Continuing a recent focus by the Federal Trade Commission on illegal robocalls, a group of defendants agreed to settle charges that they made illegal robocalls in violation of the Telemarketing Sales Rule and the Federal Trade Commission Act.
The agency filed a complaint in Florida federal court last November alleging that A+ Financial Center, Accelerated Accounting Services, and two individuals, Christopher L. Miano and Dana M. Miano, tried to sell credit card interest rate reduction services by calling numbers listed on the Do Not Call Registry. They collected illegal up-front fees by claiming to be “Rachel” from “Cardholder Services,” and by making illegal robocalls. The sales pitch involved an up-front payment of $495 to $1,595 for promises to lower credit card interest rates to as low as zero percent. Even after payment, little was done for consumers, the FTC said.
The action was one of several suits filed as part of a joint law enforcement effort with state officials in Arizona, Arkansas, and Florida. According to the complaints, the automated calls typically began with a prerecorded message urging recipients to press 1 to speak with a representative about reducing their credit card rates. Consumers who chose to continue were connected to a telemarketer who pitched deceptive offers to reduce credit card debt, sometimes claiming to be from the consumer’s credit card company.
The settlement precludes the defendants from making robocalls, from marketing debt relief services, from engaging in abusive telemarketing practices (such as calling numbers registered on the Do Not Call list), from making misrepresentations about financial services or products, and from misrepresenting the attributes of their goods and services and their relationships with banks, credit card issuers, lenders, or government entities. Any claims made by the defendants must be backed by reliable evidence.
A $9.2 million judgment will be suspended after a transfer of existing assets, including cars and boats.
To read the complaint and the stipulated final order in FTC v. A+ Financial Center, click here.
Why it matters: The agency continues to keep a close eye on robocalls and recently testified before Senate lawmakers about its efforts to combat the illegal practice. The FTC also brought enforcement actions against a company that allegedly provided substantial assistance or support to a telemarketer violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule.