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FTC Comes Down Hard on Do Not Call List Violators
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January 29, 2009

FTC Comes Down Hard on Do Not Call List Violators

By Tim Gray, TMCnet Web Editor

The "Do Not Call" legislation  has snared one of the nation's largest time-share companies to the tune of nearly $1 million for making phone calls to people on list, according to federal regulators.
The alleged culprit, Westgate Resorts, based in Orlando, Fla., is accused of making thousands of  telemarketing calls to people on the national Do Not Call list. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC (News - Alert)) says the company has agreed to pay $900,000 to settle the charges.

The federal government launched the first Do Not Call (DNC) List in 2003 and has register 167 million people to have their phone numbers removed from telemarketers' lists. To date, FTC has taken 35 companies to court and collected more than $16 million in penalties and fines.
The commission says it was deluged last year with several thousand consumer complaints after Westgate apparently flouted regulations by calling people on the list. The biggest case every brought against a company was the satellite television provider DirecTV (News - Alert) Inc., which ultimately paid a $5.3 million settlement.
According to the FTC’s complaint against the Westgate, the company used outbound telemarketing to sell timeshares and vacations at timeshare resorts to consumers nationwide. Westgate bought these numbers from an Internet-based lead generator that collected contact information in connection with offering free and discounted products to consumers on its Web site, according to regulators.
The Westgate defendants purchased the telephone numbers of consumers who answered travel-related survey questions on the Web site, such as “Select your favorite travel destination.”
However, many of these telephone numbers were on the DNC Registry and the Web site never notified  consumers that they would receive telemarketing calls as a result of submitting information.
There are two other companies named in the Westgate complaint: Central Florida Investments Inc., and CFI Sales and Marketing, LLC. Both did telemarketing for Westgate.
The commission also announced a $275,000 settlement with another Florida-based travel company, Accumen Management Services Inc., and its subsidiary, All in One Vacation Club. The company made telemarketing calls to consumers who had filled out entry forms for a sweepstakes to win vacation packages. Many of those called, the FTC said, were on the Do Not Call registry and did not agree to receive the telemarketing pitches for timeshares and vacation getaways.
In both instances, the FTC  says consumers did not reach out to the defendants seeking information about their products or services before receiving a telemarketing call. This is a principal tenant of the legislation that would have made the call legal. Instead, the agency says, the companies did not have an “established business relationship” with the consumers nor did the consumers had not given the defendants permission to call.

Without consumers’ express written agreement and without an “established business relationship” with them, making telemarketing calls to registered numbers is illegal.
The fines go to the U.S. Treasury.

While the attempt appears to hav been deliberate to skirt DNC rules, it is possible that companies could accidentally be in violations.

On company helping business avoid these big penalties is VanillaSoft.
Comapnies can protect themselves against the federal DNC list fines with VanillaSoft’s Teleblock DNC screening and blocking service.
VanillaSoft is a CRM solution that helps firms improve their lead generation. Managers can administer all their leads, reps and call centers from a single web-based dashboard.
Amazingly, VanillaSoft can dial virtually any phone; analog, digital or VoIP, so you get an instant boost in productivity without having to buy an expensive dialer. TeleBlock is an important part of a group of tools that help businesses to comply with complicated calling laws, including call recording and the restriction of making calls outside legal calling hours.

Tim Gray is a Web Editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Tim’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Tim Gray

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