Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

FTC gets court order to stop robocalls

A federal judge has ordered a stop to three companies' calls - including robocalls - that the Federal Trade Commission says deceptively promised to reduce consumers' credit-card interest rates.

FTC gets court order to stop robocalls

A federal judge has ordered a stop to three companies' marketing calls - including recorded robocalls - that the Federal Trade Commission says deceptively promised to reduce consumers’ credit card interest rates.

I've gotten several calls lately on my cell phone that fit this description. Like many other people, I mostly just mutter and complain to people around me.  Thankfully, enough other consumers have complained to the FTC that the agency went to court today. The judge froze the companies' assets and appointed a receiver to take control of the businesses.

The FTC says:

... Over the past two years, the defendants made or authorized calls to consumers nationwide, claiming that they could negotiate with credit card issuers to substantially lower the interest rates on the consumers’ credit cards. They also allegedly delivered prerecorded “robocalls” that consisted of urgent-sounding messages from "Card Services" or "Financial Services,” stating that consumers needed to “press one” to speak to a representative about their credit card interest rates. Many consumers believed the calls were from their credit card issuers.

Consumers who signed up for the defendants’ services were charged from $499 to $1,590 up-front and promised their money back if the callers failed to deliver at least $2,500 in interest rate savings, the FTC alleged. Instead of arranging reduced interest rates, the complaint states, the defendants sent consumers instructions to pay down their credit card debts early, thus saving money on interest. Consumers who complained and demanded refunds allegedly were denied outright, got the run-around, or had a $199 “nonrefundable fee” deducted from their refund.

"The last thing debt-ridden consumers need is to be deluged by illegal robocalls – especially when all the calls are offering is a scam," said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.

My caller claimed to be from "Account Services," and got snippy when I pointed out that any marketing calls to cell phones were illegal, as are any recorded calls if the consumer hasn't given prior written approval to the company.  She said she would take my name "off the list," and hung up.

I hate to be cruel, and don't want anyone to lose a job. But I hope she's done hanging up on people who only want the rules to be followed.

To read the rest of the FTC's announcement, click here.

For more about the FTC's telemarketing rules, click here.

You shouldn't have to, but if you want to add your wireless number to the national Do Not Call list, click here for information.

 

Jeff Gelles Inquirer Business Columnist
About this blog

Jeff Gelles, who writes the Inquirer's weekly Consumer 14.0 and Tech Life columns, takes a broad look at the marketplace of goods, services, and ideas.

Reach Jeff at jgelles@phillynews.com.

Jeff Gelles Inquirer Business Columnist
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