A U.S. district court has permanently barred a California man from claiming for a fee he can register or pre-register consumers for the FTC’s National Do Not Call Registry or any other do not call list through his two Web sites. In reality, consumers who want to be included on the FTC’s Registry must call 1-888-382-1222 from their own phone or sign up online at the official Web site, www.donotcall.gov. To sign up online, a valid e-mail address is required. There is no cost to register either via phone or on the Internet.
The stipulated final order announced today also requires defendant Ken Chase to verify all refunds he has provided to the more than 250 consumers who signed up through Chase’s service to be registered on the National Do Not Call Registry.
“Consumers never have to pay to register their phone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry,” said Howard Beales, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “It’s also easy. One call to 1-888-382-1222 or one click to donotcall.gov, and you're on your way.” Beales reminds consumers who register by telephone that they have to call from the number they want to register. Those who register online must respond to an e-mail before their registration is valid.
The FTC filed its complaint against Chase, doing business as Free Do Not Call List.org (FDNCL.org) and National Do Not Call List.us (NDNCL.us), in early May 2003. According to the complaint, consumers who responded to Chase’s claims and attempted to preregister for the FTC’s Do Not Call Registry received an e-mail stating that their pre-registration had been received and that their information would be transmitted to the FTC as soon as the list became available.
The Free Do No Call List Web site also allegedly directed consumers who wanted to stop receiving telemarketing calls to what it described as “the Active list” at NDNCL.us. This site allegedly represented that consumers who subscribed to the service could stop receiving telemarketing calls, as well as unsolicited faxes and junk mail. The cost for the service was between $9.99 and $17.99 per year. The site allegedly also falsely claimed that it could place consumers on the FTC’s Do Not Call Registry.
The complaint charged Chase with deceptively representing to consumers that the FDNCL.org and NDNCL.us Web sites could 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. The Commission also alleged that Chase’s claims that the Web sites could be used to sign up for the registry were likely to cause consumers to provide their personal identifying information, and in the case of NDNCL.us, to subscribe to its service. Finally, according to the FTC, it is possible that consumers who signed up via either of the 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, when, in fact, private companies may not register consumers.
The stipulated final order announced today addresses the defendants’ allegedly illegal conduct in several ways. First, it prohibits Chase from representing that he can pre-register or otherwise arrange for consumers’ phone numbers to be placed on the Commission’s Do Not Call Registry. Next, it prohibits Chase from misrepresenting that he can arrange for consumers to be placed on any telemarketer’s do not call list. Finally, while Chase already has refunded a total of nearly $3,800 to the 254 consumers who registered with his Web site, the order requires him to verify all refunds and to provide the FTC with a list of the subscribers.
Chase also is prohibited from sharing information about any of the customers who signed up with FDNCL.org or NDNCL.us, except with the FTC. For three years, he also is subject to standard monitoring and reporting provisions to ensure his compliance with the terms of the order, and he must distribute the order in certain instances.
The Commission vote to approve the order was 5-0. It was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Oakland Division, on December 3, 2003, and entered by the court on December 8, 2003.
NOTE: This stipulated final judgment is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the defendants of a law violation. Stipulated judgments have the force of law when signed by the judge.
Copies of the Commission’s complaint and stipulated final judgment 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, DC 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 http://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. X030043; Civ. No. 03-2139-SBA)