Quotes from 2006

Read anything outrageous from our wonderful friends in the telemarketing industry?  E-mail it to us! It may be our next "Quote Of The Week!"

December 31, 2006

"This annual report should serve as a reminder of the need to make informed decisions before contributing hard-earned dollars to charity.

"I urge charitable organizations to seek bids from several professional fundraisers to ensure that the organizations' fundraising campaigns yield the most money possible for charitable programs."

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer commenting about a report he released that reveals the fact that, on average, only a little over a third of the money raised by telemarketing campaigns goes to charity while the balance is used to pay fees and expenses associated with the fundraising.

The 12th annual report, Pennies for Charity, Where Your Money Goes: Telemarketing by Professional Fund Raisers, summarizes information filed with the Attorney General's Charities Bureau by professional telemarketers who conducted fundraising campaigns in New York State in 2005.

In 2005, telemarketers raised $189.6 million through the 582 telemarketing campaigns included in the report. Charities retained $73.2 million, or 38.61 percent, of the funds raised. The remainder - $116.4 million - was paid to the telemarketers as fees and other costs of the campaigns.

Among the other significant findings of the Attorney General's report are:

• In only nine percent of the fundraising campaigns did the charity retain at least 65 percent of the money raised, the amount deemed acceptable under the Better Business Bureau's standards for charitable organizations;

• Charities received less than half of the funds raised in 75 percent of the 2005 telemarketing campaigns; and

• Twenty-three charities actually lost money and five received no money at all under their fundraising contracts.

To download a copy of the report click here.

From a press release from the New York Attorney General's office, ANNUAL REPORT SHOWS HOW TELEMARKETERS PROFIT FROM CHARITABLE GIVING - Spitzer Urges Donors to be Make Informed Charitable Donations, December 27, 2006. Attorney General Spitzer can be reached, via his executive office at: (518) 474-7330.

CATS Comment: Way to go Eliot! Too bad our Attorney General in California doesn't take a similar action.

CATS wishes all our viewers a Happy (and telemarketing-free) New Year.

December 24, 2006

"With a supreme arrogance and nary a hint of contrition, these defendants -- economic predators all -- blithely swindled tens of thousands of extraordinarily vulnerable, low-income individuals as part of this telemarketing fraud scheme. The defendants’ actions were repulsive, and the Justice Department is pleased that these criminals will now be spending a significant part of their lives under federal incarceration.

“They used lies and double-speak instead of guns and bullets to steal from poor people, but the end result was the same. The defendants callously baited their victims with promises that, for a fee of about $219, the victims would receive a major credit card. In reality, the defendants knew that their credit-challenged customers would never be approved for a legitimate credit card, and not a single customer actually received one. Instead, the defendants mailed out applications for credit cards that were worthless to the customers who received them."

U.S. Attorney Bradley J. Schlozman commenting about the fact that the co-owners and seven office managers of telemarketing firm Gecko Communications, Inc., were sentenced in federal court for their roles in $15.6 million telemarketing scheme that defrauded an estimated 83,000 victims nationwide.

Gecko purchased lists of credit-challenged persons from various brokers. Telemarketers made unsolicited telephone calls to those residents throughout the United States and made false offers to provide pre-approved credit cards to those consumers who agreed to debit their bank accounts for an amount ranging between $159.95 and $229.95. As a result of this telemarketing scheme, an estimated 83,000 consumers were defrauded of approximately $15,687,000 between August 1999 and February 2001.

From Joplin.com, Gecko Communications Owner, Managers Sentenced in $15.6 Million Telemarketing Fraud, December 19, 2006. US Attorney Schlozman can be reached, via his office, at: (800) 733-6558

CATS Comment: Those telemarketers at Gecko Communications were sure busy making calls! In fact, while they were busy defrauding consumers, they received an industry award!

That's right, according to Customer Inter@ction Magazine (formerly Telemarketing Magazine) they were declared number 49 in the Sixteenth-Annual Top 50 Outbound Teleservices Agencies in 2001.

Not only did they receive a coveted industry award, now the US Government has provided the co-owners and seven office managers of Gecko Communications with an all expenses paid, multi-year long vacation at the world famous Graybar Hotel and Resort!

We, here at CATS, give a round of applause to U. S. Attorney Bradley J. Schlozman! Go - Bradley - Go!

December 17, 2006

"The charity, meanwhile has halted fundraising under allegations that only 19 cents of every dollar raised goes back to victim services and the fight against drunk driving -- the rest goes to paying telemarketers. "

Diana Meder, a reporter with Bayshore Broadcasting Corp. reporting on a local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

From Bayshore Broadcasting's News web page, MADD still says you should donate, December 15, 2006. Ms. Meder can be reached, via Bayshore Broadcasting, at: (519) 376-2030.

CATS Comment: Let's recap, shall we? Mothers Against Drunk Driving hires a telemarketing company to get donations for their cause. Then the telemarketing company keeps over 80% of the donations given to MADD.

If we, here at CATS, did a similar thing to raise funds, it would drive us to drink!

December 10, 2006

"This bill will close some major loopholes in the existing law,  With a stronger law, we can further protect consumers from unwanted intrusions."

Missouri State Rep.-elect,Charlie Norr (D-NW Springfield), commenting about a bill that he is co-sponsoring that will close major loopholes in Missouri’s No-Call List law.

The bill, which legislators plan to present when session begins Jan. 3, would expand the list to include cell phone numbers, prohibit faxed telemarketing solicitations and stop automatic phone messages from political candidates and campaigns.

About 2.4 million phone lines are on the state’s No-Call List.  The bill is Norr’s first since he was elected to the Missouri State House Nov. 7 to represent northwest Springfield’s District 137.

From the Springfield Business Journal, Bill would expand No-Call List law, December 7, 2006.  Representative Norr can be reached at: (417) 831-6944.

CATS Comment: Again, the states have to close loopholes and enforce laws that the Federal Government fails to enforce.

Congratulations, Charlie, on your recent election to Missouri's 137th district.  It looks like you are getting off to a good start.

