• Report: #107926

Complaint Review: Golden Gate University

  • Submitted: Sat, September 11, 2004
  • Updated: Sat, September 11, 2004

  • Reported By:94523 California
Golden Gate University
538 Mission St. San Francisco, California U.S.A.

Golden Gate University has false advertising and unlawful business practices! Fraud! Rip-off! San Francisco California

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THESE ARE THE TEXTS OF THE TWO LAWSUITS WHICH WERE FILED AGAINST GOLDEN GATE UNIVERSITY AND PHILIP FREIDMAN IN SAN FRANCISCO SUPERIOR COURT RE FALSE ADVERTISING AND UNFAIR BUSINESS PRACTICES:

1. Plaintiff submits the instant First Amended Complaint (Complaint) against Susan Rutberg (Rutberg), Golden Gate University (GGU), Susan Schechter (Schechter), Philip Friedman (Friedman) and Does 3 - 20 (collectively, the defendants), and alleges as follows:

INTRODUCTION
1. GGU is a not-for-profit private entity. For monetary consideration, GGU provides secondary education in various areas such as taxation, law and business. GGU has six locations throughout California, with its main campus located in San Francisco. GGU also operates an English Language Institute and a cyber-campus. GGU's students come from a pool of applicants from all over the United States and the world.

PARTIES
2. The suit incorporates various allegation of misconduct. In some of the allegations and causes of action, Plaintiff proceeds under California Business & Professions Code section 17200, et seq. (Section 17200), and does so for the benefit of the general public and in a representative capacity. As such, Plaintiff alleges no harm or damages whatsoever regarding himself, individually, with respect to those allegations and causes of action. Some of the allegations and causes of action reference incidents relating to and damages suffered by him as an individual.

3. The true names and capacities of defendants sued herein under California Code of Civil Procedure section 474 as Does 3 through 20 are unknown to Plaintiff, who therefore sues these defendants by such fictitious names. Plaintiff will seek to amend this Complaint and include these Doe defendants' true names and capacities when they are ascertained. Each of the fictitiously named defendants is responsible in some manner for the conduct alleged herein.

4. Plaintiff is informed and believes, and thereon alleges, that GGU is, and at all times relevant to this action was, an educational institution authorized to conduct business in California.

5. Plaintiff is informed and believes, and thereon alleges, that Rutberg is an individual who serves, and at all times relevant to this action served, as a professor at GGU.

6. Plaintiff is informed and believes, and thereon alleges, that Schechter is an individual who serves, and at all times relevant to this action served, as interim Dean of Student Services at GGU.

7. Plaintiff is informed and believes, and thereon alleges, that Friedman is an individual who serves, and at all times relevant to this action served, as the president at GGU.

8. At all relevant times herein, each defendant was and is the agent of each of the remaining defendants, and in doing the acts hereinafter alleged, was acting within the course and scope of such agency. Each defendant ratified and/or authorized the wrongful acts of defendants, and each of them.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND
9. GGU maintains a web-site (www.ggu.edu) on which, among other things, it advertises and promotes its services to prospective students. GGU's web-site functions as an important marketing tool for the school, and receives approximately 8,000 visits or hits per month. Visitors to the web-site initially encounter the home-page. The home-page directs visitors to other areas of the site when they click on various icons (i.e., Admissions, News and Events, Schools and Programs, Locations, About GGU, and University Services). Prospective students from all over the United States and the world visit the web-site in order to receive information about the school.

10. One icon on the GGU web-site is entitled Locations. By clicking on said icon, a web-page which purports to give information about various GGU campuses is displayed. On the page which describes GGU's San Francisco location (Exhibit 1), which is read by many prospective students from all over the world, the following statement is made: So come visit our campus --
14 million people do each year -- we promise you will not get lost in the crowd. (Note: the current Exhibit A is a newer version of the statement and replaces a similar, but different version that was on GGU's web-site.)

11. The above statement claiming that 14 million people visit GGU's San Francisco campus each year is false.

12. 14 million people do not visit Golden Gate University San Francisco Campus each year.
12.5 In fact, Golden Gate University does not know how many people visit the San Francisco each year.

13. The numbers of students who attend GGU's San Francisco Campus, both full and part-time, is approximately 2000 individuals.

