Quotes from 2005

December 25, 2005

"Teledraft had made its automatic withdrawal services readily available to predatory con artists mostly based in Canada. It participated in the withdrawal of millions of dollars from the accounts of telemarketing fraud victims."

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller commenting on actions taken against Teledraft, an Arizona company that processes electronic-check payments.

A U.S. District Court lawsuit alleged that Teledraft, working on behalf of telemarketing companies, repeatedly took money out of the accounts of consumers without prior approval.

Teledraft agreed to overhaul its business to guard against telemarketing fraud under terms of a federal court settlement to end a lawsuit filed by Iowa's attorney general. Under terms of the settlement, Teledraft didn't admit to any violations of law but agreed to do a better job of screening its telemarketing clients to ensure that the companies operate legitimate businesses.

Teledraft also must check payment records weekly to ferret out improper withdrawals from consumer accounts and must monitor federal bulletins weekly to learn about potential scams. Teledraft also agreed to pay more than $43,500 in refunds to 149 Iowa consumers. For a copy of the final judgment, click here.

From The Arizona Republic, Electronic-check firm settles in court, December 15, 2005. Tom Miller can be contacted, via his office, at (515) 281-5164.

CATS Comment: Consumers have received a great Christmas present from the courts this year: a changing attitude of just who is responsible for telemarketing violations.

When CATS was formed 10 years ago, a company that "assisted" telemarketers was off limits, as far as enforcement or liability issues were concerned. But with the FTC going after Direct TV for the actions of its 'independent agents' last week and now this action against Teledraft, legitimate businesses will now have to investigate further before they provide a product or service to a telemarketer who violates the law. It is obvious that the attitude of the courts and law enforcement is changing.

By making it harder for illegal telemarketers to ply their trade, we all benefit. Hats off to you Attorney General Tom Miller, for making this a better Christmas for all consumers.

CATS wishes everyone (including telemarketers) a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday season.


December 18, 2005

"This multimillion dollar penalty drives home a simple point: Sellers are on the hook for calls placed on their behalf. The Do Not Call Rule applies to all players in the marketing chain, including retailers and their telemarketers."

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras commenting on Satellite television provider DIRECTV paying $5,335,000 to settle FTC charges. Since October 2003, DIRECTV and companies it hired to promote DIRECTV programming have been violating the Do Not Call (DNC) provisions of the Commission’s Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR).

At the Commission’s request, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed the complaint and stipulated settlements in Federal District Court in Los Angeles. The complaint names as defendants DIRECTV, five firms that telemarketed on its behalf, and six principals of those telemarketing firms. Settlements with DIRECTV and two of the telemarketing firms and their principals were filed along with the complaint.

This is the largest civil penalty the FTC has ever announced in a case enforcing any consumer protection law.

From the FTC's web site, DirecTV to Pay $5.3 Million Penalty For Do Not Call Violations, Penalty is Largest Ever for Violation of the Do Not Call Law, December 13, 2005. Ms. Majoras can be reached, via the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, Staff Contacts, Allen W. Hile or Lois Greisman, (202) 326-3122 or (202) 326-3404.

CATS Comment: Telemarketers--Read this and weep. If you are calling on behalf of another company, consumers can sue you as well as your clients. All the more reason to obey the law.

Will telemarketers now follow the law? We here at CATS doubt it, but at least consumers can now take action against the telemarketing company as well as the company providing the product or service that the telemarketer was selling.

It's nice to have choices.


December 11, 2005

"It's a tremendous blow against a lot of nonprofits that rely on grassroots fundraising, What (the law) is forcing charities to do ... is to adopt in-house telemarketing, and that's not what we want from nonprofit organizations. We want them to pursue their mission. We don't want them to go into the telemarketing business."

Errol Copilevitz, a partner in the law firm of Copilevitz & Canter, L.L.C. commenting about a federal appeals court ruling that North Dakota's telemarketing law doesn't violate the free-speech rights of nonprofits that use professional fundraisers.

The North Dakota law lets nonprofits make calls to raise money but prohibits those using paid professional fundraisers from calling people who signed up for the state's do-not-call list. The appeals court reversed the lower court's decision, saying that the law was narrowly tailored to protect residential privacy.

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has indicated in the past that some charities get hooked into unconscionable contracts with telemarketing companies that charge upward of 85 percent of the money they collect from generous donors and that was one of the abuses the North Dakota law sought to eliminate.

From The Bismark Tribune/Associated Press, Federal court upholds law restricting telemarketers, December 8, 2005. Mr. Copilevitz can be reached, via Copilevitz & Canter LLC's phone number: (816) 472-9000 x238.

CATS Comment: Another excellent switcharoo by (what CATS believes) is the best attorney representing the non-profit telemarketing industry. Let's examine the quote.

Mr. Copilevitz says that the decision was "tremendous blow against a lot of nonprofits that rely on grassroots fundraising." So If CATS wants to call a bunch of North Dakota residents to solicit donations (by our members, i.e. "grassroots") his statement implies that the law would restrict that.

The reality is that the law restricts commercial telemarketers (the folks that hire Copilevitz & Canter) from calling anyone on North Dakota's "Do-Not-Call" list. "Grassroots" fundraisers are not affected by that ruling.

The statement should have really said: "It's a tremendous blow against a lot of telemarketing companies that rely on non-profits for their business."

It is no wonder that we here at CATS, believe that Errol Copilevitz is the best in the business.


December 4, 2005

"By passing these amendments, the government has ensured that Canadians will have an easy and effective way to better protect their privacy and reduce intrusive telemarketing calls. Canadians told us that they wanted this list, and the Government of Canada has delivered."

The Hon. David L. Emerson, Minister of Industry, Canada commenting on important amendments to the Telecommunications Act were adopted by Parliament on November 25, 2005. The amendments provide the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC-the equivalent of the FCC in the US) with the ability to establish a national Do Not Call List, which will reduce the volume of unwanted telemarketing calls Canadians receive at home.

While the CRTC already had the responsibility to regulate telemarketing, it indicated in a 2004 decision (Telecom Decision CRTC 2004-35) that while a national Do Not Call List had considerable merit, the Commission did not have the authority to establish and maintain such a list. The amendments addressed this issue. The CRTC will begin consultations with Canadians early in 2006 on the specific details associated with the operation and implementation of the list.

Penalties of up to $1500 per offending call for individuals and up to $15,000 per offending call for corporations would be imposed for telemarketers who fail to respect the list. Funding to operate the list will be obtained on a cost-recovery basis from telemarketers themselves.

From a press release on Industry Canada's web site, Legislation to Establish National Do Not Call List Adopted by Parliament, November 28, 2005. The Hon. David L. Emerson can be reached, via his office at: (613) 995-9001.

CATS Comment: We, here at CATS, wish you luck, Mr. Emerson. Here in the United States, there seems to a decline by the major corporations in their telemarketing, but we still get violators. Unfortunately there seems to be minimal enforcement by the FCC and the FTC in enforcing the law. Most people either give up or file lawsuits.

Canada should consider modifying their laws to allow private citizens to file lawsuits in Canadian lower courts for telemarketing violations like we can here in the US. While this system is far from perfect, private citizens can at least get some satisfaction that something is being done.


November 27, 2005

"The First Amendment protects the rights of nonprofits to zealously argue for causes that can be very unpopular."

Errol Copilevitz, a partner in the law firm of Copilevitz & Canter, L.L.C. commenting about the first amendment, and how it protects the rights of nonprofits. Copilevitz & Cantor is a nationally recognized law firm, that represents nonprofit organizations, professional fundraisers, and commercial telemarketers in the areas of nonprofit registration, regulation, charitable solicitation, commercial telemarketing, and fundraising. From Copilevitz and Cantor's web site, date of posting unknown. Errol Copilevitz can be reached, via Copilevitz & Canter LLC's phone number: (816) 472-9000.

CATS Comment: What a clever switcharoo Mr. Copilevitz is pulling here. Let's examine his statement carefully. He says that the law protects the rights of nonprofits to zealously argue for their causes, even if those causes are unpopular. We, here at CATS, have no problem with protecting that free speech.

What most Americans are concerned with is not the content of the speech itself, but rather how that speech is delivered. Case in point. Most Americans have no problem with the Salvation Army bell ringers standing in front of retail stores this holiday season seeking donations. But a few years ago the Salvation Army hired telemarketing firm, Infocision, and started ringing the bells on our telephones instead of the ones on the kettles. (See our Quote of the Week, 10/24/99.) The end result was bad publicity, and a consumer backlash, eventually hurting the Salvation Army.

A careful examination of the situation revealed that in both cases the speech itself was essentially the same, i.e. donate to the Salvation Army, but the delivery of that speech was very different. People were angered when the Salvation Army rang the bells on their telephones.

So the argument is not the speech itself, but rather how the speech is delivered, in which case Mr. Copilevitz's argument falls flat. Lawyers pull this kind of trick all the time to convince others of the validity of their arguments.

That kind of argument has a familiar ring to it.


November 20, 2005

"How many companies would have done the same thing if the worst result is a fine and a refund amounting to a few percent of the take? I wouldn’t be surprised if Experian rationally weighed the risk of prosecution [by the FTC] against the potential revenue and decided that it would take the chance. I don’t have any knowledge of internal Experian deliberations, but I would bet that some of the honorable people at Experian raised the issue squarely.

”Finally, it will come as no surprise that I have no relationship with the FTC. I remain a constant critic of the agency for doing a lousy job protecting consumers."

Robert Gellman, a Washington-based privacy and information policy consultant and former chief counsel to the House subcommittee on information, justice, transportation and agriculture commenting in DM News about just how bad the Federal Trade Commission is when it comes to consumer protection. The FTC operates the National "Do-Not-Call" list and even though they have had over 1 million complaints, they have only gone after a handful of companies.

From DM News, FTC Falls Short, Again, November 11, 2005. Mr. Gellman can be contacted at: rgellman@netacc.net

CATS Comment: As usual, Robert, you have written a thoughtful, well-written column about yet another Government agency that fails to protect consumers. The FTC rarely acts on behalf of consumers, so consumers have little choice when it comes to protecting their privacy rights.

