In what the Federal Trade Commission is calling a first-of-its-kind verdict, a jury has found that a Utah man and his three movie companies are responsible for a variety of “deceptive and unlawful” selling practices that include 117 million illegal telemarketing calls.
In a case that has already dragged on since 2011, the jury ruling enforces both the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule and its enormously popular Do Not Call Registry rules. The judge has yet to assess civil penalties, but since they can be as high as $16,000 per violation it’s safe to assume the total will fall somewhere south of the $1.9 trillion maximum for just those illegal calls.
The ruling was entered against Forrest S. Baker III and his companies, Feature Films for Families, Inc., Corporations for Character, L.C., and Family Films of Utah.
From an FTC press release:
During the eight-day trial, which concluded on May 25, DOJ presented evidence through FTC witnesses and others showing that the defendants’ activities included a nationwide calling campaign conducted by Corporations for Character under the name “Kids First,” in which telemarketers offered to send two complimentary DVDs and requested feedback on whether the movies should be included on a list of recommended movies.
The defendants’ telemarketers called millions of numbers on the DNC Registry during this campaign and told consumers that “all of the proceeds” from the sale of Feature Films for Families DVDs would be used to complete a recommended viewing list of the nonprofit Coalition for Quality Children’s Media. In reality, Feature Films for Family had contracted to receive 93 percent of the sales to these consumers.
The evidence also showed that in 2009 Feature Films for Families called consumers to urge them to buy tickets to see “The Velveteen Rabbit,” a film produced by Baker and released in theaters before going to DVD. The telemarketers made no effort to avoid calling consumers on the DNC Registry, making more than 2.5 million calls to registered numbers.
Witnesses testified that they received these telemarketing calls even after informing the telemarketers that the calls were unwanted.
While it’s reasonable to assume that an appeal will be forthcoming, efforts to reach Baker for comment have been unsuccessful.
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