14. In fact, under penalty of perjury, GGU (via Mr. Bialik) on September 22, 2003 has already admitted that 14 million people do not, in fact, visit its San Francisco campus annually. Unfortunately, to date (June 9, 2004), GGU did not make any changes to its web-site correcting the inaccurate statement that 14 million people visit the campus annually, and this statement is still present on GGU's web-site. (See Exhibit A.)

15. In fact, on June 12, 2003, Friedman testified under penalty of perjury that he would look into how many people visit GGU's San Francisco Campus. At the time Mr. Friedman did not know how many people visit the campus each year despite the fact that the representation relating to 14 million visitors was already posted on GGU's web-site.
FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION
(Violations of Section 17200, et seq. -- Against GGU and Friedman.)

16. Plaintiff incorporates by reference the allegations contained in Paragraphs 1 - 15 as though set out in full herein.

17. Section 17200 provides that unfair competition shall mean and include any unlawful ... business act or practice. (Section 17200, emphasis added.)

18. By creating the false impression, particularly to unsuspecting and uninformed students from foreign countries, that it is a huge campus similar to, for example, U.C. Berkeley and U.C.L.A., GGU and Friedman have engaged, and continues to engage to date, in unlawful business practices constituting unfair competition in violation of Section 17200.

19. Because the conduct described above is ongoing and continuing, and because the recovery of damages cannot adequately compensate for these wrongs, injunctive relief is appropriate to prevent further wrongful conduct by GGU and Friedman.
SECOND CAUSE OF ACTION
(Violation of Section 17200, et seq. - Fraudulent Business Practices -- Against GGU and Friedman)

20. Plaintiff incorporates by reference the allegations contained in Paragraphs 1 - 19 as though set out in full herein.

21. Section 17200 provides that unfair competition shall mean and include any ... fraudulent business act or practice. (Section 17200, emphasis added.)

22. Defendants have engaged in fraudulent business practices by virtue of making claims that are untrue and/or misleading.

23. Members of the public are likely to be deceived by virtue of the business practices described above into believing that GGU's San Francisco Campus is a large and dynamic campus equivalent to, for example, U.C. Berkeley and UCLA. Thus, GGU and Friedman have engaged in fraudulent business practices constituting unfair competition in violation of Section 17200.

24. Because the conduct described above is ongoing and continuing, and because the recovery of damages cannot adequately compensate for these wrongs, injunctive relief is appropriate to prevent further wrongful conduct by GGU.
THIRD CAUSE OF ACTION
(Violation of Section 17500 et seq. - False Advertising -- Against GGU and Friedman)

25. Plaintiff incorporates by reference the allegations contained in Paragraphs 1 - 24 as though set out in full herein.

26. Section 17500, et seq., provides that [i]t is unlawful for any person, firm, corporation, or association, or any employee thereof with intent directly or indirectly ... to perform services, professional or otherwise, or anything of any nature whatsoever or to induce the public to enter into any obligation relating thereto, to make or disseminate or cause to be made or disseminated before the public in this state...any advertising device ... including over the Internet, any statement ... concerning ... services, professional or otherwise, or concerning any circumstances or matter of fact connected with the proposed performance or disposition thereof, which is untrue or misleading, and which is known, or which by the exercise of reasonable care should be known, to be untrue or misleading[.]

27. GGU publicly disseminates advertising on its web-site which: (1) contains statements that are untrue and/or misleading; and (2) GGU and Friedman knew, or in the exercise of reasonable case, should have known, were untrue or misleading. GGU and Friedman have therefore engaged in false advertising within the meaning of Business & Professions Code section 17500, et seq.

28. Because the conduct described above is ongoing and continuing, and because the recovery of damages cannot adequately compensate for these wrongs, injunctive relief is appropriate to prevent further wrongful conduct by GGU

THIS IS THE TEXT OF THE SECOND SUIT

submits the instant complaint (complaint) against Golden Gate University (GGU), Philip Friedman and Does 1 - 20 (collectively, the defendants), and alleges as follows:

1. GGU is a not-for-profit private entity. For monetary consideration, GGU provides education in various areas such as taxation, law and business. GGU has six locations throughout California, with its main campus located in San Francisco. GGU also operates an English Language Institute and a cyber-campus.

2. Philip Friedman is the President of GGU.

3. Plaintiff is unaware of the names of those individuals and entities identified herein as Does 1 - 20. Plaintiff will amend this complaint to name those individuals once their identities become known to him. Plaintiff alleges that in doing the acts alleged herein, the defendants, and each of them, were the agents of one another.

