The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and 10 state attorneys general have charged Caribbean Cruise Line, Inc. (“CCL”) and seven of its telemarketing partners with violating the federal Telemarketing Sales Rule.  The suit alleges that CCL and its telemarketing partners made billions of robocalls from October 2011 through July 2012, aimed at skirting the FTC’s Do-Not-Call and Robocall rules by disguising as political surveys, calls actually intended to sell cruises to the Bahamas.

Purely political survey robocalls are exempt from the foregoing FTC prohibitions; dual purpose calls are not, however.  The defendants are alleged to have placed as many as 15 million robocalls per day in which consumers received prerecorded calls from “John from Political Opinions of America” and were told that by completing a survey for which they were carefully selected to participate, they’d received a free two day cruise for two people.  Upon completing the survey though, consumers were transferred to live telemarketers which marketed CCL cruise vacations and sought to sell other travel packages and cruise add-ons.

Several of the defendant companies have agreed to settle with the FTC, agreeing to partially-suspended civil penalties, owing to their inability to pay.   This includes a $7.73 million civil penalty against CCL, which will be partially suspended upon payment of $500,000.

Protect Yourself Through Smart Telemarketing Practices and Procedures

We have previously written about the increasing vigilance of the FTC in pursuing marketers engaged in deceptive advertising and robocalling campaigns.   This case offers another cautionary tale of the potentially disastrous results that await companies and their telemarketers that attempt to push the boundaries of what are acceptable telemarketing practices.    Business owners that engage in unscrupulous telemarketing practices run the very real risk of not only significant monetary damages, but also the loss of personal property or, in a worst case scenario, the very existence of their business.   Accordingly, prior to embarking on any telemarketing campaign, it is imperative for businesses to have their practices and procedures examined by experienced counsel to ensure compliance with applicable state and federal telemarketing laws.