I was glad to see that the FTC is planning more operations to identify and crack down on illegal robocallers, and not just because I hate getting those prerecorded phone calls that promise to reduce my credit card interest rates or send me on a dream vacation to Aruba.
The Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance held a hearing on Wednesday, July 10th titled “Stopping Fraudulent Robocall Scams: Can More Be Done?” Lois Greisman, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)’s Associate Director of the Division of Marketing Practices, testified on behalf of the agency. She stated that the Registry has had great success thus far in the protection of consumers’ privacy from unwanted calls by telemarketers each year.
However, despite more than a hundred Do Not Call enforcement actions over the past ten years, the FTC asserted that telemarketing robocalls still remains a problem due to the significant economic harm caused by the fraudulent peddling of goods and services.
This is a prime opportunity for the FTC to go after a real problem that affects millions of American consumers: The fraudulent and deceptive businesses who fleece hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting consumers every year. Plus, these kinds of schemes make all legitimate and responsible marketers look bad.
Why crack down on robocallers? They’re illegal, not just annoying. The FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule of 2009 expressly prohibits almost all prerecorded calls (charities, political campaigns and research agencies are exempt), even to numbers not listed on the Do Not Call registry. Further, no telemarketer can legally call your cell phone unless you’ve given them express written permission.
These robocall operations also are pushing fraud and deception rather than legitimate business. In 2011, the FTC returned $3.2 million to victims of just one robocalling operation, an auto-warranty scheme.
DMA appreciates that hunting down robocallers is tricky because so many are adept at covering their tracks with modern technology such as VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and overseas call origination. To their credit, the FTC has come up with innovative solutions to aid in the hunt.
But high-tech detective work isn’t enough. This is an area clearly calling for more action and attention. We call on the FTC to flex its considerable investigative and regulatory muscle to prosecute these companies that so clearly flout the law and prey on the most vulnerable segments in our society.