At least the Telephone Consumer Protection Act or TCPA allows a 'private right of action' or, in other words, a lawsuit. Using the small claims courts of this country now appears the best choice for consumers to get a pinch of justice.

There are many things that the Federal Government does very poorly, if at all, when it comes to protecting people from wrongdoers. The one thing that the Federal Government does very well is collect taxes. Funny how that works!


November 13, 2005

"The FCC does not resolve individual complaints, and cannot award monetary or other damages directly to consumers, but consumers should still report violations of the telemarketing rules. The FCC encourages consumers who have received such calls to file complaints with the FCC. In addition, you may wish to note that, under the TCPA consumers may bring a private lawsuit in a state court to recover damages, if otherwise permitted by the state's laws or rates of court.”

Martha E. Contee, Chief, Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division, Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau, Federal Communications Commission (FCC), advising consumers (via a form letter) of their options in handling a telemarketing complaint.

From the Federal Communications Commission, form letter to a consumer, last quarter, 2005. Ms. Contee can be reached, via the FCC Consumer Center, toll free, at: (888) CALL-FCC. To see a copy of the letter click here.

CATS Comment: It now seems that the FCC is admitting that they no longer act on a consumer's behalf when it comes to telemarketing complaints. The reality is that the FCC took very little action on behalf of consumers over the last 15 years. Now they are acknowledging that fact.

What they did say is that violations of the FCC's rules can be taken to court (if your state allows this). California allows so-called "TCPA lawsuits" in small claims court.

So here are your choices when you get a telemarketer that refuses to obey the rules. You can write to the FCC, and get a form letter (if you are lucky), or you can go to small claims court (where the company that called you cannot use its lawyers in court) and get $500.00 per rule violation.

We here at CATS are not lawyers, but we have a wealth of experience in this area. If you need some help with a telemarketing problem, just drop us an e-mail. As always, we are glad to help.

Our thanks to Craig C. for providing us with the FCC letter.


November 6, 2005

"This is just another attempt to steal personal identifying information. Your bank already has access to your banking numbers and will not verify this information via phone or Internet. If you receive a phone call like this, hang up and call your bank directly to question the call.”

South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long commenting on a phone scam that is happening to residents of South Dakota.

Consumers receive a phone call that begins with an individual claiming to be from a local bank. The caller then informs the consumer that their bank account numbers have been placed on a “verification list” which is located on the Internet. They continue to tell the consumer that these numbers are vulnerable and without proper verification these numbers could be used fraudulently. The scam artists hope that these scare tactics will result in the consumer giving up their bank account numbers with little resistance.

From a press release on the South Dakota Attorney General's web site, Attorney General Larry Long and the South Dakota Bankers Association Warn of Fraudulent Telemarketing Calls, October 25, 2005. Attorney General Long can be via his office at: (605) 773-3215.

CATS Comment: Attorney General Long gives some good advice--don't fall for phone scams. Scams like this raise an interesting question, how can you tell the legitimate callers from the illegitimate callers?

In 1995, CATS founder Robert Arkow received a call from "Jason" claiming to be "calling from the Palmdale Branch of Bank of America." The person claimed that he had to talk to Arkow concerning his bank account at that branch.

Arkow called the bank back and asked for "Jason" and the people at the branch said that no one with that name worked there. Finally Arkow tracked "Jason" down.

It turns out that "Jason" worked for an investment group at Bank of America, and wanted to sell some investments. "Jason" was not at the Palmdale branch, but rather, was in Moorpark, CA, over 50 miles away. Arkow eventually successfully sued the bank over the incident.

The point is that even so-called "legitimate" telemarketers violate the law. This raises the question: How can you tell the scammers from the so-called legitimate callers?

Our advice: Unless you initiate the call, never give out any information or buy anything over the phone.


October 30, 2005

"It certainly is a substantial penalty for those who deliberately infringe or contact somebody who has opted out, and put their name on the register. "

Australia Senator and Federal Minister for Communications, Helen Coonan, commenting on a proposed 'do not call' registry for Australia. Senator Coonan says the register would allow people to opt out of receiving calls by listing their home and mobile phone numbers on the national register. Companies could be fined more than $220,000.00 for breaching the legislation.

She says many people are fed up with being interrupted by telemarketing calls at home and it could be legislated against next year.

From ABC News Australia, 'Do not call' register under consideration, airdate: October 30, 2005. Ms. Coonan can be reached at: (02) 6277-7480.

CATS Comment: You go girl! It seems that telemarketing is a world-wide problem these days. We here at CATS commend you for your actions and wish you good luck.

We've been there ourselves. And considering that Halloween is here, we know the tricks that the telemarketing industry will pull to kill the registry. And we know the treat when they lose in those efforts.

Good luck in your efforts, and maybe there will be peace at dinnertime in the land down under.


October 23, 2005

"A tiny fraction of the telemarketing industry has cast an unfortunate stigma on legitimate businesses."

Posting on the web site of Copilevitz & Canter, L.L.C., a nationally recognized law firm, that represents nonprofit organizations, professional fundraisers, and commercial telemarketers in the areas of nonprofit registration, regulation, charitable solicitation, commercial telemarketing, and fundraising. Their Senior Partner, Errol Copilevitz, has twice argued before the U.S. Supreme Court; as the lead counsel in the precedential case Riley vs. National Federation of the Blind (1988) and in Madigan v. Telemarketing Associates, Inc. (2003).

From the web site of Copilevitz & Canter, L.L.C., from their articles page, date of posting unknown, but current. Their law firm can be reached at: (816) 472-9000.

CATS Comment: What?!! A tiny fraction of the telemarketing industry?!! Let's take a look at that statement, shall we?

That so-called "tiny fraction" of the so called 'bad telemarketers' include major banks, credit card issuers, telephone and long distance companies, mortgage brokers, most major newspapers, etc. Most are Fortune 500 companies. Shall we go on? You get the point.

If the problem with telemarketing was with a "tiny fraction" of callers, then why have over 100 million people signed up with the National Do-Not-Call list?

As highly successful lawyers, one would assume that you guys deal in evidence and facts. In view of this, we here at CATS have a humble request of your law firm. May we have a sample of what you guys are smoking? After all, we are in California!

Disclaimer: The term "what you guys are smoking" is used an expression only. The use of that expression implies that we find the facts of the statement unbelievable. We are not implying or suggesting that anyone in the firm of Copilevitz & Canter, L.L.C. is using illegal drugs or substances. The fact of the matter is that Errol Copilevitz and his law firm have brilliant, gifted attorneys, which makes the statement more unbelievable. We would expect this kind of a statement from a telemarketing executive, not brilliant attorneys like them.


October 16, 2005

"No one can dispute that telemarketing and teleservices need an image makeover. Telemarketers regularly rank last in polls concerning business ethics. Millions of Americans rushed to join the national no-call registry."

"Our industry needs to start an aggressive public relations campaign to show the benefits of call centers and telemarketing. Let’s start with employment. How would consumers feel about those calls if they knew the person on the other end was most likely a single mom, working to make it on her own? Or a farmer or other resident of a rural area who has been unemployed for years until the call center set up shop? Educating the public on how call centers increase employment, tax revenue and productivity in economically depressed areas would do much to turn the tide. "

Christa Heibel, CEO of CH Consulting, LLC, commenting, in an article in DM News, how the telemarketing industry is viewed in public opinion polls. Ms. Heibel is regarded as an expert in the field of integrated marketing campaigns as well as effectively using technology for supporting sales and marketing efforts.

In her article, Ms. Heibel suggests that the telemarketing industry "needs to start an aggressive public relations campaign to show the benefits of call centers and telemarketing," in order to raise public opinion of the industry.

From DM News, Let's Show Telemarketing's Good Side, October 14, 2005. Ms. Heibel can be reached, via CH Consulting LLC, toll free, at: (866) 334-4850.

C.A.T.S. Comment: We have heard this kind of thing before. But it is awfully hard to claim that the industry "creates jobs" when so many foreign call centers are taking and making calls to American Consumers.

And finally, before you point the finger at your fellow industry members for past actions, we here at CATS would like to point out that on August 14, 2005, you were our "Quote of the Week." At that time we contacted your company, and asked for a copy of your company's written "Do-Not-Call" policy. We have yet to receive it. In fact, in a later telephone discussion with CATS president, Robert Arkow, you agreed to mail a copy of your company's policy. So what happened?

It is against Federal Law to not provide a copy of your written policy "upon demand". We here at CATS believe that obeying the law would help the telemarketing industry's image greatly. After all, wasn't the telemarketing industry's widespread failure to obey the law the issue that caused the bad public opinion of your industry in the first place?

On October 16, 2005 a message was left on Ms. Heibel's voice mail telling her that she was the "Quote of the Week". We gave her this web site's URL and a phone number as well to contact CATS founder Robert Arkow. We also asked AGAIN for her firm's written "Do-Not-Call" policy. So far we have had no response.


October 9, 2005

"New Jersey’s seniors should not have to deal with unwanted and confusing telephone solicitation seeking to advertise one plan over another. Allowing these solicitations opens the door to fraud and scam artists seeking to prey on those who may not be able to differentiate between legitimate and illegitimate calls."

US Senator Jon S. Corzine (D-New Jersey), commenting on his proposed legislation to prohibit telemarketers from placing unwanted solicitation calls to New Jersey’s 1.2 million residents eligible for coverage. The bill, entitled the Medicare Do Not Call Act, also directs funding toward education and outreach to help senior citizens now struggling to understand the new federal prescription drug program.

The legislation creates criminal penalties for the telemarketing fraud, carrying sentences of up to 5 years and fines of up to $25,000. The bill also includes language directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to educate beneficiaries about the Department's Medicare fraud hotline.

From a press release on Senator Corzine's web site, Corzine Introduces Legislation to Ban Medicare Rx Telemarketing, September 30, 2005. Senator Corzine can be reached via his office at: (202) 224-4744.

