VoIP where prohibited by law?

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The FTC and its law enforcement partners are waging the war against illegal telemarketing on many fronts. An amended complaint in a pending case filed by the FTC and the Ohio Attorney General seeks to hold an additional adversary responsible for violations of the law: Globex Telecom, a VoIP service provider that allegedly played a key role in subjecting consumers to a barrage of illegal calls for a bogus credit card interest rate reduction scheme. Notably, it’s the FTC’s first case against a VoIP service provider under the Telemarketing Sales Rule.

In July 2019, the FTC and Ohio AG filed suit against an outfit called Educare Centre Services and related defendants, including some individuals in Canada. According to the complaint, the company used cold calls and robocalls to claim it could significantly reduce interest rates on consumers’ credit cards and gilded its promise with a 100% money-back guarantee. Consumers shelled out fees of between $798 to almost $1200, but the FTC and AG say people didn’t get the advertised rate reductions. When consumers tried to exercise the money-back guarantee, Educare allegedly stiffed them and often threatened them with collections. According to the lawsuit, consumers were bilked for more than $11.5 million.

So how does VoIP service provider Globex Telecom and its Canadian counterpart, 9506276 Canada, fit into the picture? According to the amended complaint, they provided Educare with the means to make calls to U.S. consumers, including illegal robocalls that pitched Educare’s bogus services. The complaint alleges that Globex and 9506276 Canada assisted and facilitated Educare’s underlying illegal scheme, in violation of the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule.

A federal court in Texas has issued a temporary restraining order against Globex and 9506276 Canada, appointed a temporary receiver, and frozen their assets.

Even at this early stage, it bears noting that this is the FTC’s first case charging a VoIP service provider with violations of the Telemarketing Sales Rule. Any business or individual who engages in illegal telemarketing – or who greases the wheels for others’ violations – should be aware of the breadth of liability under the TSR.

Looking for more information about blocking unwanted calls on landlines, mobile phones, and home phones that use VoIP? The FTC has advice for consumers.

 
 

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