4. At its San Francisco campus, GGU operates a law library which is open to the general public for a fee. For example, an annual membership for an individual costs $450. For groups such as law firms and other organizations, the annual fee is higher. GGU also operates a regular library which has corporate membership that can be purchased by organizations or individuals for $300. In addition, GGU operates a bookstore which is open to the general public. The bookstore sells both academic and non-academic books and items. In addition, the bookstore sells computers, items bearing the school insignia and clothing, and has a small caf which is also open to the general public. Another caf at GGU, located on the Plaza level of the main campus, is known as the Plaza Caf. The Plaza Caf is operated by an independent contractor and is also open to the general public. Any person who is aware of the existence of the Plaza Caf may make use of its facilities. Furthermore, there are vending machines and ATM machines located throughout the campus. Various other activities are held on the campus, such as MCLE lectures, and other lectures which are open to the public, including debates between political candidates. For example the school hosted a debate between various District Attorney candidates, as well as a lecture entitled May Government Ever Use Torture Against Terrorist Attacks? Two Answers From German Law, by Professor Winfried Brugger. These lectures are also open to the public.

5. Plaintiff alleges that, for all intents and purposes, GGU is a business establishment that is subject to the provisions of Section 51 of the California Civil Code (henceforth the Unruh Act, or the Act). (See generally, Civil Code section 51, which applies to every California business establishment whatsoever).

6. GGU maintains a web-site (www.ggu.edu) on which, among other things, it advertises and promotes its services to prospective students. Visitors to the web-site encounter the home-page. The home-page directs visitors to other areas of the site by clicking on various icons (i.e., Admissions, News and Events, Schools and Programs, Locations, About GGU, and University Services).

7. One icon on the GGU web-site is entitled About GGU. About GGU purports to inform prospective students, or for that matter anyone visiting the site, the nature of GGU. By clicking on the icon, visitors are directed to a new web-page. On that web-page, information about the school is set out. (A copy of this web-page is attached hereto as Exhibit 1.) On the web-page, GGU boasts about its programs, its professors' hands-on experience, and the fact that it limits its classroom size to around 15 students to allow students to get the attention they need in order to learn. In fact, GGU urges readers to forget about large lecture halls and crammed classes as GGU limits the number of students in each class to around 15 per class. On the web-page, this claim appears as follows:

Small Classes Emphasize hands-on Skills
Forget about large lecture halls crammed full of students. At Golden Gate, we limit our classes to about 15 students each, which means you'll get the attention you need to learn. From case studies to lab-based courses to collaborative capstone projects, you'll solve real-world problems and build your resume at the same time.

FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION
(False Advertising -- Violations of Business & Prof. Code section 17200, et seq.)
8. Plaintiff incorporates and realleges Paragraphs 1 - 7 as though set out in full herein.

9. Plaintiff alleges that GGU's claim that it limits the number of students in its classes to around 15 is false and deceptive. In fact, new students will be hard pressed to forget as GGU urges them to do, because many of the classes contain more than 15 students. In fact, plaintiff alleges that currently many GGU classes have an enrollment exceeding 30 students. Plaintiff specifically alleges that a course taught by the Honorable David Garcia (who will be deposed and called as a witness in this case) has an enrollment exceeding 40 students. Some classes have an enrollment of over 60 students.

10. Based on these allegations, plaintiff prays for an injunction that will prohibit GGU from using false and misleading advertisement. In the alternative, plaintiff asks for an order requiring GGU to actually limit its classes to an enrollment of around 15 students.
SECOND CAUSE OF ACTION

(Restitution)
11. Plaintiff incorporates and realleges Paragraphs 1 - 10 as though set out in full herein.

12. Pursuant to Business & Professions Code section 17200, et seq. (which also gives plaintiff standing to advance this entire action), plaintiff seeks restitution from GGU for the amount that it was unjustly enriched by deceiving prospective students as to the quality of their GGU education, and restitution for otherwise engaging in that unlawful business practice in general and, in specific, from attracting students to attend GGU rather than other universities.

Dave
94523, California
U.S.A.

This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 09/11/2004 09:30 AM and is a permanent record located here: http://www.ripoffreport.com/r/Golden-Gate-University/San-Francisco-California-94105/Golden-Gate-University-has-false-advertising-and-unlawful-business-practices-Fraud-Rip-o-107926. The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year.

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