One of the telemarketers who blasted U.S. consumers with millions of illegal auto “warranty” robocalls last year will pay approximately $2.3 million, give up his Mercedes, and be barred from telemarketing, under a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission that wraps up the agency’s case against the deceptive operation. In sum, the FTC is collecting nearly $3 million to reimburse victims of the scam.
The settlements resolve FTC charges that Damian Kohlfeld and his two firms made millions of illegal prerecorded calls to consumers nationwide in an attempt to deceive them into buying extended auto warranties or service contracts (audio files of these calls can be found on the FTC’s website as a link to this press release). The robocalls misled consumers into thinking that the callers were affiliated with consumers’ car dealerships or manufacturers, and that their auto warranty was expiring or about to expire.
Earlier this year, the FTC announced a settlement with two other defendants who helped make the robocalls, under which they have paid more than $655,000. The FTC also announced a settlement in September 2009 with Transcontinental Warranty, Inc, the company that employed the defendants in this case to make the illegal prerecorded calls. (See press release at http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/09/twi.shtm.)
“Fortunately for American consumers, the telemarketers who were responsible for millions of unsolicited and annoying robocalls will never be able to telemarket again,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. “We’ve also taken away all of their money to provide redress for consumers who were defrauded. This case serves as a clear message: telemarketers who violate the privacy of ordinary Americans will have to pay the price.”
According to the FTC’s complaint, Kohlfeld and the Chicago-based firms Voice Foundations, LLC, and Network Foundations, LLC, violated the FTC’s Do Not Call Registry and falsely represented that:
- the telemarketers were calling from, or affiliated with, the manufacturer or dealer of the consumer’s automobile;
- the consumer’s original automobile warranty was about to expire; and
- the telemarketer had specific information about whether the consumer’s vehicle was the subject of a recall.
The settlement requires Kohlfeld to pay more than $2.2 million. In addition, he is required to liquidate two investment accounts totaling approximately $130,000 and to sell his 2006 Mercedes. All of the money collected will be used for consumer redress.
The settlement order also bans Kohlfeld from telemarketing or assisting others engaged in telemarketing, prevents him from making the misrepresentations alleged in the FTC’s complaint, and bars him from making any misrepresentations related to the sale of any goods or services. The order specifically prohibits him from misrepresenting the cost, use, or effectiveness of any product or service or any of the refund policies associated with any product or services.
In addition, Network Foundations will pay $50,000 to be used for consumer redress. Voice Foundations has no assets to pay toward a judgment. If either of the companies later is found to have misrepresented its financial condition, it will be subject to a larger monetary judgment.
The Commission vote authorizing the three stipulated final orders settling the court actions against Network Foundations, LLC, Voice Foundations, LLC, and Damian Kohlfeld was 5-0. They were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, on August 19, 2010, and signed by the judge the same day.
NOTE: These stipulated final orders are for settlement purposes only and do not constitute an admission by the defendants of a law violation. Stipulated final orders requires approval by the court and have the force of law when signed by the judge.
Copies of the stipulated final orders are available from the FTC’s website at http://www.ftc.gov and 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 and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, click: http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/complaint.shtm or call 1-877-382-4357. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,800 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. For free information on a variety of consumer topics, click http://ftc.gov/bcp/consumer.shtm.(Voice Touch.wpd)
(FTC File No. X090046; Civ. No. 09-cv-2929)
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