C.A.T.S. Comment: Sounds like the Senator has come up with a Rx for chronic telemarketing. The side effects may include peace and quiet at dinnertime, an emotional state of well being due to the lack of unwanted interruptions, and a lack of confusion in the thinking process due to unwanted sales pitches.

We commend the Senator for his prescription for chronic telemarketing, and with any luck, the prescription may be applied to other strains of the telemarketing germ, including mortgage pitches and travel deals. We, here at CATS, salute you Senator.


October 2, 2005

"It seems like all those people with prerecorded messages telling me I've won a vacation package have spread their wings. I think it's going to be up to individuals to prosecute. I think they need to look at raising that limit [for violating the law]. We need to encourage people to take legal action."

Robert Bulmash, president and founder of Private Citizen Inc., a nationwide consumer advocacy group commenting on the current "private right of action" law that consumers can use against telemarketers.

The Do-Not-Call Implementation Act allows an individual whose number is in the registry to sue telemarketers who call more than twice in 12 months. But the law caps the fine at $500 per violation; the FTC can collect $11,000 per violation.

The FTC has filed 14 lawsuits against telemarketers under the law, but only four of the cases have resulted in fines against five companies. Two timeshare sellers were ordered to pay $500,000 in February for calling thousands of consumers on the list and for not paying to access the do-not-call list, the FTC said.

From the Chicago Tribune, U.S. says do-not-call list has reduced intrusion a lot, October 1, 2005. Mr. Bulmash can be reached at (630) 393-2370.

C.A.T.S. Comment: We agree with Mr. Bulmash, the civil penlites for violations of the Telephone Act (TCPA) are frightfully low at $500 a pop. And even more interesting is how corporate behemoths fight tooth and nail when you take them to court over a $500 complaint.

When it comes to telemarketing, corporate arrogance is alive and well.


September 25, 2005

"By entering this Sweepstakes and providing my mailing, electronic and/or telephone contact information, I authorize Wells Fargo Home Mortgage to contact me using this contact information regarding its products and services. This authorization overrides (i) any prior solicitation preference that I may have placed with Wells Fargo or any other association and (ii) registration of any phone number on Wells Fargo State and Federal 'do not call' lists."

Disclaimer on a contest form from Wells Fargo Bank. They were holding a raffle for a free ipod at the Santa Clarita Home and Business Expo. To see the complete form click here (pdf file).

From a contest form handed to CATS President Robert Arkow at the Santa Clarita Home and Business Expo, 9/25/05. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage can be reached at (877) 937-9357.

C.A.T.S. Comment: WOW! Talk about getting around the law. We have to hand it to Wells Fargo for this one. If you try to win the ipod, you are likely to get a phone pitch for a home mortgage, even if you are on Wells Fargo's 'do not call' list. And worse yet, ANY Wells Fargo affiliate can call you.

Their lawyers have definitely worked overtime to avoid a lawsuit on this one . We have to take our hats off to them. If you fill out this form, you might as well throw all your privacy rights away.

Of course, as in every contest, there will always be a winner. And in this case, we here at CATS know who the winner will be. The winner is..... (envelope please).....Wells Fargo Home Mortgage!


September 18, 2005

"As an advocate both for the consumer and the industry, the ATA finds it within its mission to inform the consumer of their rights, while protecting the interests of the businesses and associations that it represents."

Tim Searcy, CEO of the American Teleservices Association (ATA) commenting in a press release regarding the so called "urban myth" e-mails, which are claiming that telemarketers will be calling cell phones once a cell phone directory is released.

Mr. Searcy has often pointed out, quite correctly, that calling a cell phone with a predictive dialer for telemarketing purposes is illegal.

From the American Teleservices Association web site, American Teleservices Association Debunks Latest Urban Myth, Telemarketers Do Not Call Cell Phones, December 2, 2004. Mr. Searcy can be (reached via the ATA) at: (317) 816-9336 x103.

C.A.T.S. Comment: Advocate for the consumer??? The ATA finds it within its mission to inform the consumer of their rights???

A search of the ATA web site (using their search engine) for the phrase "private right of action" reveals no hits. The ATA's web site never mentions that Federal law gives the consumer the right to sue telemarketers in small claims court for violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

We remind you that Mr. Searcy also claimed that if the National Do Not Call list was put into law, it would have the effect of "an asteroid hitting the Earth. Two million people will lose their jobs" (see our quote of the week for September 21, 2003.) Well, the National Do Not Call list has just recently received its one millionth number, and so far, nothing (except a telemarketing-free dinner time) has happened.

We at CATS have a question for you, Mr. Searcy: Tim, you are an articulate, brilliant, well-educated gentleman. How can you make such ridiculous statements like these? You certainly know better.

Mr. Searcy responded the next day to our quote:

Bob,

Thanks so much for another “Quote of the Week,” and the phone call prompting my visit to your website. Although we are never going to agree on all the issues, I think we can agree that the quote you gave is less than erudite. Although I would like to be considered “articulate”, and or “brilliant”, and dare I say it, “well-educated”, this quote even leaves me befuddled. What was that man (me) trying to say?

Let’s start again. The ATA does believe in consumer rights. We do provide ongoing feedback to our members concerning the consumer experience related to the teleservices channel. Although we don’t operate as a clearinghouse for consumer complaints, we respect the consumer’s right to voice their opinion. There are plenty of ways to communicate true violations of the law to the FTC and FCC. Based on your suggestion, I will ask my staff to place a link on our website to make it easier to lodge those complaints.

As a matter of fact, the FTC recently logged its 1 millionth complaint. With only a handful of enforcement actions, it is difficult to understand what the Commission is doing with the funding our industry provides it each year (about $18 million). As an advocate for the consumer, I would hope you would turn your bright light of discovery on this question. By insuring enforcement, we both can do a better job of protecting our constituents.

It is good to know that we both share a sense of humor, even if we don’t share the same opinion.

Respectfully,

Tim Searcy
CEO

tim@ataconnect.org


September 11, 2005

"This legislation makes one of the state and nation's most-effective and popular consumer laws even better. This new law will close a current loophole that allows telemarketers to call New Yorkers without their permission simply by requesting an appointment for a face-to-face sales pitch."

"We're proud that more than 5.7 million New Yorkers have taken advantage of the Do Not Call law, and that now they and their families can sit down to dinner without being interrupted by intrusive and unwanted telemarketing calls."

George E. Pataki, Governor of the State of New York, commenting that he has signed legislation into law that will end the exemption in state law that allows telemarketers to call consumers in order to schedule an appointment for a face-to-face sales presentation.

The new law will block even more telemarketing sales calls from reaching the 5.7 million phones now listed on the New York State "Do Not Call" Telemarketing Registry. Since the Do Not Call law took effect in 2001, face-to-face sales calls have been the source of the most complaints filed in New York.

Without the face-to-face exemption, the only sales calls that will be permitted are telemarketing calls between a company and its "current" customers (anyone who has done business with a company in the previous 18 months.) However, the law also allows "current customers" to stop future sales calls by simply telling the telemarketer not to call again.

From The Empire Journal, New Law Blocks More Telemarketing Calls, August 31, 2005, Governor Pataki can be contacted via the office of citizen services for the New York Governor's office at: (518) 474-8390.

C.A.T.S. Comment: Good for you, Gov! Its too bad that our "Governator" here in California won't do the same for us here in the Golden State. With telemarketing laws getting strict enforcement in the Empire State (and other states as well) telemarketers will have to look elsewhere to ply their trade.


September 4, 2005

"Wireless users view cell phones as one of their last refuges from telemarketing intrusion and other unwanted, unsolicited calls and messages. We will vigorously defend the strong wall of customer privacy that we have fortified over the years through our aggressive pro-consumer policies and actions."

Steven Zipperstein, General Counsel and Vice President of Legal and External Affairs at Verizon Wireless commenting on his company's filing of lawsuits against Intelligent Alternatives of San Diego, CA, and Resort Marketing Trends of Coral Springs, FL.

The lawsuits alleged that the companies that apparently made hundreds of thousands of calls to cell phone customers using pre-recorded messages and auto-dialers were in violation of the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act as well as state laws. Both suits were filed August 31: the Intelligent Alternatives suit was filed in state Superior Court in Sacramento, Calif.; the Resort Marketing suit was filed in state Superior Court in Somerville, NJ.

From PR Newswire, Verizon Wireless Takes Legal Action Against Florida, California Telemarketers to Defend Customers' Privacy, September 1, 2005. Mr. Zipperstein can be reached via Verizon's legal department at: (212) 395-2121.

C.A.T.S. Comment: Hats off to Verizon Wireless! Not only did they make a good decision from a consumer standpoint, they made a good business decision as well. Verizon has figured out that enhancing customer privacy is good business, and the right thing to do as well. Its too bad that Verizon (the land line company that sells regular residential phone service) still rents their (listed) customer information and so-called 'new mover lists' as well. We, here at CATS, commend Verizon Wireless for their action. Perhaps their land line division could learn from this action as well.


August 28, 2005

"In 2000 just over 1 million homes were on TPS [the British equivalent of the US government 'Do-Not-Call' list], by the end of 2003 that had grown to 5 million, today it is 10 million. When it reaches 21 million – or 75% of all homes, telemarketing will cease to be economically viable and that happens, according to our analysis on 14th February 2007."

Tim Beadle, CEO of Marketing Improvement, a leading UK marketing performance consultancy. Companies that have used its services include BT, Lloyds TSB, Chartered Institute of Marketing, Microsoft, Imperial War Museum and Cisco Systems.

From ClickPress.com, Telemarketing in the UK will die on St. Valentine’s Day 2007, August 26, 2005. Mr. Beadle can be contacted at: (44)-1344-392647, or via email at: tim.beadle@marketingimprovement.com.

C.A.T.S. Comment: What a wonderful Valentine's day present for British Citizens. With the US "Do-Not-Call" list topping over 100 million numbers last week, CATS predicts that it is only a matter of time before the huge mega-corporations give up on calling us at home.

