one would think that if large sums of money is paid to an agency such as FB, one should expect professional, compassionate, and first class service.

    So, if anyone reading this can refer me to a legitimate, honest, and reliable agency to help me with my endeavor to have a baby via surrogate and egg donor, please email me! Thanks!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Morgan Lee, 27 Jan 2016 @ 5:51pm

      Re: NO a THANK YOU!!!!!

      I worked with FB for my donor cycle and they were absolutely lovely and professional. We are pursuing a second sibling journey when we found this tragic site that attempts to destroy companies. I suggest using better review sources than this place. Especially those more familiar with the process. Nothing here is relevant to the fertility process. Fertility Authority, bbb, and clinics have better reviews than this unrelated sad site. Its heartbreaking when bad people get the last say for hard working people. Good luck I hope the credible sources will help you find the best opportunity for you.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Baduta (profile), 18 Jul 2016 @ 12:37pm

      Re: NO a THANK YOU!!!!!

      I saw a reply to this email which reminds me of similar replies the FB company itself has put out. This article was written by one of the top consumer lawyers in the country whose sole purpose is to report the facts which they have openly done from the communication to FB they've posted. They have no gain or special motives. Many fertility companies have unethical practices bc they are not governed tightly. I would recommend Egg Donor Ameruca - but I would not recommend you use their canned attorney agreement or their fund manager who will not collect receipts for all of your expenses. Make sure you still get your own attorney to review everything bc their attorney protects them, not you. You should be able to AMH test any donor there to make sure they are viable donors before picking someone. Good luck

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    FertilityBridges (profile), 14 Dec 2016 @ 10:05am

    Fertility Bridges Review Response, TRUTH (what actually happened)

    "Review Response, Our Truth"

    10 years of flawless reviews and online presence destroyed by one scam artist, "client."

    FB Staff threatened violently threatened by "client's" husband.

    http://fertilitybridgesreviews.blogspot.com/

    What happens when small businesses are seen as the villain rather than the victim.

    "Client" proven to have a history of scamming agencies.

    Who's the victim now?

    The review clause in the article is legal in their jurisdiction of CA. However it has since been removed in contracts under new ownership just to appease the online torture of one review vs small business (with families too).

    Review NJ public records instead of a business bashing sites.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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