After you are done in Missouri, we could sure use you in California!

December 3, 2006

"[Discover] fought the suit for just under three years, all the while admitting they made the calls but claiming they weren't liable because they were merely trying to reach someone else.

"I'm not doing this for the money. I want people to know they have recourse. I encourage them to sign up for the [DNC] registry. It's very easy to do online at the Federal Trade Commission's Web site."

Diana Mey, a Wheeling, WV, homemaker whose no-call lawsuits against corporations have made national headlines, commenting on her recent victory against Discover card.

Ms. Mey is sometimes referred to in the media as the "Erin Brockovich" of telemarketing.

Mey said she moved to a new home in November 2002 but called Discover in October 2002 to provide her new number and to reiterate her request not to be solicited by telephone. Ms. Mey was a Discover cardholder at the time.

Discover initiated a campaign in January 2003 to solicit new cardmembers, according to Ms. Mey and the ruling, and began calling her number, asking for one of its previous owners, Susan Meyer.

Mey sued in December 2003 over the calls, and Discover filed a motion to have the case moved into arbitration. The hearing was held in September 2006, with the arbitrator's decision made Nov. 7.

From DM News, Privacy advocate wins $19,500 in ruling, November 29, 2006. Ms. Mey can be reached, via her web site at: www.dianamey.com.

CATS Comment: Diana Mey certainly has the Christmas spirit. Thanks to her, we all can know who is naughty and nice!

Congratulations on your victory Diana. You go girl!

November 26, 2006

"Training of personnel engaged in telemarketing. Personnel engaged in any aspect of telemarketing must be informed and trained in the existence and use of the do-not-call list."

Code of Federal Regulations, Title 47, Volume 3, commonly referred to as the rules to implement the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

These are the rules that the FCC wrote to enforce the act. They were revised and the new rules were put into effect on October 1, 2004.

From the U.S. Government Printing Office via GPO Access, Title 47--Telecommunication Chapter I, Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Part 64, Miscellaneous rules relating to common carriers. The FCC can be reached at: (888) 225-5322 (1-888-CALL FCC).

CATS Comment: OK...Let's take a critical look at this rule. The FCC says that "Personnel engaged in any aspect (emphasis added) of telemarketing must be informed and trained in the existence and use of the do-not-call list."

So let's say I go to my local MegaAppliance electronics store to purchase a refrigerator. I purchase the refrigerator and tell the salesman (after he pitches an extended warranty) that I do not want the warranty, and I ask that they not call me after a year to pitch it again.

He responds that MegaAppliance does not do telemarketing. He then asks for my home phone number, so they can schedule delivery of my new refrigerator. Since he has assured me that they do not do telemarketing, I give him the number.

Sure enough, about a year later, I get the call offering to extend the warranty.

Clearly, I chose not to receive calls, yet they called. Let's look at the telemarketing process in detail.

The salesperson writes up the order, the information technology person puts the customer's phone number in a database and the telemarketer calls about a year later to pitch the warranty. So all three people are involved in "in any aspect" of the telemarketing process.

In fact, one could argue that the salesperson is the most important individual in the process. Simply put, if the salesperson does not capture the customer's phone number, the process cannot happen.

So, if you accept that premise, then the salesperson should be "informed and trained in the existence and use of the do-not-call list." Thus, the salesperson should be able to provide me with a copy of MegaAppliance's written Do-Not-Call" policy "upon demand" as the law requires.

Good luck trying to get one!

November 19, 2006

"The peace and quiet they have from telemarketing calls is interrupted every two years by these robo-calls, and 2006 has been the worst year yet."

Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon urging protection from automated political calls. He claims that some Missourians reported receiving as many as eight of them in a single night in the final days of the midterm elections.

Nixon, standing with half a dozen lawmakers in St. Louis, urged Missouri legislators to pass a law in 2007 protecting 2.3 million Missouri families on the state's No Call List from automated political calls. Such calls currently are not covered by the No Call law.

Nixon said he would like a prohibition on automated political calls to be part of a larger bill that would stop telemarketing calls to cell phones and junk faxes to fax machines. Bills attempting to do just that in 2004 and 2006 cleared the Senate but never got out of a House committee.

Half a dozen St. Louis-area legislators joined Nixon at the news conference and said they supported the effort. Legislators can prefile bills for the 2007 General Assembly starting Dec. 1.

Nixon said a few states have laws prohibiting automated political calls. Minnesota's has been upheld in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, the circuit that includes Missouri.

Any legislation covering automated calls should make exceptions for calls from a doctor or dentist's office to remind a patient of an appointment, or from a business notifying a customer when an order has arrived, Nixon said.

From the Bellevue News Democrat/Associated Press, Nixon: Automated political calls should be added to no-call law, November 15, 2006, Attorney General Nixon can be reached, via his office, at: (573) 751-8844.

CATS Comment: You rock Jay! Its too bad that California's current Attorney General did not weigh in on the subject, and both the candidates running for the job of Attorney General refused to address the issue either.

When all the other states outlaw automated political calls, then maybe our leaders will address the issue. California has gone from being a leader to being dead last on so many issues. Why should telemarketing enforcement be any different?

November 12, 2006

"What's happening is that outbound calling is changing, and it's going from blind calling which by the end had a very, very small success rate (we're talking one or two percent), to relationship calling which is a very positive event for everybody involved.

"DNC [Do-Not-Call] did not kill outbound dialing. DNC prevented companies from disruptive dialing, and therefore, I think it's tremendously positive. It also basically challenges companies to figure out how to build relationships with their customers. If a company has a relationship with a customer, then they are allowed to call them. But it just has to be done in a much more meaningful way. I think that's really positive; it's certainly been positive for everyone I've spoken to. What DNC did was alter the landscape of dialing, and it basically forced companies to get smart about how they reached out to their customers, and it’s to the benefit of the enterprise and the benefit of the consumer."

DMG Consulting LLC's president and Call Center Magazine columnist Donna Fluss commenting about how the Do-Not-Call laws have improved the telemarketing industry.

