Two Internet sites claiming that they can "pre-register" consumers with the Federal Trade Commission's National telemarketing "Do Not Call" Registry are the focus of a federal district court complaint filed by the FTC. The Commission is seeking a temporary restraining order to stop immediately the deceptive claims made on Free Do Not Call List.org (FDNCL.org) and National Do Not Call List.US (NDNCL.US), two Internet Web sites operated from Novato, California.
The FTC's registry will accept consumer registrations beginning this summer. Anyone who wants to place their telephone number on the list must register from their own phone or through a federal government Web site. Registration will be free.
"These scam artists are seizing on the public's interest in the 'Do Not Call' Registry," said Howard Beales, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "But the law doesn't allow third party profiteers to be in the do not call business. In fact, come this summer, it will be up to individual consumers to register their own phone numbers, for free, on the one and only bona fide national 'Do Not Call' Registry."
The Commission filed the complaint announced today against Ken Chase, doing business as Free Do Not Call List.org and National Do Not Call List.US. According to the Commission's complaint, consumers who respond to Chase's claims and attempt to pre-register for the FTC's "Do Not Call" Registry receive an e-mail stating that their pre-registration has been received and that their information will been transmitted to the FTC as soon as the list becomes available. The Free Do No Call List Web site also allegedly directs consumers who want to stop receiving telemarketing calls to what it describes as "the Active list" at National Do Not Call List.US.
Once there, the complaint alleges that consumers are told that by subscribing to the service they can stop receiving such calls, as well as unsolicited faxes and junk mail. The cost for the service is between $9.99 and $17.99 per year. This site allegedly also falsely claims that it can place consumers on the FTC's "Do Not Call" registry.
The complaint charges Chase with deceptively representing to consumers that the FDNCL.org and NDNCL.US Web sites can arrange for consumers' telephone numbers to be placed on the Commission's "Do Not Call" Registry, in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act.
In addition, the Commission states that the defendants' claims that the Web sites can be used to sign up for the registry are likely to cause consumers to provide their personal identifying information, and in the case of NDNCL.US, to subscribe to its service. Finally, it is possible that consumers who sign up via one of the two Web sites would reasonably think their names would be included in the national registry and that they would not need to sign up on their own, according to the FTC.
In addition to filing the complaint, the FTC has sought a temporary restraining order to halt the defendant's allegedly deceptive misrepresentations of his ability to place consumers' phone numbers on the Commission's registry.
Beginning in July 2003, consumers will be able to put their telephone numbers on the national registry, which telemarketers subsequently will be required to access. When registration opens in July, consumers can register for free in two ways: online or by telephone. The FTC will announce the Web site URL for online registration and the toll-free number in July. As of October, it will be illegal for most telemarketers to call a number listed on the registry.
To provide consumers with more information on the "Do Not Call" Registry, the registration process, and new Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) Amendments, the Commission has developed a Web site, which is located at www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/edcams/donotcall/index.html. The site also contains information, available in both English and Spanish, for businesses to help them comply with the new TSR Amendments.
The Commission today also released a consumer education publication entitled "Fraud on the Line: Avoiding 'Do Not Call' Scams." The document provides consumers tips on avoiding these scams, such as:
The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 5-0. It was filed on May 6, 2003, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has "reason to believe" that the law has or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. A complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendants have actually violated the law. The cases will be decided by the courts in which they were filed.
Copies of the complaint mentioned in this release are available from the FTC's Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies worldwide.
(FTC File No. 032-3134; Civ. No. C-03-2139-MEJ)