Of course that won't stop so called "service calls" or inbound telemarketing, i.e. where the business creates a situation where you have to call them, only to be subjected to more sales pitches over the phone. While California law prohibits "ruses" on the phone, clever corporations and their clever lawyers will surely find a way around the law. Unfortunately, telemarketing, like cockroaches, will survive.


August 21, 2005

"I am pleased to report that, as of this week, the National Do Not Call Registry has topped 100 million phone numbers. This is a significant milestone for the Registry, which opened for business just over two years ago.

The Registry is an efficient and effective tool for consumers and businesses. While millions of citizens have chosen to limit the number of unwanted telemarketing calls they receive, thousands of businesses are able to target their calls to people who want to receive them. Industry compliance continues to be high, and registration remains free and easy.

The Registry speaks volumes about the success of government programs driven by consumer choice, and Americans’ preference for uninterrupted dinner-time conversation."

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras commenting on the on the 100 Millionth Number added to the National Do Not Call Registry.

From the FTC's web site, Statement of Federal Trade Commission Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras on the 100 Millionth Number on the National Do Not Call Registry, August 18, 2005. Ms. Majoras can be reached via the FTC's toll free number: (877) FTC-HELP.

C.A.T.S. Comment: Wow! One hundred million numbers on the list. That's more people than voted for our current President, George Bush Jr.!

And California leads the pack, with over twelve million entries. This is not surprising since over half of California telephone subscribers choose to not list their numbers in the phone book. To see a complete breakdown of the numbers click here.


August 14, 2005

"Whenever I’m at a party and someone finds out what industry I’m in, the first thing I hear is 'Why do I still get calls when I’m on the Do Not Call list?' Usually this question is voiced in a rather frustrated tone. Some people have even been rather angry. The DNC started out as a great idea to keep unwanted callers from harassing consumers, or at least that was the general perception. While the rules for the DNC have changed a great deal during the time between concept and implementation, the initial consumer perception remains. And people are upset. And the telemarketing industry is getting even more of a black mark against its reputation."

Christa Heibel, CEO of CH Consulting, LLC, commenting on the effect of the National "Do-Not-Call" list on consumers. Ms. Heibel is regarded as an expert in the field of integrated marketing campaigns as well as effectively using technology for supporting sales and marketing efforts.

In her article, Ms. Heibel suggests that the government needs to launch an aggressive campaign to educate consumers about the DNC list. She further suggests that consumers need to know the details about the DNC list, and when they are unwittingly ‘opting in’ for telemarketers to call. Consumers also need to know who is still allowed to call under the DNC. Non-profits, political outreach and other advocacy groups should try to educate consumers as well. It’s not just the responsibility of the legislative body, or the ATA.

From Technology Marketing Corporation's web site, Why Customers Are Disappointed With the Do Not Call List, August 11, 2005. Ms. Heibel can be reached, via CH Consulting, LLC, toll free, at: (866) 334-4850. To view the article, click here.

C.A.T.S. Comment: You rock Christa! What a great article! We, here at CATS, couldn't agree with you more. But you missed one thing that almost all telemarketers fail to do; they fail to provide their written "Do-Not-Call" policy upon demand (as the law requires). And even when they do (usually after a lot of arm twisting or court action) that policy usually fails to meet the minimum FCC requirements.

How can we trust an industry that often fails to obey the law?

May we review your company's written policy, and post it on line here?

CATS note: We left a message on Ms. Heibel's voice mail on August 14, 2005, asking for a copy of her company's written "Do-Not-Call" policy, as required by Federal Law. So far, we have not had a response.


August 7, 2005

"Rarely has my office handled a single case that involves so many alleged illegal business practices. This defendant is accused of subjecting consumers to deceptive sales tactics, illegal telemarketing calls, strictly prohibited contract terms and, in many cases, finished products that were, at best, unacceptable."

Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett commenting about his office's lawsuit against Rodney A. Haney and his business, R.A. Haney Inc., a home improvement business.

The lawsuit accuses Haney of violating the state's consumer protection law, the plain language consumer contract act, home improvement finance act and the telemarketing registration act.

Corbett's investigators found that Haney indirectly promoted his business by providing homeowners with flyers that encouraged them to obtain an independent "consumer advisory report" that was actually a sales piece for his company. Haney then contacted consumers by phone to confirm they received the brochure, without checking to see if they were on the state's "do not call" list that protects consumers from unwanted solicitations.

From the Pennsylvania Attorney General's web site, AG Corbett sues Northampton County contractor accused of defrauding dozens of consumers in home improvement scheme, July 28, 2005. Attorney General Corbett can be reached, via his office at: (717) 787-5211.

C.A.T.S. Comment: Last week, we featured a contractor who was accused of breaking the law and decided to settle with his state attorney general rather than fight the matter in court. This week we feature yet another contractor that stands accused of violating telemarketing laws who has decided to fight the charges.

According to newspaper reports, Rodney Haney is quoted as saying: I'm not paying them money just because they have 'attorney general' attached to their name. If they put me out of business, I hope they're happy about it."

It will be interesting to watch this case to see how it turns out. We, here at CATS, have a suggestion to find out if Mr. Haney's company is really in compliance. We have called up his business and asked for a copy of their written "Do-Not-Call" policy. You can try it yourself by calling (610) 974-8868. Let us know how you do.


July 31, 2005

"We feel like we haven't done any wrong, but we felt that it was in our interest to settle it instead of incurring the legal expense of fighting it."

David Knight, one of the owners of Chesapeake Window and Building Inc, commenting about his company's settlement with the Attorney General of Maryland, regarding illegal telemarketing calls. Chesapeake agreed to pay a $25,000 penalty to settle allegations it made illegal telemarketing calls to more than 120 people.

While Chesapeake did not admit wrongdoing, they also agreed not to call people in the national do-not-call registry and pay $5,000 for the state Attorney General's Office's costs.

From The Capitol Gazette Newspaper, Annapolis, Maryland, on-line edition, Firm to pay $25,000 penalty fine for telemarketing calls, July 31, 2005. Mr. Knight can be reached, toll free, via his company at: (800) 843-8817.

C.A.T.S. Comment: We contacted Chesapeake Window several times by phone and asked for a copy of their written "Do-Not-Call" policy. One employee said that since we were not a customer they did not have to send it to us. Another employee told us that they do not have a written policy to give customers. A third employee demanded to know who we were and why we wanted the policy. After we told him, he told us to "call back Monday." A fourth employee said that he did not have a policy and hung up on us.

Mr. Knight says that his company, Chesapeake Window and Building, did nothing wrong, yet they do not make their written policy "available upon demand" as the law requires. Perhaps we should file suit in California over their failure to provide a policy and perhaps then Mr. Knight will finally have his company comply with the law.


July 24, 2005

"We're concerned people will abuse the list, putting the names of friends on it, that kind of thing. So we're very concerned that those who are on the list are those who should be on the list."

Pat Kachura, the Direct Marketing Association's (DMA) senior vice president for ethics and consumer affairs commenting about the DMA's creation of a registry to remove dead people from its telemarketing, e-mail and direct mail lists.

The DMA calls it the Deceased Do Not Contact List, and to get on the list the DMA charges $1. The DMA claims that the $1 fee was for credit card "verification" and was designed to prevent fraud.

From USA Today, Death won't stop telemarketers, but $1 will, July 22, 2005. Ms. Kachura can be contacted via the DMA at: (212) 768-7277.

C.A.T.S. Comment: Is the DMA suggesting that consumers will fake their own death in order to avoid telemarketers? We here at CATS wonder what marketing lists one would get on if they were included in the Deceased Do Not Contact list.

Is the DMA suggesting that one would fake his own death to avoid telemarketing calls? Guess so.

So next time you attend a funeral for a loved one, you can take comfort in the fact that they will finally rest in peace...for $1!


July 17, 2005

"The ATA [American Teleservices Association] has developed a proposal for a teleservices SRO [Self-Regulatory Organization]. No concrete steps have been taken to implement this plan, and there is room to incorporate constructive feedback. The proposed call center SRO would incorporate elements of other self-regulatory programs, including the National Advertising Review Council and the Funeral Rule Offenders Program (“FROP”)."

Statement from a concept paper released by the American Teleservices Association. The ATA announced in October 2004 that it intended to create a "Self-Regulatory Organization" which would regulate the teleservices industry. (See our "Quote of the Week" for January 23, 2005.)

From ATA's web site, Creating a Self-Regulatory Organization for the Teleservices Industry, concept paper written on October 19, 2004. The ATA's CEO, Tim Searcy, can be reached via the ATA at: (317) 816-9336.

C.A.T.S. Comment: Haven't we heard this before? A few years ago the ATA created a self-regulating organization for the teleservices industry called "Tele•Watch", which was supposed to weed out the "bad apples" of the teleservices industry. Several large companies paid over $10,000.00 to be founding members of "telewatch." In the end the organization died, and along with it, the concept of self-regulation.

Last October the ATA created the "Self-Regulatory Organization" with similar fan fare. Yet, since its creation, we have not heard anything about it. We here at CATS, have a case for them to consider. This case involves a major retailer and a major bank. When we last contacted the "SRO" they were not yet ready to take our case.

CATS suspects that the ATA's "SRO", like "Tele•Watch", will simply die off due to lack of will or interest. It is a good thing that the ATA wants to involve the Funeral Rule Offenders Program members in their SRO, since they may soon have to pick a casket in which to put the concept.


July 10, 2005

"Upon declaration of a state of emergency by the governor, the commission shall immediately notify telephonic solicitors that an emergency has been declared and that during such state of emergency telephonic solicitation is prohibited."

A statement of Louisiana State Law administered by the Louisiana Public Service Commission, Do Not Call Program, General Order, R-27021. In Louisiana a state of emergency declared by the governor causes a state law to go into effect that temporarily bans telemarketing calls to residents in parts of the state where the emergency is declared.

From Louisiana state law, General Order R27021, December 8, 2004. For more information, contact the Louisiana Public Service Commission at: (225) 342-4404.

C.A.T.S. Comment: With hurricane season upon the Southern United States now, Louisiana took an interesting approach when it came to unsolicited telephone pitches thrust upon a beleaguered public at a time of crisis. They simply banned telemarketing in a time of emergency. How clever and straightforward.