From Call Center Magazine, DMG Consulting's Donna Fluss on Dialing, November 10, 2006. Ms. Fluss can be reached at: (973) 325-2954.

CATS Comment: Wow! Here's another telemarketing executive that admits that the Do-Not-Call laws have benefited the industry. Hats off to you, Ms. Fluss, for your honesty.

November 5, 2006

"Our extensive political experience means that our GOTV [Get Out The Vote] efforts and results are unequaled. FLS uses political experience, state-of-the-art technology and a geographically neutral dialect to turn your voters out on Election Day - at a very competitive price. In the event that we reach answering machines, digitally recorded messages from your candidate are left, maximizing the campaign's GOTV efforts. "

Feather Larson & Synhorst (FLS) -- a St. Paul, Minn., company hired by many Republican groups around the country commenting on one of their many services. They promise calls with neutral accents.

Recently in Indiana, where automatic telemarketing calls are illegal, the company was forced to use live callers -- and many of them apparently had heavy foreign accents. One of their clients, Rep. Mark Souder (R-Indiana), told the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette that in one call left on his daughter's answering machine, the only word he could understand was "Hayhurst" -- the name of his Democratic opponent, Tom Hayhurst.

Ironically, the message was to oppose Hayhurst's position on immigration!

From Feather Larson & Synhorst's web site (www.flsconnect.com), our services page, date of posting unknown. They can be reached, toll free, at: (866) 557-2006.

CATS Comment: How embarrassing! But then you have to assume that Senators and Congressmen can be embarrassed. Here, at CATS, we have found that our legislators have little shame, especially when it comes to election time.

Many California residents are so sick of the political junk mail and junk calls, that they have stopped voting. Can you blame them?

October 29, 2006

"Parts of our business actually improved because of the Do Not Call list. I didn't expect it to improve. Obviously, we're very happy to see that."

Arthur W. Conway, President, Chief Executive Officer of DialAmerica Marketing, Inc. commenting about the National "Do-Not-Call" list law. According to Conway, the predicted doom and gloom has not materialized.

DialAmerica Marketing Inc., is the nation's largest privately owned telemarketer.

Conway joined DialAmerica in 1976 and was named Chief Executive Officer of DialAmerica in 1991. He was elected and currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Direct Marketing Association. In this capacity, he is very active in the area of legislation and was the only telemarketing leader selected to participate in the FTC’s three-day panel on the proposed TSR regulations in June 2002. He received his BA in Mathematics from Lafayette College, his MBA from Columbia University and was previously employed at Price Waterhouse, New York from 1970 –1976.

From NorthJersey.com, It could've been worse, October 25, 2006. Mr. Conway can be reached, via DialAmerica, at: (201) 327-0200.

CATS Comment: At last, some honesty! We here at CATS commend you for your candor, Mr. Conway, especially when you consider the fact that you have previously made negative comments about the "Do-Not-Call law such as: "The industry doesn't need another layer of do-not-call lists."

A little honesty goes a long way. We commend you.

October 22, 2006

"Whereas we disagree with the FTC’s decision, we as well as our clients are pleased that the FTC has provided sufficient time to adjust their campaigns to comply with the rules by January 2007. In addition, the clarification about when the rules apply and the express consent exemption establishes a prudent path to follow, enabling our clients to continue to deliver messages, which their customers have clearly indicated they desire to receive. We understand and respect the FTC’s decision and will work with our clients to insure full compliance with the rules within the new limits that have been established."

Jesse Crowe, President of Voice Mail Broadcasting Company (VMBC), commenting about a decision by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), to reject a petition from his company that would have let telemarketers deliver prerecorded solicitation calls with an opt-out option to consumers with whom the seller has an established business relationship.

In 2003, the FTC amended the Telephone Sales Rule to include a provision limiting the proportion of calls to consumers that telemarketers may "abandon" without risking FTC enforcement action. In an abandoned call, the consumer answers but finds no one on the line. To remedy such calls, the FTC amended the TSR to prohibit call abandonment but permitted telemarketers to play a prerecorded message when a consumer answers, in a maximum of 3 percent of calls answered by consumers in person.

VMBC petitioned the FTC to change the abandonment provisions to let telemarketers place calls delivering a prerecorded message to consumers with whom the seller has an established business relationship. In seeking public comment, the FTC received about 13,600 responses to the proposal, with more than 13,000 in opposition. The FTC cites widespread consumer opposition as one reason for its rejection of the proposal.

From a press release from VMBC, Consumer Contact Preference Survey Juxtaposes FTC Decision. Recently Released Survey on Consumer Contact Preferences Proves Contradictive to FTC’s Decision Limiting Use of Pre-recorded Messages in Telemarketing, October 3, 2006. Jesse Crowe can be reached via VMBC, at: (877) 840-8622.

CATS Comment: Wow! The FTC says that they rejected Mr. Crowe's proposal due to 'widespread consumer opposition.' Finally, the FTC is starting to listen to consumers when it comes to making its rulings.

Now if Congress would just create a 'private right of action' in the FTC's rulemaking (currently you have to have over $50,000 worth of damages to sue under the Telephone Sales Rule.) consumers could enforce the rules and not depend on the government.

Now that would be something to Crowe about!

October 15, 2006

"The time and effort spent by my office in fighting the appeals through the North Dakota Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court is considerable.

"North Dakota's do-not-call law has now survived court challenges at every level. Telemarketers should finally get the message that North Dakota may, and will, aggressively enforce its do-not-call law."

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem commenting on an unsuccessful U.S. Supreme Court challenge by a telemarketing firm to a North Dakota law that bars telemarketers from making prerecorded interstate calls to the state's residents.

The North Dakota do-not-call law says callers cannot use "robo-call" machines unless a live operator first obtains the subscriber's consent before a prerecorded message is delivered.

The Virginia-based political polling firm, FreeEats.com, argued that the North Dakota law is pre-empted by the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act which allows prerecorded non-commercial calls. Justices declined to review a state Supreme Court ruling upholding the law.

