The Federal Trade Commission has won court settlements that will shut down four robocalling operations that were responsible for billions of illegal robocalls, the agency said.
Under court orders issued this week, the companies and individuals are banned from both robocalling and most telemarketing activities and will pay millions in fines. The FTC said that the defendant in one of the cases provided it with the software platform that it was providing to others for robocalling, which had resulted in more than one billion illegal robocalls.
The FTC said that the settlements announced this week are part of the agency’s “ongoing efforts to combat the scourge of illegal robocalls.”
“We have brought dozens of cases targeting illegal robocalls, and fighting unwanted calls remains one of our highest priorities,” said Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
The companies involved in the settlements announced this week include:
-NetDotSolutions, operated by James Christiano, plus two related operations that were using NetDotSolutions “TelWeb” autodialing software to support robocalls made by Aaron Michael Jones to make more than a billion robocalls in a year. Jones had previously been named in FTC robocalling lawsuits. Charges in this case included violating the Do Not Call Registry as well as spoofing caller ID information and hanging up when customers answered. The settlement included multiple fines against various entities and individuals, to the tune of $1.3 million, $1 million and $2.7 million.
-Higher Goals Marketing, which made robocalls pitching debt-relief services, which was formed shortly after a similar telemarketing operation called Life Management Services — where several of the parties had worked — was shut down. The defendents were banned from telemarketing and debt-relief services and given a $3.15 million fine that the FTC said would be suspended when they turn over all of their available assets.
-Veterans of America is a robocalling organization that was a charity scam, the FTC said; robocalls would solicit donations such as vehicles, boats and other assets from people under the fiction that they would be sold and the proceeds donated to help veterans, when principal Travis Deloy Peterson was selling them for his own benefit. The scheme operated under names including Veterans of America, Vehicles for Veterans LLC, Saving Our Soldiers, Donate Your Car, Donate That Car LLC, Act of Valor, and Medal of Honor, and none of them were a real charity with tax-exempt status. Thecourt order imposes a $540,000 fine that the FTC said would be suspended once he turns over significant assets, including 88 vehicles.
-Pointbreak Media falsely claimed to represent Google in its robocalls and told people that their business could be omitted from Google search results or listed as permanently closed, unless they paid the company between $300-$700. Final settlements have yet to be approved in this case, but the proposed judgements range as high as $3.62 million, with actual payments from the defendants expected to fall around $800,000.
In related news, the FTC this week also ordered seven broadband providers — including AT&T and its mobile network unit, Verizon’s wireline and wireless businesses and T-Mobile US — to provide information on how they collect and use customers’ personal and device-related information. Those orders also went to Comcast and Google Fi.
The FTC wants to know more about the type of information collected about users and their devices; the purpose and techniques of the data collection; internal access policies for that data and how long it is retained; whether the information is shared with third parties and the degree to which consumers have choices about how their data is collected, retained and used.