It proves the old saying: In every dark cloud, there is a silver lining!

Can you imagine receiving a telemarketing call during a category 5 hurricane, and the caller asks the classic telemarketing question, "How are you this evening?" We can only ponder the answer!

At least that won't happen in Louisiana.


July 3, 2005

"There’s a message in this order for any business that runs a negative-option club. Your company is responsible for letting potential customers know the rules that come with their membership before they enroll."

GaLydia Parnes, Director of the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) Bureau of Consumer Protection commenting on a settlement with Scholastic, Grolier, and Scholastic-at-Home for $710,000.00.

The complaint alleged that Scholastic's direct mail and telemarketing campaigns for its book clubs failed to give consumers adequate information and resulted in consumers complaining that they received books they didn't order.

The defendants’ advertising and telemarketing scripts did not adequately distinguish the two book clubs or tell consumers that they were indeed two completely separate clubs. The advertising and scripts did not tell consumers that they would have to reject merchandise offered by the second club by returning a notice, that purchasing a book offered by the second club did not count toward the minimum purchase obligation of the first club, or that cancelling one club did not cancel the other.

From a press release by the Federal Trade Commission, Children’s Book Publisher to Pay $710,000 to Settle Charges it Violated Commission’s Negative Option and Telemarketing Sales Rule, June 21, 2005. Ms. Parnes can be reached via her staff contact at the FTC, James Reilly Dolan, Bureau of Consumer Protection, at (202) 326-3292.

C.A.T.S. Comment: Wow! Scholastic describes itself as the largest publisher and distributor of children’s books in the world. It distributes its books through a variety of channels, including school-based book clubs and fairs, stores, and television networks.

It turns out that in June 2000 Scholastic acquired Grolier which is under a 1994 district court FTC order that required them to pay a $200,000 civil penalty and prohibited it and its successors from violating the FTC Act and the Unordered Merchandise Statute.

We here at CATS wonder if Scholastic, an educational book company, will finally learn its lesson.


June 26, 2005

"I've always loved telemarketing in particular. It's just one aspect of direct marketing, but it gives you instant feedback."

Gary L. Taylor comments about receiving the 2005 DMA (Direct Marketing Association) Teleservices Excellence Award at the Direct Marketing Association's annual Teleservices Conference.

Taylor founded Infocision, a telemarketing company, in the 1970s and built it into one of the nation's premier teleservices agencies. Infocision is known for nonprofit and political outbound calling and has strong ties to the Republican Party.

From DM News, Infocision Founder Wins 2005 DMA Teleservices Award, June 24, 2005. Mr. Taylor can be reached at: (330) 668-1400 x5115.

C.A.T.S. Comment: For several years, we, here at CATS, have spoken at length with many telemarketers, and they all tell us the same story. Most people either hang up on a telemarketing pitch, or ask to be put on the telemarketer's "Do-Not-Call" list. The bottom line is that most people reject telephone solicitations, and express that by hanging up or demanding to be left alone.

Is it any wonder that over 60 million people (more than voted for our current President) have signed up on the National "Do-Not-Call" list? Usually less than 5% of the people that a telemarketer calls purchase the product or service that a telemarketer pitches.

Most normal people do not enjoy rejection. Now here comes Mr. Taylor, who says that he "always loved telemarketing in particular" because it gives the telemarketer "instant feedback." Considering that most of that "instant feedback" is rejection, then we here at CATS have to wonder if Mr. Taylor may be in need of some professional help.

At any rate, we congratulate Mr. Taylor on his award.


June 19, 2005

"Telemarketing has a terrible stigma, but that's what we do. One of the things we wanted to do was show bright students that there is a career in direct marketing and telemarketing."

Gary L. Taylor commenting about the Gary and Karen Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at the University of Akron, Ohio. It is the product of a $1.5 million gift by Gary L. Taylor, chairman and founder of InfoCision Management Corp., Akron, Ohio.

Taylor said he hopes the institute will accomplish the same thing for direct marketing. The industry's bad image is driving away bright students, but the institute is a tool to show them its potential, he said.

From DM News, University of Akron Raises DM Education, June 13, 2005. Mr. Taylor can be reached at: (330) 668-1400 x5115.

C.A.T.S. Comment: We, here at CATS, agree with Mr. Taylor. The telemarketing industry has a horrible reputation, and if the industry is to survive and thrive, then that reputation must be changed. But we question the logic of providing a college level course in telemarketing, in an attempt to raise the telemarketing industry's standing with the public. This will not help the tarnished image of the industry. Most people do not care if a telemarketer has a college degree when their dinner is interrupted by an unwanted and unwelcome telephone pitch. In short, the telemarketing industry has "made its bed," and now must "sleep in it."

At least one thing is certain. If we here at CATS meet someone who says that they have a BS in telemarketing, at least we know what the "BS" stands for!


June 12, 2005

"There being only one telephone call at issue, the court finds that that single phone call did not constitute a violation of 47 USC, Section 227.

"Defendant, however has violated FCC rules with respect to failure to provide the Do Not Call Policy upon demand. Senior Vice President and District Manager, Ron Nemitz testified that the demand for a copy of the policy waited on his desk for him to review the policy prior to it's release. I can find no authority for the delay of the bank in turning over the policy in response to a demand.

"Furthermore, bank employee, Jason Evans failed to properly identify himself at the time the telephone solicitation was made. Damages in the sum of $500.00 for each violation is awarded to Plaintiff."

Small Claims Judge James P. Reape of the Municipal Court of Newhall Judical District, Los Angeles County Court ruling against Bank of America's telemarketing practices. The case, brought by Robert Arkow against the bank, was decided on June 15, 1995. It was that case that eventually caused the founding of Californians Against Telephone Solicitation (CATS).

From official Los Angeles County Court records, Statement of Decision, June 15, 1994. Robert Arkow can be reached at: (240) 248-6623.

C.A.T.S. Comment: It was ten years ago this week that the court found that Bank of America failed to provide their written "Do-Not-Call" policy when requested and their so called "courtesy call" was illegal.

Bank of America has since improved their compliance procedures. They have stopped making "courtesy calls" and now provide a written policy upon demand, as the law requires.

However, there is a catch. Instead of "courtesy calls," the bank now makes "service calls" to their customers. We at CATS wonder what the difference is?

And as far as the written policy that they provide to consumers goes, it does not seem to have any of the following things that one could reasonably expect to be included in a company’s written compliance procedure, such as: a statement explaining what the do-not-call rules are and how they operate; the legal requirements for do-not-call compliance; the company’s policies regarding compliance; the consequences for non-compliance; the company’s policies regarding compliance by outside lead generators and its means of communicating those policies with the outside parties; or any type of ongoing compliance monitoring.

You may view Bank of America's written "Do-Not-Call" policy by clicking here.
Bank of America calls this their "Privacy Policy", however if you go to the bottom of the document (or web page) you will find the statement: "This notice constitutes the Bank of America Do Not Call Policy under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act for all consumers and is pursuant to state law." As far as Federal law goes--who knows?


June 5, 2005

"During my campaign, I made thousands of personal calls to voters to ask for support. Many of them were relieved to hear from a live human being but frustrated about the number of 'robo calls' they were receiving. Many indicated they would not vote because of those 'robo calls.' As candidates, the last thing we should do is discourage people from voting."

Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, (R-North Carolina) who represents North Carolina's 5th District, commenting about her newly introduced bill that would allow citizens to be placed on a "do not call list" for recorded political telephone messages or "robo calls."

Foxx pointed out that when a live person makes calls for a campaign, it gives voters the opportunity to ask questions about a candidate and his or her platform. She also pointed out that live calls allow voters the opportunity to ask to be removed from a calling list. Recorded calls do not offer voters that opportunity.

From the WXII, NBC, Channel 12, (Winston-Salem, North Carolina) web site, Foxx Introduces Bill To Curb Automated Calls, April 29, 2005. Ms. Foxx can be reached via her Congressional office at: (336) 778-0173.

C.A.T.S. Comment: You go girl! We are all sick and tired of some politician bothering us at home, and many of the calls violate the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), yet they still call.

We here at CATS got the FCC to rule against our former Attorney General for his robo-calls that were against the law. The fine for breaking the law? $0!

We wish you luck with your efforts Ms. Foxx. Let us know when you run for President. At least our phones will be left alone.


May 29, 2005

"It sends a message to the telemarketing industry that if they're caught they'll face substantial sentences,"

Santa Clara County, California Deputy District Attorney Martha Donohoe commenting on her successful prosecution of two brothers from Brentwood and a former Santa Clara County sheriff's lieutenant, for taking more than $3 million from Bay Area residents in a police charity telemarketing scam.

On May 26, 2005, Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Paul Bernal sentenced George Kellner to six years and four months; Matt Kellner to 11 years and four months; and Armand Tiano to 17 years and eight months.

The trio organized a scheme for donors to contribute to fictitious law enforcement charities -- such as "the Police Benevolent Fund & Youth Foundation" and the "the Police & Sheriff's Athletic League Community Fund."

From the Contra Costa Times, Three in telemarketing scam are sent to prison, May 26, 2005. Ms. Donohoe can be contacted by phone at: (408) 792-2571.

C.A.T.S. Comment: It is interesting to note that one of the people involved in this scam was Armand Tiano. This fine gentleman was convicted in 2001 of lewd conduct with his ex-wife's daughters and received a suspended sentence of one year in county jail. He was free on bail but the following year was sentenced to 16 months in state prison for failing to register as a sex offender.

We always meet the nicest people during a telemarketing call!

CATS salutes you Ms. Donohoe, we thank you for taking another group of illegal telemarketing scam operators to jail. We commend you! You go girl!

Thanks for getting the scum off our phones, and our streets.


May 22, 2005

"Thank you for contacting The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

We do not have an available written policy for our Do Not Call List. We are not aware of any law that requires us to provide a written statement of the policy that we will not call if you place yourself on our Do Not Call List. "

Courtney La Croix, Internet Customer Care Representative for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, responding via e-mail to a request for the Atlanta Journal Constitution's written "Do-Not-Call" policy.

