The Federal Trade Commission brought an enforcement action against a debt-relief organization that allegedly violated telemarketing law and made false advertising claims.
The defendants, Nelson Gamble & Associates, Jackson Hunter Morris & Knight, BlackRock Professional Corp., and Mekhia Capital, as well as the man who controlled them, Jeremy Nelson, falsely claimed they could reduce consumers’ unsecured debt by 50 percent or more, the agency said.
Via telemarketing and on Web sites, the defendants made claims like, “Nelson Gamble works with the utmost diligence to obtain the best possible outcome for our clients, with over $90 million of debt settled in the past 12 months – and over $800 million since our inception,” according to the complaint. Further, the defendants said they used “proven tactical methods to settle debt by 50% to 80% of your total outstanding balances.”
Although the defendants claimed that “Our team of Legal Professionals will work with you every step of the way,” and utilized corporate names to mimic law firms, they were not lawyers, the FTC said. Few, if any, debts were settled for consumers, and some consumers had their bank accounts debited even after choosing not to use the defendants’ services.
In addition, the defendants contacted consumers using illegal robocalls, made calls to numbers listed on the national Do Not Call Registry, called consumers who had instructed them not to call, made calls to consumers several times each day for days or weeks at a time, and failed to transmit caller identification to consumers’ caller ID.
The defendants violated the FTC Act, the Telemarketing Sales Rule, and the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, the agency said, by debiting accounts without express, informed consent.
A California federal court judge issued an injunction to halt the defendants’ activities and froze their assets.
To read the complaint in FTC v. Nelson Gamble, click here.
Why it matters: In a press release about the enforcement action, the FTC touted its efforts to crack down on robocalls. Eighty-eight enforcement actions have been brought against 250 corporate defendants and 194 individual defendants alleging Do Not Call violations and illegal robocalls, resulting in more than $69 million in civil penalties and equitable money relief. As part of the announcement about the enforcement action, the agency said it plans to host a summit on the issue of robocalls that would focus on “exploring innovations that could potentially be used to trace robocalls, prevent wrongdoers from faking caller ID data, and stop illegal calls.” The summit is scheduled for Oct. 18.