FTC Continues Its Pursuit of "Robocalling" Platforms

Davis Wright Tremaine LLP

With its latest settlement, the Federal Trade Commission shows that its prior targeting of prerecorded voice dialing platforms, as opposed to those who use them to place “robocalls,” was no one-off initiative, and that it has teeth. On April 17 the FTC announced it settled a two-year long action against Joseph Turpel, a marketer who the FTC alleged assisted telemarking firms in conducting illegal prerecorded sales calls, concealing Caller ID information, and contacting numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry. As part of the settlement Turpel is banned not just from continuing operations that violate the FTC’s rules, as is typical, but from all telemarketing and prerecorded sales messaging.

In 2011, the FTC filed a complaint against Turpel, alleging he sold “robocalling” services to telemarketing firms through Sonkei Communications, Inc., and provided clients “the means to hide their identity by transmitting inaccurate caller names, such as ‘SERVICE MESSAGE’ or ‘SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT’, on caller ID displays.” In addition to helping its clients hide their identities, the FTC alleged “Turpel knew, or consciously avoided knowing, that clients used his services while calling numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry… and making illegal prerecorded telemarketing solicitations.”

As part of its settlement, the FTC fined Turpel $395,000 and banned him from directly engaging in or assisting others in telemarketing and prerecorded marketing for life. The monetary payment is suspended based on Turpel’s inability to pay.

The settlement marks the latest effort by the FTC to target prerecorded messaging platforms and not their clients who may misuse them. In February 2012 the FTC filed complaints against Brian Ebersole, Voice Marketing, Inc., and B2B Voice Broadcasting, Inc.,  alleging they sold prerecorded call services and “provided clients with access to computers, telecommunications services, and automated dialers” to make over one million calls a day. The FTC also more recently settled an action against Skyy Consulting, Inc., in May 2013, which allegedly “assisted and facilitated its clients in placing outbound pre-recorded telemarketing calls to consumers without their written consent.”

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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