North Dakota's Supreme Court in April affirmed a $20,000 penalty against the company for making political survey calls to thousands of North Dakotans in August 2004.

From the Bismark Tribune, Supreme Court upholds N.D. telemarketing law, October 11, 2006. Attorney General Stenehjem can be reached, via his office, at: (701) 328-2210.

CATS Comment: Way to go Wayne! While North Dakota residents have an Attorney General that will "...aggressively enforce its do-not-call law," Californians have an Attorney General that does little to enforce the laws.

And worse yet, a former Attorney General, who is now a member of Congress, violated Federal Telemarketing law while running for Governor!

Can we get you to move to California, Mr. Stenehjem? You won't have to shovel any snow, and there are lots of telemarketers here to keep you busy! California needs a fine Attorney General like you.

October 8, 2006

"Tim Searcy is CEO of the American Teleservices Association and the world's foremost authority on ‘Do Not Call’ legislation & call compliance."

From a press release from Contact 1-2-1, an Australian call center company commenting on the fact that Australia is adapting a national "Do-Not-Call" (DNC) law similar to the one in the United States. According to Searcy, the Australian legislators appeared to be constructing Do Not Call laws based on flawed principles, as evident in the United States. Searcy warned that if legislators continue down the U.S. path, the local Australian call center industry could expect to lose over 40,000 jobs in a two-year period. It has been estimated that over 1 million jobs have been lost due to DNC in the U.S. alone.

From PR Newswire, 40,000 Australians Could Lose Their Jobs Because of Do Not Call Legislation, August 30, 2006. The press release lists Joe Tawfik, joint Managing Director - Contact 1-2-1, as the contact person for the release. Mr. Tawfik can be reached at: 0411 283 994.

CATS Comment: Hold the phone. Are you saying that Mr. Tim Searcy is "the world's foremost authority on 'Do Not Call' legislation & call compliance?"

On September 21, 2003, Searcy told the Boston Globe that if the U.S. National "Do-Not-Call" list were to be made into law, "It will be like an asteroid hitting the Earth." An asteroid hitting the earth would kill millions of people and could conceivably wipe out the human race.

One of two things is evident by your statement: you either need to get a better 'expert' or we, here at CATS, need to get some of what you are smoking.

October 1, 2006

"Ryan Swanberg of Apple Valley, Minn., is faxing or e-mailing financial institutions and other companies nationwide to request a copy of their do-not-call policies. If the companies fail to comply, he sends them a packet that includes a copy of the law, a draft of a complaint against them, sample policies and an offer to settle.

"Any credit union that solicits business by telephone must be prepared to present a written description of its procedures for taking people off its telemarketing lists on request, according to federal regulations. That regulation applies even if the credit union never called the person making the request. "

From an on-line bulletin, author unknown, by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) warning credit unions to follow the law or face lawsuits from citizens. CUNA can be reached, toll free, at: (800) 356-9655.

CATS Comment: The fact that a company that engages in telemarketing must provide a copy of its written "Do-Not-Call" policy upon demand is old news.

What is news is that Mr. Swanberg, who calls himself a "career plaintiff," wrote a book called "Lawsuit: How I Turned the Tables on Telemarketers and Debt Collectors." According to Amazon.com editorial reviews, Swanberg claims to make more than $100,000 a year by suing companies for telemarketing violations.

Mr. Swanberg seems to have gotten the attention of the credit union industry.

Sadly, this law that was passed in 1992 STILL is not being obeyed. Does it take someone like Swanberg to get companies to comply? Sadly, his method seems to be working.

September 24, 2006

"As a spokesman for the industry, I often am asked for data about our industry’s size and scope.”

Tim Searcy, CEO of the American Teleservices Association (ATA), commenting about the teleservices industry in an article appearing in DM News. Mr. Searcy's article discusses so-called "contact centers" or "call centers" in a report by Steve Morrell, principal analyst at a British company called ContactBabel.

From DM News, Sizing Up the Call Center Industry, September 20, 2006. Mr. Searcy can be reached, toll free at: (866) 500-4272 x103.

CATS Comment: Hold the phone! Since you are now a "spokesman for the industry" we, here at CATS have a question for you .

When the National 'Do-not-call' list was implemented your organization (the ATA) fought it all the way to the Supreme Court. The Direct Marketing Association took a different approach and decided not to fight the law because of the public's negative opinion of telemarketing, and the consumer backlash that would surely happen as a result of that fight.

Considering the fact your organization spent thousands of your member's dollars to fight the law, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, and the tremendous consumer backlash against your organization that resulted, do you now think that the ATA's decision to fight the law was a wise one?

We, as always, will post your answer here, Mr. Spokesman.

September 17, 2006

"The FTC expects full compliance with its orders, period. This case demonstrates that the [Federal Trade] Commission [FTC] will prosecute those who flout its orders and deceive consumers.”

Lydia Parnes, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection commenting on an an FTC complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Justice. That complaint resulted in a federal judge ordering a magazine subscription seller to pay a civil penalty of more than $5.4 million and give up more than $1.6 million of his ill-gotten gains for violating a 1996 Federal Trade Commission consent order and the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR). This is the largest civil penalty the Federal Trade Commission has ever obtained for a violation of a consent order in a consumer protection matter.

Based on an FTC's complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, the court entered a judgment against Richard L. Prochnow of Atlanta. The court had found that Prochnow violated the consent order through his ownership and control of Direct Sales International (DSI), which either directly or through its dealers: (1) failed to disclose or misled consumers regarding the cost of magazine packages and individual magazines; and (2) made weekly cost representations even though consumers could not make weekly payments for the magazine packages.

The court also held Prochnow liable for DSI’s failure to tell consumers that their credit cards would be billed for membership in a buying club unless they called within thirty days to cancel, and its failure to provide consumers with information that would enable them to cancel, in violation of the TSR. The court further found Prochnow liable for false statements to consumers that publishers were paid in advance for magazines, which the Court found to be a violation of the TSR.