We sent the request after we were forced to register for free on-line access to read a story posted on their web site. The registration process required that we supply our (unlisted) home phone number as part of the process.

From an e-mail sent via the Atlanta Journal Constitution's e-mail system from Courtney La Croix, May 18, 2005, Ms. La Croix can be reached at: (800) 846-6672 x5618.

C.A.T.S. Comment: Ms. La Croix's response is typical of how corporate America responds to a "Do-Not-Call" policy request. Finally, after two days and several more e-mails and phone calls, their lawyer, Charles C. Parker, Esq., provided the policy to us via e-mail. To view it, click here.

After reviewing the policy, we at CATS have a question. While most company policies have effective dates, and are signed by a company official, we noted that the Atlanta Journal Constitution's policy is lacking both, which begs the question: Who wrote the policy, when was it written, and when does it take effect?

It seems to us that a major newspaper such as the Atlanta Journal Constitution would have a more detailed policy, especially since the FCC rules say that the policy provided to the consumer must be "complete."

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act was put into effect in December, 1992. One would think that a major newspaper could come up with an effective and complete policy in 12 years. Of course, with no effective date, it is anybody's guess as to when the policy was written.

Our guess is that it was written about 2 days ago.


May 15, 2005

"The TCPA [Telephone Consumer Protection Act] requires each company, with the exception of those making nonprofit solicitations, to maintain a list of those people who do not wish to be contacted by phone and to develop a written policy implementing this "Do not call" list-keeping requirement. These written procedures must be made available to anyone on demand...."

Any employee engaged in any aspect of the telemarketing process must be fully trained in the above-mentioned procedures."

Information currently posted on the American Teleservices Association (ATA) web site. The ATA can be contacted at: (317) 816-9336.

C.A.T.S. Comment: How strange! The ATA is aware of the law, yet when we ask some of their members for a copy of their written "Do Not Call" policies, we are ignored, or told that it is not available, or some other nonsense.

We at CATS find it interesting how many telemarketers (both ATA members and non-members) are quick to enforce their "rights" under the law but yet, at the same time, dodge their "responsibilities" under the law.


May 8, 2005

"Missouri’s No Call law was implemented to assure Missourians that they could sit down to the dinner table without constant, uninvited interruptions by incessant telemarketing calls. Through our aggressive enforcement efforts, Missouri citizens can be assured that we will continue to take whatever steps are necessary to protect their rights and privacy."

Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon commenting about his recent action against satellite television provider EchoStar Communications — which does business as Dish Network. They will pay a civil penalty of $50,000 for telemarketing calls made to Missourians on the state’s No Call list in an agreement reached with the Attorney General's Office. Dish Network is the nation’s second-largest satellite television company.

From a press release on the Missouri Attorney General's web site, Dish Network to pay $50,000 for violating state No Call law under agreement with Attorney General Jay Nixon, May 5, 2005. Attorney General Nixon can be reached at: (573) 751-3321.

C.A.T.S. Comment: Way to go, Jay! You know that any law without enforcement is like no law at all. CATS congratulates you for a job well done.

Perhaps you could teach our attorney general here in California how law enforcement works. Considering his lack of enforcement of the telemarketing laws here in California, he sure could use some help.


May 1, 2005

"Defendants, THE HOLLANDS, and any and all of their employees, officers, directors, contractors, agents, attorney's, successors, assignees, merged or acquired predecessors, parent or controlling entities and subsidiaries are hereby ORDERED to clearly state at the beginning of each and every telemarketing call initiated or caused to be initiated to any residential telephone line THE HOLLANDS' first and last names and THE HOLLANDS' home telephone numbers (and identified as such) so recipients of THE HOLLANDS' telemarketing calls can disturb them, while they eat dinner."

Judge Gary Michael Block of the Harris County Civil Court at law No. 2 deciding against Market Your Way, a telemarketing company owned by Hugh Holland.

The Court awarded $87,000.00 in damages for 3 unlawful prerecorded telephone solicitations initiated without the prior express consent of the residential telephone number subscriber. The calls also violated every one of the identification requirements of the TCPA! The successful plaintiff was Joe Shields, a consumer that has had prior success with taking telemarketers to court. For a complete copy of the judge's decision, click here.

From the THE SOUTHEAST TEXAS TCPA SITE, April 27, 2005. Judge Block can be contacted via the clerk of the court, Vickie Summerlin, at (713) 755-6796.

C.A.T.S. Comment: Don't you just love Texas justice? Not only did the telemarketer lose $87,000.00, but he also has to give his home phone number to every person that he calls to sell stuff!

We here at CATS commend Judge Block for his insight and his creative solution to the telemarketing problem. Too bad our California courts don't have a similar brand of Texas justice.


April 24, 2005

"Not many people know exactly what we do. Not many people know how many people we employ. Those are two critical things to convey."

William Brierly, executive director of governmental and regulatory affairs for TeleTech and head of the American Teleservices Association's (ATA) federal legislative subcommittee.

ATA leadership asked its members, who convened at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill for the annual ATA Washington summit, to open their doors to lawmakers. The association needs members to give tours of their operations to lawmakers at all levels of government to push the message that the industry benefits the economy and public.

From DM News, ATA Calls on Members to Lobby for Industry, April 19, 2005. Mr. Brierly can be reached, toll free, at: (800) 835-3832 x78637.

C.A.T.S. Comment: Hold the phone! We here at CATS beg to differ with you Mr. Brierly. Most Americans know EXACTLY what your members do--and over 60 million of them (more than voted for our current president) have put their phone numbers on the National Do Not Call list to avoid what your members do.

We here at CATS have one request to ask of you, Mr. Brierly. If you really believe what you said--can we have some of what you are smoking?


April 17, 2005

"This case is a victory for the people of North Dakota and affirms North Dakota's right to enact its own laws to protect citizens' health, safety and welfare. Do Not Call laws are under attack all over the nation and North Dakota is proud to help lead the fight to protect consumers from uninvited and annoying telemarketing calls."

North Dakota Attorney General Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem commenting on his court victory over a political telemarketing company. Burleigh county district court found FreeEats.com, Inc. violated the Do Not Call law when it made prerecorded-message calls to North Dakota telephone subscribers last fall. The company claimed the calls were an effort to conduct a “get out the vote” campaign for the November elections. State law prohibits the use of prerecorded messages.

FreeEats.com challenged North Dakota's law, claiming federal law, which treats prerecorded messages differently, should apply. Judge Gail Hagerty disagreed, finding federal law did not preempt North Dakota's law, and that FreeEats violated the law. FreeEats agreed to pay a penalty of $10,000 for the violations and another $10,000 for the Attorney General's costs and attorney fees.

From a press release on the North Dakota Attorney General's web site, NORTH DAKOTA'S DO NOT CALL LAW SURVIVES LEGAL CHALLENGE, March 18, 2005. Attorney General Stenehjem can be reached through his office at: (701) 328-2210.

C.A.T.S. Comment: Way to go Wayne! You proved that states can enact stronger laws than the Federal Government when it comes to privacy in our homes.

Now if only "the terminator" would take similar action in California, perhaps more people would vote in our elections. People often say that the reason that they don't register to vote is because of all the unwanted political phone calls they get at home during election time.

Registering to vote here in California, is like putting your name on a telemarketing list; people simply don't want to be annoyed at their homes. When "Arnold" says "I'll be back", we at here at CATS wonder if he really means 'I'll be calling you back--and back--and back!'

If North Dakota can pass a law banning pre-recorded political phone calls, why can't California do the same thing?


April 10, 2005

"In short, Dynasty [Mortgage] fails to provide a document explaining, for example, any of the following things that reasonably could be expected to be included in a company's written compliance procedure: a statement explaining what the do-not-call rules are and how they operate; the legal requirements for do-not-call compliance; the company's policies regarding compliance; the consequences for non-compliance; the company's policies regarding compliance by outside lead generators and its means of communicating those policies with the outside parties; or any type of ongoing compliance monitoring."

From a Notice of Apparent Liability (in other words, a fine) against Dynasty Mortgage issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The Commission found that Dynasty apparently initiated telephone solicitations to consumers who registered their numbers on the National Do-Not-Call Registry. The Commission proposed the maximum forfeiture of $11,000 for each of 70 violations because the company apparently continued to make telemarketing calls after receiving an FCC citation warning it of potential penalties if it continued violating the Do-Not-Call rules. Further, the company apparently misinformed consumers that it was exempt from these Commission rules

The fine was issued by the enforcement bureau. From FCC File No. EB-03-TC-100 NAL/Acct. No. 200432170005 FRN: 0012612156, NOTICE OF APPARENT LIABILITY FOR FORFEITURE, Paragraph 22, February 28, 2005. The FCC can be reached via their media contact for the fine, Jancie Wise, (202) 418-7450

C.A.T.S. Comment: Finally the FCC has set a de facto minimum standard on what must be included in a written "Do-Not-Call" policy:

1. A statement explaining what the do-not-call rules are and how they operate.

2. The legal requirements for do-not-call compliance.

3. The company's policies regarding compliance.

4. The consequences for non-compliance.

5. The company's policies regarding compliance by outside lead generators and its means of communicating those policies with the outside parties.

The FCC has also stated (in a ruling) that written "Do-Not-Call" policies must be "complete" when given to a consumer.

So with the above facts in mind, we at CATS will review some so called "written policies" to see if they meet FCC standards.

Want to try it for yourself? Why not review Bank of America's written "Do-Not-Call" policy and judge for yourself. You can review it by clicking here*. We welcome your review and opinion of it.

*Note: Bank of America calls this their "privacy policy", however they also claim that it is their written "Do-Not-Call" policy. In fact, the policy states (near the end of it) that: 'This notice constitutes the Bank of America Do Not Call Policy under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act for all consumers and is pursuant to state law'.

