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New legal action against operation 'robocalling' numbers on the Do Not Call Registry

Consumer Reports News: February 24, 2012 05:28 PM

The Federal Trade Commission is taking legal action to stop two operations that allegedly enabled hundreds of millions of telemarketing robocalls to consumers across the country, including many registered with the National Do Not Call Registry.

The illegal robocalls advertised services such as debt relief, carpet and upholstery cleaning, auto warranties, mortgage loan modification and foreclosure assistance, timeshares, satellite dish broadcasting, and burial insurance.

In both cases, defendants offered "self-service" voice broadcasting, making it easy for marketers to make tens of millions of robocalls, according to the FTC. Telemarketers sent prerecorded sales pitches by uploading a message and list of numbers to websites owned by the defendants, which then dial the numbers and plays the designated prerecorded message. The FTC also said that the defendants in one of its two cases manipulated the caller names displayed on caller ID.

The number of consumer complaints about unwanted telemarketing calls increased last year, and more than 8 million phone numbers were added in 2011 to the National Do Not Call Registry. Some 210 million phone numbers are currently registered with the registry.

The FTC's latest legal action is part of its ongoing effort to crack down on illegal robocalls, and as we recently reported, new Federal Communications Commission rules now require that telemarketers get your consent before dialing your number. The FCC said that more restrictions were necessary because too many telemarketers, aided by auto-dialers and prerecorded messages, have continued to call consumers.

Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, supported the new FCC regulations. Parul Desai, policy counsel for Consumers Union, recently told us that even though there were previous rules to help consumers avoid unwanted calls, some companies continue to call them. "The FCC's action helps close loopholes and gives consumers better tools and protections," Desai said.

To sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry either call 888-382-1222 from the number you want removed, or visit the registry's website.

FTC Takes Action to Stop Massive Robocalling Operations

Maggie Shader

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