Comcast, DirecTV fined $4M for making 2 million annoying (and illegal) phone calls

 The Federal Trade Commission today chalked up two more Do Not Call rule victories as it won  fines against Comcast and Directv for not only violating that rule but for re-calling consumers who specifically had told the companies not to call them again.

Under the settlements announced today, Directv has agreed to pay $2.31 million to settle the FTC's charges that it violated the Do Not Call provisions and, as a result, violated a 2005 court order barring it from such conduct. Combined with the $5.3 million DIRECTV paid under the earlier 2005 Do Not Call order, the company has now agreed to pay a total of more than $7.6 million for Do Not Call violations, the FTC said

Comcast agreed to pay $900,000 to settle the FTC's claims that it violated Do Not Call provisions.

 "In both of these cases, DIRECTV and Comcast violated consumers' privacy by calling people who specifically had asked these companies not to call them again," said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. "What makes DIRECTV's actions especially troubling is that it is a two-time offender: DIRECTV violated not only the FTC's Do Not Call Rules, but also a previous federal court order barring it from exactly this type of conduct."

According to the FTC, DIRECTV violated a 2005 federal court order by causing one of its telemarketers, Voicecast Systems, which operated under the name InTouch Solutions (InTouch), to make more than a million calls delivering prerecorded messages to consumers in August and September 2007. InTouch's telemarketing campaign was designed to contact consumers who had previously asked DIRECTV not to call them again - that is, asked DIRECTV to place them on the company's internal Do Not Call list. The illegal calls consisted entirely of prerecorded messages in which consumers were told that "from time to time [DIRECTV] extend[s] exciting offers to our loyal customers like you, but because you are on the DIRECTV Do Not Call List, we are not able to contact you for these exciting offers." The message then told call recipients to "press one" to remove their numbers from the company's Do Not Call list.

In Comcast's case the FTC alleged that the company's in-house call centers, as well as outside telemarketing contractors, made telemarketing calls to sell Comcast's cable television, Internet and VoIP telephone services. Comcast does have written policies and procedures for compliance by its internal call centers and third-party telemarketers with the TSR, including the Rule's entity-specific Do Not Call provisions. Despite these policies and procedures, the FTC contends that some of Comcast's internal call centers and third-party telemarketing vendors together made more than 900,000 calls to consumers after those consumers specifically asked that the company stop calling them, the FTC said.

The Directv and Comcast findings come on the heels of an ongoing case where the FTC is charging the Dish Network with calling numerous consumers whose telephone numbers are on the National Do Not Call Registry.  The DOJ, at the FTC's request, also charged Dish Network with violating the FTC's Telemarketing Sales Rule by assisting its authorized dealers in telemarketing Dish Network services using robocalls that deliver prerecorded messages when consumers answer their phones, the FTC said. 

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