If you have questions or concerns about Bank of America's written policy, you may contact Bank of America's Assistant General Counsel, Kathryn Kohler at: (704) 386-9644. Ms. Kohler has written public comments to the FCC in the past on behalf of the Bank regarding the TCPA, and is familiar with the policy.


April 3, 2005

"Political calls, though, are considered 'fully protected speech' just like a stump speech or a religious sermon. Laws regulating fully protected speech are constitutional only if based on a 'compelling' purpose, regulate no more speech than necessary to further that goal and the goal can’t be accomplished in another, less intrusive, way. Application of this standard is known as 'strict scrutiny.' The Federal Trade Commission and FCC justified the national no-call list using the “intermediate” test, not the strict scrutiny' test. If fully protected speech were banned by the federal list (Hawaii’s proposed ban of prerecorded calls “on behalf” of a candidate), the national list could be unconstitutional."

William E. Raney and Kristen E. Bloemker, attorneys at Copilevitz & Canter LLC, Kansas City, MO., commenting to DM News on various bills to prevent political calls to residences. The previous November election’s furious get-out-the-vote drives by both parties used telephone calls as their primary tool. From call campaigns originating at huge call centers, to automated recorded calls, to grassroots telephone efforts, this election saw more use of the telephone than any in recent times.

From DM News, States Consider DNC for Political Calls, March 3, 2005. Both of these gentlemen can be reached, via Copilevitz & Canter LLC's phone number: 816-472-9000.

C.A.T.S. Comment: Here they go again! Even though the Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to strike down the National "Do-Not-Call" list, the telemarketing lawyers are at it again.

We at CATS wish them luck. If the National "Do-Not-Call" list is finally struck down, then consumers will demand filtering systems for their phones, and the telecomm industry will build them--in the millions.

What will a telemarketer do when a phone filter is as common (and as cheap) as a redial button is today?

We here at CATS have a warning for the telemarketing lawyers who hope to defeat do-not-call laws: Be careful what you wish for!!!!


March 27, 2005

"I personally see no socially redeeming value in anyone having the right to market or use Social Security numbers and other personal information without my approval. If a company wants to use my life for their profit, they ought to have to ask me first."

Congressman Joe Barton (R-Texas), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, in a written statement regarding the recent revelations of data breeches. Alpharetta, Ga. based ChoicePoint disclosed last month that intruders posing as small-business customers may have compromised personal data of 145,000 people, almost one-fourth of them in California. ChoicePoint became suspicious of foul play in September and cooperated with law enforcement, but only last month said it would begin notifying consumers.

From the Los Angeles Times, Data Collectors Face Lawmakers, March 16, 2005. Congressman Barton can be reached, via his office, at: (202) 225-2002.

C.A.T.S. Comment: It seems that the data collection industry (which cheerfully gave out our telephone numbers, unlisted or not, to any telemarketer that was willing to pay a buck or two) is now on the hot seat. This wholesale invasion of our data privacy may finally force Congress to finally deal with the problem.

Considering the limited success of the National "Do-Not-Call" list, is it time now for a national "Do-Not-Compile Data" list?


March 20, 2005

"Too many consumers are entrusting their data to companies for safekeeping, only to have it sold away for the highest dollar, often in the dark of night.

"We have to stop malicious companies from conning consumers out of their information with privacy policies that are impossible to understand,” Often all of those lines of legalese mean only one thing. You get all these pages, and what they are basically saying is ‘We will sell your personal information to whomever we want, whenever we want.’ This has to stop."

Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) commenting during a Senate committee hosting a hearing on compiled data. Testifying to the committee was Deborah Platt Majoras, chairman of the Federal Trade Commission. She was testifying about data security and the lax laws that are currently on the books.

From Direct Magazine, Schumer Pushes FTC Chair for Tighter, Better Defined Data Jurisdiction, March 11, 2005. Senator Schumer can be reached, via his office, at: (202) 224-6542.

C.A.T.S. Comment: One of the most often asked questions that we get here at CATS is: "How did the telemarketer get my unlisted phone number?" The answer is simple...YOU gave the them the number.

Now Congress is learning a fact that most consumers have known for years--that we have almost no privacy, and worse yet, the little privacy that we had is quickly eroding away.

Data aggregator, Choicepoint, recently admitted to the sale of 145,000 consumer names and data packages to scam artists. The consumers that were impacted by this will have to go through years of grief and aggravation because of Choicepoint's negligence. In all fairness though, Choicepoint has issued an apology for the error. Now that makes us all feel better, right?


March 13, 2005

"In short, Dynasty fails to provide a document explaining, for example, any of the following things that reasonably could be expected to be included in a company’s written compliance procedure: a statement explaining what the do-not-call rules are and how they operate; the legal requirements for do-not-call compliance; the company’s policies regarding compliance; the consequences for non-compliance; the company’s policies regarding compliance by outside lead generators and its means of communicating those policies with the outside parties; or any type of ongoing compliance monitoring."

Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary of the Federal Communications Commission, in a notice of apparent liability for forfeiture action against Dynasty Mortgage L.L.C.

The Federal Communications Commission is proposing a forfeiture of $770,000 against Dynasty Mortgage, L.L.C. of Phoenix, Arizona for apparently making telemarketing calls to residential consumers in violation of the Commission's National Do-Not-Call rules.

The Commission found that Dynasty apparently initiated telephone solicitations to consumers who registered their numbers on the National Do-Not-Call Registry. The Commission proposed the maximum forfeiture of $11,000 for each of 70 violations because the company apparently continued to make telemarketing calls after receiving an FCC citation warning it of potential penalties if it continued violating the Do-Not-Call rules. Further, the company apparently misinformed consumers that it was exempt from these Commission rules.

From a notice of apparent liability for forfeiture, FCC File No. EB-03-TC-100 NAL/Acct. No. 200432170005 FRN: 0012612156, February 28, 2005. Ms. Dortch can be reached at: (202) 418-0300 or Marlene.Dortch@fcc.gov.

CATS Comment: In 1992 the FCC required that : "Persons or entities making telephone solicitations must have a written policy, available upon demand, for maintaining a do-not-call list." Unfortunately, the FCC did not (until now) say what should be "reasonably expected" in a company's written compliance policy.

Now that the FCC has set some rudimentary guidelines, we here at CATS will be checking various organization's written "Do Not Call" policies for what the FCC calls "things that reasonably could be expected to be included in a company’s written compliance procedure." It will be interesting to see how various organizations stack up to the FCC's minimum requirements. Stay tuned.


March 6, 2005

"I happen to be an ex-telemarketer. I was what one would call a 'phone pro.' I did phone sales for a living, on & off, for seven years; the biggest mistake I ever made in my life.

"It is my belief that telemarketing is the most vile, evil business on the planet Earth. I have more respect for pornographers than I do for the phone sales industry. You may have heard other comments from former telemarketers-nobody hates that business as much as we do.

"One final thing; if any parent finds out that their son or daughter has accepted a phone sales job, threaten to disown them; you'll be doing them, & society, a favor."

An e-mail from one of our viewers, expressing his feelings on having worked as a telemarketer. As always, we will not release his name or e-mail address since it was requested by the sender. To read the complete letter click here.

CATS Comment: Our Quote of the Week for February 13, 2005 featured Tim Searcy, the CEO of the American Teleservices Association. It seems that Mr. Searcy was "thrilled" when his nephew took a job as a telemarketer selling credit cards.

It seems that our viewer has a different view of the industry. In order to be fair we will forward our viewer's comments (sans his personal information, of course) and ask Mr. Searcy for his comments. As always, if he chooses to respond, we will post his comments.


February 27, 2005

"Eventually, someone is going to look at the do-not-call list and submit legislation calling for an opt-out option for data aggregation for marketing purposes. When this happens, the compiled data industry will have lost control of the debate, and any points it tries to make, or benefits it tries to tout, will be reactive rather than proactive. With the ChoicePoint incident, compilers may have run out of time."

Richard H. Levey, Senior Writer for Direct Magazine commenting on the theft of data from ChoicePoint, a data aggregator that has files on every man, woman, and child in the United States. From Direct Magazine, Loose Cannon: From ChoicePoint to Flash Point, February 24, 2005. To read the article click here. Mr. Levey can be reached at: (212) 462-3669.

CATS Comment: The Direct Marketing industry is out of control. The ChoicePoint incident shows just how easy it is to access data.

Now consumers have to file fraud alerts with the credit bureaus, a task that could take hours on the phone since one cannot reach a live agent from the credit bureaus. And that will not insure that consumers will be safe.

The data industry will now face what the telemarketing industry faced several years ago -- a consumer backlash, which is certain to cause legislation. For its part, ChoicePoint issued an apology to consumers and regrets the incident.

Funny, that's what telemarketers tell us when they call us as well.


February 20, 2005

"You cannot hire subcontractors to break the law for you and then walk away free of consequences. Millions of Americans have indicated that they do not want telemarketers calling them, and we intend to enforce the law that gives them the right to make that choice."

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Deborah Platt Majorasim commenting about the fact that two timeshare sellers and their telemarketer will pay more than $500,000 to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they violated the Do Not Call Rule. The timeshare company through its telemarketer called thousands of consumers who previously placed their phone numbers on the FTC’s Do Not Call Registry.

In August 2004, the FTC charged that Braglia Marketing Group (BMG) and its owners, Frank and Kate Braglia, unlawfully called hundreds of thousands of consumers who had placed their numbers on the Registry, and that they had not paid the Registry access fee for some of the area codes they called.

After further investigation, the FTC filed a second lawsuit charging Flagship Resort and Atlantic Palace with hiring BMG to telemarket their timeshares, and that while calling on their behalf, BMG violated federal law by calling registered numbers. The complaint further charges that Flagship Resort itself called consumers who were protected by the Registry. The FTC’s complaint also charges that the defendants abandoned calls to consumers and failed to pay required fees to access the Registry.

From a press release from the Federal Trade Commission, FTC Announces First “Do Not Call Rule” Settlements, February 16, 2005. The FTC can be reached at: (877) FTC-HELP.

CATS Comment: It happens almost every time! The party on whose behalf the solicitation was made blames their telemarketing company, and the telemarketing company blames the party on whose behalf the call was made. So who's to blame? It turns out that BOTH parties violated the law, and both should pay.

