Cruise ships should conjure up images of umbrella drinks, shuffleboard, and the Lido Deck – not a sea of annoying robocalls. But according to the FTC, Grand Bahama Cruise Line and others unleashed a tidal wave of illegal calls purportedly pitching free vacations to consumers. The FTC has filed suit against the company and six related defendants. Also announced today: settlements with a call center and three individuals involved in the operation.
The complaint alleges that Grand Bahama Cruise Line made millions of robocalls through its in-house telemarketers and by hiring outside call centers to call consumers on its behalf. The company hired lead generators to conduct “survey” robocalls to identify potential customers. The FTC says that for years Grand Bahama Cruise Line knew – or consciously avoided knowing – that many of the lead generators’ survey robocalls and the subsequent outbound calls to consumers violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule. What’s more, the FTC says these weren’t wet-behind-the-ears operators on their first voyage. Sailing under the Grand Bahamas Cruise Line flag were recidivist companies that had been investigated or sued by state consumer agencies or private litigants for telemarketing violations. Nonetheless, the company allegedly continued to pay lead generators to make illegal robocalls and provided other telemarketers and vendors with the tools they needed to make unlawful calls.
In addition to putting consumers on robocall blast, the defendants allegedly failed to scrub their lists against the National Do Not Call Registry – which means that many of the people the defendants called had made it clear they didn’t want to receive telemarketing pitches. According to the FTC, the defendants also violated the TSR by failing to transmit accurate caller ID information. That lawsuit is pending in federal court in Florida.
Proposed settlements with call center Cabb Group, Christina R. Peterson, Robert J. Peterson II, and Christopher Cotroneo ban them for life from placing robocalls or helping others to. The orders also impose judgments totaling more than $7.8 million, which for the most part are suspended based on the defendants’ financial condition.
Even at this early stage, the case should send an unmistakable all-hands-on-deck message: Illegal robocalls belong in Davy Jones’ Locker.