An Illinois-based telemarketing firm will pay $500,000 to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it interfered with consumers' requests to be placed on company-specific do not call lists and transmitted deceptive Caller ID names.
"When it comes to the Do Not Call provisions, compliance is not rocket science," said David C. Vladeck, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "It includes honoring a consumer's request to be placed on a specific do not call list, and not messing with anyone's caller ID. Legitimate companies comply with the law every day."
Americall, headquartered in Naperville, Illinois, is a third-party telemarketer that specializes in calling consumers on behalf of major banks, credit card issuers, insurance companies, and other financial institutions. The company also conducts telemarketing campaigns for firms selling household products, magazine subscriptions, beauty products, and educational materials.
Under the FTC's Telemarketing Sales Rule, a company may not call a consumer who has requested not to receive calls from that particular seller. The Rule also makes it illegal to deny or interfere with a consumer's right to be included on a company-specific do not call list.
According to the FTC's complaint, Americall trained its representatives to avoid honoring the requests of consumers who asked to be put on a company-specific do not call list of an Americall client. For example, Americall's training manual instructed its telemarketers that when a consumer said, "Don't call again" or "Don't call me back," the employee should not place the consumer's name and number on a client's do not call list.
The FTC's complaint also alleges that Americall transmitted false Caller ID information to consumers. In many cases, the Caller ID information did not name Americall or its client as the caller. For instance, when telemarketing on behalf of an insurance company, Americall masked the company's identity by transmitting the name "Gas Rebate Center" over Caller ID. The Telemarketing Sales Rule requires telemarketers to transmit accurate Caller ID information so consumers can know who is calling before they pick up the phone.
The settlement order announced today resolves the FTC's charges against Americall. In addition to imposing the $500,000 civil penalty, it prohibits the company from continuing to engage in the conduct alleged in the complaint and from violating any provision of Telemarketing Sales Rule in the future.
The Commission vote to refer the complaint and proposed consent order to the Department of Justice for filing was 5-0. The DOJ filed the complaint and proposed order on behalf of the Commission in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, and it was approved by a District Court judge on December 15, 2011.
NOTE: The Commission authorizes the filing of a complaint when it has "reason to believe" that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendant has actually violated the law. This consent order is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the defendant of a law violation. Consent orders have the force of law when signed by the District Court judge.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC's online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC's Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.