CATS commends the FTC for their decision to go after both parties. When enough businesses face lawsuits for hiring rouge telemarketing companies to promote their products and services then perhaps the practice will stop.


February 13, 2005

"Show up on time, do what you're told, be cheerful and make a difference"

"Be unusual . . . listen to your manager!"

Tim Searcy, CEO of the American Teleservices Association (ATA), giving advice to his nephew, Sean, 17, on taking his first job as a telemarketer selling credit cards over the phone.

From Customer Inter@ction Solutions Magazine, Educating The Next Generation, January 2005 issue. Mr. Searcy can be reached via the ATA at: (317) 816-9336.

CATS Comment: My nephew, the telemarketer! You must be proud. In fact you stated in the article "He [Sean] had recently been hired by one of our member companies (without my assistance) and he was going to begin selling credit cards by phone. I was thrilled."

Raising kids these days is tougher than when we were kids. The youth of today tend to ask tough questions and question the answers that we give them. We here at CATS are curious how you would answer this question if your nephew asked it:

'Uncle Tim, my manager said that if a prospect that I am calling asks to be put on the "Do-Not-Call" list or asks for a copy of our written policy, I should not waste time with them and just hang up. He says that our time is just too valuable.

I know from reading the ATA web site that this is illegal. If I question my manager I will surely be fired. What should I do?'

We will publish your answer to this question, and we would encourage you to do so, since the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) tells us that this is all too common in your industry. We value your insight and advice.

Again, congratulations on your nephew's choice for a career.


February 6, 2005

"I was wondering if telemarketers had already gotten to you."

Governor Kathleen Blanco (D-Louisiana) commenting on the failure of her first attempted phone call to Ms. Alice Louise Bolton, an 89 year old resident of the small Natchitoches Parish community of Mink. It seems that the Governor was supposed to be the first person ever to call that community by telephone, but the call failed due to a busy line.

Bolton said she has lived in Mink since 1959 without a phone. She and others started petitioning in 1970 to get a phone line.

Finally, with the help of Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, BellSouth finally extended services to Mink, deep in the Kisatchie National Forest in southern Natchitoches Parish.

From The Town Talk, Mink gets used to novelty of phones, February 1, 2005. Governor Blanco can be reached, via her office, at : (225) 342-0991.

CATS Comment: We here at CATS find it provocative that a Governor would make a comment like that. It shows how telemarketers have made enemies in high places.

This is quite a change from a few years ago when every politician would take political donations from telemarketers and then support the "call center industry." Now many politicians treat telemarketer money like tobacco money, they just refuse to take it. How times have changed!

Our thanks to Bill Cohen for the quote.


January 23, 2005

"But what they [consumers] don't enjoy is getting unwanted calls from telemarketers and others that invade their privacy and consume their calling-plan minutes. It just adds insult to injury when you have to pay for a junk call."

Governor Sonny Perdue (R- Georgia) commenting on the fact that he will ask Georgia lawmakers to pass a bill requiring the publishers of cell-phone directories to obtain a private consumer's permission before printing that person's cell number.

The measure comes just as several major wireless providers prepare to assemble a "Wireless 411 Directory" of cell phone numbers.

The bill, known as the Georgia Wireless Privacy Act, will first go to the Senate, where Republican David Shafer of Duluth will be the lead sponsor.

Shafer said the law would allow cell phone owners to sue a company for civil damages if that company publishes the consumer's number without written consent.

From the Athens Banner-Herald, Telemarketing directory would list cell numbers, January 25, 2005. Governor Perdue can be reached via his office at: (404) 656-1776.

CATS Comment: To drive home the point of this bill, Governor Perdue had members of his staff call reporters on their cell phones during his announcement at a Capitol news conference! Now that action shows some ingenuity. We here at CATS salute you.


January 23, 2005

"The dramatic change in the [telemarketing] industry has created a pressing need for consistency and reliability. A unit independent of call centers available to create broadly accepted standards would satisfy that need. Our goal is to use existing regulations and soon to be developed standards to accredit and audit both inbound and outbound call centers.

“As always, our goal is to comply with laws, while balancing consumer and business interests. A body such as the SRO that incorporates voices of business and consumers will enhance the industry’s commitment to quality service and provide a better mechanism for compliance.”

Tim Searcy, CEO of the American Teleservices Association (ATA) commenting about the ATA's intention to form a self-regulatory organization (SRO). The SRO will initially focus on ensuring knowledge and compliance with existing state and federal laws, but plans to develop standards in areas where little Federal or state legislation exists.

The ATA plans to incorporate feedback from interested groups and launch the SRO after the 1st of the year.

From a press release issued by the ATA, American Teleservices Association Announces New Self-Regulatory Organization, ATA Committed to Preserving Teleservices Industry, October 5, 2004. Mr. Searcy can be reached via the ATA at: (317) 816-9336.

CATS Comment: What a great idea! Imagine the telemarketing industry regulating itself. Think of all the time and money that aggrieved consumers would save if the ATA can make this work. No more FCC and FTC complaints, and no more small claims court cases.

We at CATS have good news for the ATA. It seems that a major retailer is using a ruse to generate inbound telemarketing calls in order to sell a credit card "protection plan." We have asked this major retailer for a copy of their "Do-Not-Call" policy, but we have been ignored.

Last week CATS founder, Robert Arkow, e-mailed the ATA and stated the following:

I wish to file a complaint against a company using your new SRO (Self Regulating Organization). How do I do it? Do I need to fill out a form? What is the time frame for relief? Can you provide other details about the function of your SRO?

We shall keep you informed of his progress with ATA's new SRO.


January 16, 2005

"Missourians have embraced this [do-not-call] law in an unprecedented fashion, both in registering their telephone numbers on the list and in reporting violations to our office. We will continue to uphold our end of the deal by taking swift and decisive action against telemarketers who cross the line and violate the law."

Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon commenting on the his aggressive enforcement of Missouri’s No Call law by filing a lawsuit against ADT Security Services Inc, a nationally known alarm system company. Nixon said that they had repeatedly violated the law by making telemarketing calls to consumers on the No Call list.

From a press release by the Missouri Attorney General's office, Nixon sues nationally known alarm system company for repeated violations of Missouri’s No Call law, August 7, 2001. Attorney General Nixon can be reached, via his office at: (573) 751-3321.

CATS Comment: Jay Nixon is at it again. Too bad our California Attorney General doesn't go after telemarketers like Mr. Nixon does.

We know of one California consumer who received a call from an ADT dealer and was told that he was "selected" to receive a free home alarm and installation. All he had to do was pay the monthly monitoring fee.

This consumer asked the caller for a copy of ADT's written "Do-Not-Call" policy. When he was hung up on, he contacted ADT's corporate headquarters and filed a lawsuit. The dealer settled the case out of court.

Needless to say, ADT was, shall we say, alarmed?


January 9, 2005

"Thanks to complaints we received from No Call team members, we were able to crack down on these telemarketing calls that should not have been made. The money Jack Price Sports is paying will be put right back into the No Call program to further help protect Missourians from unwanted telemarketing calls."

Missouri Attorney Jeremiah "Jay" Nixon, commenting on the action his office took against a California sports betting telemarketer. The telemarketer made illegal calls to Missouri residents to offer tips on point-spread betting on sports events. They wound up paying the state of Missouri $15,000 for making telemarketing calls in violation of the Missouri No Call law. Attorney General Jay Nixon obtained the court-approved assurance of voluntary compliance today in St. Louis City Circuit Court against Marc Meghrouni, of Irvine, California, owner of Jack Price Sports.

From a press release from the office of Missouri Attorney General, California firm making telemarketing calls to offer point spreads on sports events ordered to pay Missouri $15,000, September 9, 2004. Attorney General Nixon can be reached at: (573) 751-3321.

CATS Comment: It seems that Mr. Meghrouni made a good bet when he made the calls from California. A check of the California Attorney General's web site reveals that his office rarely prosecutes telemarketers, despite the fact that Californians got a record number of calls last year.

While CATS is not in the business of handicapping or odds making, we'll bet we know who the losers will be: California consumers.


January 2, 2005

"U.S. Bank will celebrate "The Family Business" with a float in the 2005 Tournament of Roses Parade on Jan. 1, 2005 in Pasadena, Calif.

"The Family Business" will be the sixth float and the fourteenth entrant in this year's parade. It is a 50-foot long floral produce truck depicting a family business that was established in 1863, the same year that U.S. Bank was founded."

From a press release from US Bank regarding their float in the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade, December 31, 2004. US Bank can be reached via their media relations persons, Steve Dale, 612-303-0784, steve.dale@usbank.com or Teri Charest, 612-303-0732, teri.charest@usbank.com.

CATS Comment: US Bank seems to think that the "Family Business" should be everybody's business. According to a complaint filed in US District Court by the Minnesota Attorney General, it seems that US Bank entered into an agreement with MemberWorks, a telemarketing company, to provide them with confidential information about the bank’s consumer depositors and credit cardholders for telemarketing purposes.

The Bank provided the telemarketer with customer's name, address and telephone numbers of primary and secondary customers, checking account numbers, credit card numbers, social security numbers, date of birth, account status and frequency of use, gender, marital status, homeowner status, occupation, date account was opened, average account balance, year-to-date finance charges for credit card accounts, behavior score, bankruptcy score, credit insurance status, and last credit card purchase information.

According to the complaint, US Bank and US Bancorp were guaranteed a minimum payment of $4,025,000 by MemberWorks for the provision of confidential bank customer information, as well as commissions equal to 22% of net membership revenue from sales to US Banks’ customers.

The Bank eventually settled the lawsuit for 3 million dollars and agreed to stop the practice.

So let's recap. US Bank got 4 million plus 22% of sales for providing 'family information' to Memberworks. They had to pay 3 million to the State of Minnesota to settle the lawsuit. So the bank made a cool million plus.

Family Business????? It seems to us here at CATS, that US Bank gave its customers' families the business.

Quotes from 2004