In holding Prochnow personally liable for the violations, the court found that he had the authority to control the practices of DSI’s employees and those of the dealers selling magazine subscriptions pursuant to contracts with DSI. The violations of the consent order and the TSR occurred between April 1997 and January 2000, when Prochnow sold DSI. The consent order, which prohibited Prochnow from using deceptive practices to sell magazine subscriptions, had settled FTC charges against Prochnow, then doing business as DSI, and several other corporate and individual parties

From a press release on the FTC's web site, Magazine Seller Will Pay More Than $7 Million, Banned from Telemarketing for Five Years, September 11, 2006. Ms. Parnes can be reached, via the FTC, at (202) 326-2676.

CATS Comment: Interesting tactic, holding the telemarketer personally liable, but will it work? Time will tell, but we at CATS have a more creative approach. Why not require the telemarketer to do some time in the slammer?

And to add insult to injury, why not require that the magazines that the perpetrator was selling be the only reading material available to the perpetrator while he is in the slammer?

Of course, the courts might call that 'cruel and unusual punishment', but we here at CATS like it!
Readers of this web site may remember Tyler Prochnow, the former famous attorney that represented the ATA. He was the subject of many of our "Quote of the Week" posting. We asked Tyler (via e-mail and voice mail) if Richard L. Prochnow was related to him. So far, we have not received an answer, but we suspect that the answer is 'no'. After all, If Tyler defended this case, we suspect that Richard L. Prochnow would have done better in the courts!

Like most telemarketing attorneys, Tyler is a brilliant attorney, capable of a great defense.

September 10, 2006

"The California Supreme Court ruled July 13 that California’s “two-party consent” call monitoring law trumped other states’ “one-party consent” laws. This case has generated significant commentary, generally from the viewpoint of how the decision affects everyday privacy rights.

"California now has sided with Connecticut, ruling that “permitting all ... businesses to regularly and routinely record telephone conversations made to or from California clients or consumers without the clients’ or consumers’ knowledge or consent would significantly impair the privacy policy guaranteed by California law ... At the same time, application of California law will not have a significant detrimental effect on [the other state’s] interests ...”

Joseph Sanscrainte, an associate with Bryan Cave LLC, a law firm based in New York City, commenting about a California Supreme Court decision regarding the taping and monitoring of phone calls.

Sanscrainte points out that it is crucial to the telemarketing industry to provide quality customer/consumer experiences via the telephone, both inbound and outbound calls. Ongoing quality monitoring is not just a helpful tool, it’s a necessity.

From DM News, Call Monitoring Taps Interstate Issue, September 7, 2006. Mr. Sanscrainte can be reached at (212) 541-2045.

CATS Comment: Thinking about taping that nasty, un-invited telemarketing call? Think again. If the telemarketer knows that you taped the call illegally, he could charge you with invading his privacy or wiretapping. So, follow the good counselor's advice--DON'T do it, unless they are aware that they are being recorded.

We, here at CATS, often get questions about taping telemarketing calls. Our favorite way to get a telemarketer's permission to recordthe call is to tell them (by interrupting their pitch and yelling) "OH Dammit--my answering machine just kicked on and it is recording us. If you want, I will run downstairs and turn it off, unless you don't care. It will take about two minutes, or do you care?"

Most telemarketers are very time conscious (their time, not yours), and will tell you that they don't care and continue with their pitch. Since you now have their permission, you are free to tape the call. And be sure to ask them for a copy of their "Do-Not-Call' policy. Failure to provide it can lead to a $500.00 penalty.

September 3, 2006

"Each year, millions of dollars are donated to Colorado charities, yet, not all of this money always ends up with where it ought to go. Consumers should always do their homework about a particular charity before opening their wallet.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers commenting about his department's lawsuit against Xentel, Inc., and Xentel America, Inc. The suit alleges that the companies violated Colorado’s Charitable Solicitation Act (CCSA), No-Call List Act, and Consumer Protection Act (CCPA).

Xentel and Xentel America are for-profit telemarketing companies that made calls to Colorado consumers on behalf of various charities. The State alleges that, in the course of their telemarketing campaigns on behalf of numerous charities, these companies repeatedly violated the state’s registration requirements for charitable campaigns and thereby illegally obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars from unsuspecting Colorado donors.

From a press release on the Colorado Attorney General's web site, Attorney General Suthers Sues National Charitable Fundraiser And Announces Fraud Charges Against Three Local Charities, August 30, 2006. Attorney General Suthers can be reached at: (303) 866-4500 .

CATS Comment: Xentel and Xentel Inc. are repeat offenders when it comes to breaking telemarketing law. According to the Missouri Attorney General's office, Xentel Inc. had to pay $75,000 under a consent order obtained by Attorney General Jay Nixon on May 27, 2004.

It seems that Xentel Inc. was accused of violating Missouri consumer protection laws by using manipulative, high-pressure techniques to solicit donations, and by denying or interfering with consumer requests to be placed on Xentel's own do-not-call list. Xentel Inc. also allegedly violated state law by making repeat solicitation calls to Missourians who asked not to be called.

While we commend your actions against an errant telemarketing company, it should be obvious that fines do not seem to deter this pest. Why not send Xentel's executives to California, where the Attorney General rarely takes action against telemarketers?

May we suggest that you offer Xentel executives a one-way Greyhound ticket to California? The current cost of such a ticket (according to Greyhound's web site) is about $122.00 (Denver to San Francisco). It's cheaper (and probably more effective) than going to court!

August 27, 2006

"Consumers who join the program are entitled to be spared the intrusion of commercial telemarketing calls, and we’re committed to seeing that their privacy is protected. We have little tolerance for companies who flout the law."

Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson commenting on legal action that his office has taken against a Tampa Bay area telemarketer for violating Florida’s “Do Not Call” law.

A lawsuit filed in Pinellas County, Florida Circuit Court alleges that United Vacation Network Inc., of Largo, made at least 7 calls to Florida residents on the state’s “Do Not Call” list during the past 17 months. In addition, the suit claims that at least 4 of the company’s telemarketing calls contained recorded messages, which is a separate violation of state law.

