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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

FTC takes action against telemarketing operation

Federal Issues FTC Telemarketing Deceptive UDAP Enforcement FTC Act TSR

Federal Issues

On May 25, the FTC announced an action resolving allegations against a subscription scam operation and its officers (collectively, “defendants”) that allegedly deceptively used telemarketing schemes on consumers. According to the complaint, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, the defendants allegedly violated the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) by calling consumers to claim that they were conducting a survey and offering “free” or low-cost magazine subscriptions. After the survey, the defendants allegedly sent consumers a bill falsely stating that they agreed to pay several hundred dollars for the magazine subscriptions. According to the FTC, there was a “no-cancellation policy,” and the defendants allegedly harassed consumers when they refused to pay the exorbitant bills, including by threatening to initiate collection actions or threatening to submit derogatory information about them to the major credit bureaus. The proposed order follows a 2010 permanent injunction that was entered against the same defendants, which prohibited them from committing future violations. The recent order requires the defendants to pay a suspended judgment of $14.4 million and requires them to give up all claims to money already paid to the FTC. Additionally, the defendants are required to monitor their compliance with the proposed order “and may face significant contempt remedies if they violate its terms.” The FTC noted that the original monetary relief was vacated after the Supreme Court’s decision in AMG Capital Management LLC v. FTC, which limited the FTC’s ability to obtain monetary relief in federal court (covered by InfoBytes here). The FTC pointed out that the “settlement of this matter for a suspended judgment of $14.47 million, after originally having been awarded $24 million at trial, demonstrates the challenges since the Supreme Court’s AMG decision.”

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