Bronson’s department has collected or obtained judgements of more than $1.5 million against companies that have called residents on the list, and several such legal actions are pending in courts throughout the state.

From a press release by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Bronson Files Lawsuit Against Company For Violating ‘Do Not Call’ Law, August 24, 2006. Commissioner Bronson can be reached at: (850) 488-3022.

CATS Comment: Way to go Chuck! We, here at CATS, have a suggestion for you sir.

There's an old saying that goes something like this: "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!"

Florida has beautiful vacation facilities, so why not send the executives at United Vacation Network on an all expenses paid vacation to the wonderful facilities that the State of Florida has? We think that a 2 week vacation would do these executives good. To see some of the wonderful accommodations that the State of Florida has, click here.

August 20, 2006

"We have stepped up our enforcement, and we will continue to step up our enforcement of do not call over the next few years.

"Every one of our seven regional offices as well as our headquarters has currently active non-public investigations in this area"

Thomas Cohn, senior assistant regional director of the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) Northeast Region commenting about how the FTC investigates violators of the National Do-Not-Call list.

More than 107 million telephone numbers were registered with the national do-not-call registry by the end of fiscal year 2005, according to a Federal Trade Commission report to Congress this month. For a copy of the report, click here.

Compliance with the registry provisions of the amended Telemarketing Sales Rule is high, the report said, and consumers are getting fewer unwanted telemarketing calls.

Americans have embraced the registry. In the four days after its launch on June 27, 2003, 10 million numbers were registered. As of Sept. 30, 2003, nearly 52 million telephone numbers were on it. At the end of FY 2005 (Sept. 30), the registry contained 107,440,316 numbers.

The report also highlighted results from a Harris Interactive survey, which found that 76 percent of U.S. adults had registered their main phone numbers with the registry as of December 2005, compared with 57 percent in 2004. And 92 percent who placed their numbers on the registry reported getting fewer telemarketing calls.

Also, as of fiscal 2005, the FTC had received just 1.2 million complaints, representing about 1 percent of total numbers on the registry at the time.

From DM News, FTC: 107 Million Numbers on DNC Registry, July 28, 2006. Mr. Cohn can be reached at: (212) 607-2808.

CATS Comment: You go get 'em Tom! The FTC "Do-Not-Call" list has been successful because the enforcement has been featured in the news media. Telemarketers, especially Fortune 500 companies, are well aware of the effect of negative publicity on their bottom line.

Mega fines do not seem to deter violators as much as negative publicity. Keep up the good work sir. We appreciate it.

August 13, 2006

"Time in Washington has taught the American Teleservices Association [ATA] that once a politician finds a winning issue, he or she will refuse to let it go.

"Accordingly, teleservices remains a popular focus of regulatory and legislative discussion. Recent visits to our nation’s capital have provided the ATA with insight regarding a possible target for new efforts: the existing business relationship (EBR) exemption to the national do-not-call rules.

"But the EBR exemption is receiving particular scrutiny now because of consumers’ confusion about their rights under the registry. As consumer DNC complaints are sifted and categorized by the Federal Trade Commission, many are found to be legitimate EBR calls and therefore not subject to DNC rules. This means that even though the call was made legitimately to a telephone number based on the business relationship, the household mistakenly lodged a complaint with the FTC.

"One suggestion voiced recently in ATA meetings is to provide more information to the consumer in the opening of the call. In addition to disclosures already required by law, the caller would include the source of the existing relationship and, therefore, the legitimacy of the call."

Tim Searcy, CEO of the American Teleservices Association (formerly the American Telemarketing Association) commenting on the FTC's 'established business relationship' exemption for telemarketing calls.

From DM News, Will the EBR Exemption Survive?, July 31, 2006. Mr. Searcy can be reached, toll free at: (866) 500-4272 x103.

CATS Comment: Ok Tim, Let's try this out. The phone rings at Mr. Consumer's house and he answers it and....

(Telemarketer) Hello Mr. Consumer. How are you tonight?

(Consumer) Fine

(Telemarketer) I'm calling on behalf of Fantasy Timeshares. On March 5, you rented a car from Hope-U-Sav car rentals, a division of Mega-corporation. Fantasy Timeshares is a division of Mega-corporation as well, and thus this call is legal under the 'do not call' rules since you have an established business relationship with Mega-corporation.

(Consumer) Great--put me on Mega-corporation's 'do not call' list, and I would appreciate it if you would send me a copy of Fantasy Timeshare's 'do-not-call' policy, Mega-corporation's 'do not call' policy, and a copy of Hope-U-Sav's 'do not call' policy.

(Telemarketer) [CLICK!]

Yea--its a great idea Tim, justifying your bad behavior using a loophole in the law to invade people's privacy. Consumers on the National 'do-not-call' list do not want ANY telemarketing calls, even from companies with which they do business. Why do you think they got on the list in the first place?

We, here at CATS, are eagerly awaiting your next hair-brained scheme to justify initiating unwanted telemarketing calls to consumers.

August 6, 2006

"This service has been blanketing Missouri with telemarketing calls and apparently paying no heed to our No Call law. We're going to remain vigilant in enforcing the state's No Call law and providing Missourians with peace and quiet, as we have for the past five years the law's been in effect."

Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon commenting about his department's court victory against a California dating service. Nixon is suing Luvoo.com; its owner, Lourdes Y. Van Hoek; and a third company, Telephone Management Corporation, for making the telemarketing calls in violation of Missouri's No Call law. Nixon said the telemarketing calls from the defendants did not fit under any of the exemptions under the law.

Nixon won a temporary restraining order which prohibits the defendants from calling Missourians on the No Call list or from knowingly using any method to block or otherwise circumvent a consumer's caller ID service.

Nixon is asking for a preliminary and permanent injunction against the defendants to prevent them from further violations of the No Call law. He also is asking the court to order them to pay appropriate penalties of up to $5,000 per violation, as well as the costs associated with bringing the lawsuit.

From a press release by the Missouri Attorney General, Nixon sues California online dating service for making telemarketing calls to Missourians on state's No Call list, August 2, 2006. Attorney General Nixon can be reached, via his office, at: (573) 751-8844

CATS Comment: Wow. Talk about looking for love in all the wrong places! It seems that Luvoo.com has done just that!

A request last week for their written "Do-Not-Call" policy was conveniently ignored. This could truly turn out to be a love-hate relationship.

Federal law requires that, even if you call your own customers, you must have a written policy, available upon demand, for maintaining a do-not-call list. In view of the fact that the Missouri Attorney General has won a court victory against Luvoo.com, will they now comply with the law? Do we, here at CATS, have to file a complaint in court as well to get a copy of their policy?

Like all good relationships, time will tell.

July 30, 2006

"The use of TPS [Telephone Preference Service] has gone down significantly since the do-not-call list went into effect. It is a smart decision on the part of the DMA, since being redundant to the federal efforts is not the best use of the association's money"

Tim Searcy, CEO of the American Teleservices Association (ATA) commenting about the decision by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) to phase out its Telephone Preference Service (TPS) as it now exists.

Starting Nov. 1, the DMA will accept no new consumer registrations for the service. Because consumer names stay on the TPS for five years, DMA members will honor consumers' requests not to be called by scrubbing their prospecting lists against the TPS file until Dec. 31, 2011.

DMA will continue to maintain the TPS registry and accept new registrations for residents of Maine, Pennsylvania and Wyoming – states for which the TPS is, by law, the official state registry. The phase out of TPS will not affect other DMA customer preference services, such as the Deceased Do Not Contact List, the Mail Preference Service or the E-mail Preference Service.

From DM News, DMA Will End Telephone Preference Service in Most States, July 7, 2006 Mr. Searcy can be reached, toll free, at: (866) 500-4272 x103.

CATS Comment: C'mon Tim, let's get real, shall we? The TPS was never intended to stop telemarketing calls. The TPS was a ruse, perpetrated by the DMA so that politicians would not pass legislation against the telemarketing industry. It was part of a bigger scheme called "Self Regulation."

It worked for many years until the American Public had had enough and hammered their legislators to pass meaningful legislation, resulting in the National 'Do-Not'Call" list.

And speaking of ruses, what ever happened to the ATA's so-called "Self Regulatory Organization" or SRO that the ATA proposed? The ATA announced in October 2004 that the SRO would help 'self regulate the teleservices industry'.

Every time we here at CATS call the ATA, to inquire about the SRO, it seems that the SRO is "not ready yet." It turns out that we wanted to 'test' the effectiveness of the ATA SRO on a major bank that is violating California State Law with its teleservices practices.

The TPS was conceived to ward off legislation against telemarketers and their practices. We suspect that the SRO has a similar motive. Are we wrong?

We, here at CATS will be happy to post your answer on our web site, should you choose to do so.

July 23, 2006

"Unless all you are doing is making calls to existing customers, you have to purchase that list," he said. "If you fail to purchase that list and you make calls to people -- even if their names are not on the do-not-call list -- that is a violation of the rule.

"I have seen other scenarios similar to this, where you have list providers who are selling these lists and saying they have complied with the Telemarketing Sales Rule and have scrubbed them against various lists and are fine to use. But they are not sophisticated enough to know or they are ignoring the fact that there is an independent obligation on behalf of the seller or telemarketer to still scrub these lists.

"Number one: They made calls to people whose names were on the do-not-call registry, which they shouldn't have. And number two: They never paid to access the list when they were making calls to people.

"Not paying to access the list is an important element of the Telemarketing Sales Rule or no-call provisions that people often fail to realize."

Joseph Lewczak, a lawyer with the law firm of Davis & Gilbert in New York, commenting about a California mortgage broker who will pay $50,000 under a court order filed June 21 on behalf of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The broker is accused of calling tens of thousands of consumers on the national no-call registry for telemarketers and of failing to pay the annual fee required to access the registry.

Though the defendants claimed they relied on service providers for their compliance with the 'Do-Not-Call" (DNC) rules -- specifically by buying "lead lists" of telephone numbers from list brokers such as title companies -- the FTC said it was not enough to rely on the brokers' claims that the lists had been "scrubbed" against the DNC registry. In a scrubbed list, all phone numbers on the registry have been removed no more than 30 days before calls are placed.

Further, though the defendants paid the brokers for the phone lists, they did not properly pay for access to numbers on the registry, leading them to call thousands of registered consumers illegally, the FTC said.

From DM News, Lawyer: List Broker Can't Absolve Caller's DNC Obligation, July 19, 2006. Mr. Lewczak can be reached at: (212) 468-4909.

CATS Comment: According to Mr. Lewczak's on line bio, he claims to represent "numerous multinational, national and local advertising agencies, promotions agencies, advertisers, direct marketers, and telemarketers in connection with all aspects of advertising, promotions, marketing, direct marketing and telemarketing."

Simply put, Mr. Lewczak is a lawyer who represents telemarketers.

We, here at CATS are amused by the articles written by lawyers who represent the telemarketing industry. First and foremost, they show that the industry, and their lawyers, clearly know the law.

Yet when people sue telemarketers, and show the defendant's attorneys the same articles written by these lawyers, the comment usually goes something like this: 'Well, I believe that Mr. Lewczak (or whatever attorney wrote the article) is wrong because (and then the lawyer quotes some obscure case that attempts to make his point.)

Ya gotta just love those fast-talking, issue twisting, case quoting, telemarketing lawyers. They have provided us with some of our best 'Quotes of the Week' as well as some of our most amusing experiences, when dealing with them.

We, here at CATS, appreciate your well written article, Mr. Lewczak. We'll put it in our arsenal of stuff to give to future defendants' attorneys.

July 16, 2006

"Many of my constituents are fed up with how frequent and intrusive these political calls have become. I agree with them and want to empower people to decide for themselves whether they want to continue to have their lives interrupted in this manner.

"Congress never should have exempted political calls in the first place. My bill closes this loophole and gives consumers the choice they should have had all along."

U.S. Congressman and House Republican Conference Secretary John T. Doolittle (R-Roseville, CA) commenting about legislation that he has introduced that allows citizens to apply the National Do-Not-Call Registry to politically-oriented calls. Doolittle’s bill (HR 5325) creates a new and separate category in the National Do-Not-Call Registry that would enable a person to choose whether he wants to opt out of political calls in addition to the business-related calls already covered.

Doolittle’s legislation treats all political calls the same regardless of whether they originate from Members of Congress, candidates running for local office, or 527 political organizations like MoveOn.org.

Since Congress established the National Do-Not-Call Registry in 2003, the number of intrusive and unsolicited calls has dropped significantly. However, unsolicited calls from political organizations were exempted by Congress and are not currently defined as ‘telemarketing’. The Federal Communications Commission has reported that political calls result in the highest number of complaints.

From Congressman Doolittle's web site, Doolittle Gives Consumers Choice to Opt Out of Political Calls, Introduces Bill to expand Do-Not-Call List, June 28, 2006. Congressman Doolittle can be reached at: (202) 225-2511.

CATS Comment: Hold the phone! Let's get this straight. Representative Doolittle, a Republican from Roseville wants to give consumers a choice when it comes to receiving political calls. Let's look at the record, shall we?

CATS was the only organization ever to obtain an FCC ruling against a political call. On April 13, 1999 the FCC ruled against Dan Lungren, the former California Attorney General who ran for Governor.

Attorney General Lungren placed automated calls to thousands of Californians. An example of one of these calls was recorded on an answering machine belonging to Robert Arkow, the founder of CATS. It was recorded on October 15, 1998 at 11:12 AM. Here is a transcript of the call:

Hello, this is Attorney General Dan Lungren, and I'm calling to ask for your vote. As Governor, I'll make public safety and education of our children my top priority. This election is extremely important to the future of California. If you have an absentee ballot, please return it right away. I hope I can count on your support. Thanks a lot.

Mr. Lungren failed to properly identify, a violation of FCC rules. When his staff was confronted by the FCC, it is our understanding that Mr. Lungren told the FCC staff that he was "unaware of the rules." At the time of the violation, he was California's Attorney General!

The letter complaining about the violation was sent (via e-mail and certified mail) on October 17, 1998, over three weeks before the November 3rd election that year. Even though the FCC had over three weeks to act to stop the violations of law, they failed to act until April 13, 1999. By that time, the election was over, and the FCC failed to issue a fine! In essence, nothing happened.

A check of the web site GopCalls.com reveals that most Republicans do not obey the law. You can check out some of their sample calls by clicking here.

While we, here at CATS, commend Congressman Doolittle's efforts in promoting HR 5325, it is our opinion that without a private right of action clause attached to the bill, it will be ineffective.

Perhaps he should call it the "Doolittle Bill". In view of the FCC's past inaction to curb political and telemarketing calls, we feel that the name is quite appropriate.

July 9, 2006

"The next time I call you, you better pick up this phone. I don't want to keep calling and leaving these messages for you. Every time I think about you I just get more and more [angry] and ... I want to come and get you and find you.

"Why? Because I can't stand the sight of you. I see you every day when you go to work. You get up and come home. I'm watching you. I'm watching you. ...You can't see me, but I can see you.

"I hate you, I'm going to get you and your family tomorrow night at [unintelligible]. Don't go near the windows. Don't go near the doors. You might end up missing."

Comments allegedly made by Quintin Streeter, 19, an Oak Park, Illinois telemarketer. Streeter has been charged with harassing a 74-year-old woman in Ohio after he repeatedly called her cell phone late at night and threatened to "get" her.

Streeter was arrested June 22 on a warrant accusing him of menacing by stalking and telecommunications harassment, a felony in Ohio. He is being held without bail in Cook County Jail. He has waived extradition, and Cuyahoga County, Ohio, officials have until July 10 to pick him up, said a county inspector.

Streeter was working for a Chicago telemarketing firm when he called the woman in Euclid, Ohio, about 10 miles northeast of Cleveland, with a product offer. The woman declined and hung up on him, said Euclid Police Detective Sgt. Robert Pestak.

Streeter allegedly then made four late-night phone calls to the woman's cell phone over three days, telling her he was watching her and she should beware of him.

Euclid police traced the calls to Streeter. His bosses cooperated, and confronted him, and Streeter admitted to making the calls and was fired, Pestak said

From the Chicago Tribune, Telemarketer in Oak Park charged with harassment, He allegedly made phone-call threats, June 30, 2006. Streeter may be reachable, via the Cook County Jail at: (773) 869-5245.

CATS Comment: Telemarketers are such wonderful people. Now isn't this the kind of person that you want to invite (electronically) into your home?

Telemarketers, in promoting their wares, often cite telemarketing as "the personal touch" when it comes to selling. Well...frankly, it doesn't get more personal than this!

July 2, 2006

"There are a multitude of differing rules that govern telemarketing practices ... none of these regulate the industry in its entirety, and the most annoying callers have been operating with impunity."

Australia Senator and Federal Minister for Communications, Helen Coonan, commenting about the fact that Australians will soon have the power to permanently hang-up on telemarketers under new laws being debated in the Senate.

The new laws will allow people to put their phone numbers on a Do Not Call Register that telemarketers must respect or face fines. Registration will be available for fixed line and mobile phone numbers and will be free. The call ban will apply to Australian telemarketers and overseas callers working for Australian companies.

Senator Coonan argued the register would allow telemarketers to better pinpoint their target market by removing the numbers of Australians who simply hang up on the often hapless telemarketers.

From theage.com.au, Telemarketers to be permanently cut off, June 21, 2006. Ms. Coonan can be reached at: (02) 6277-7480.

CATS Comment: You go girl! Australia joins other civilized nations that consider residential privacy a human right. Hats off to our friends down under!

June 25, 2006

"The bottom line is that telemarketers are responsible for complying with the Do Not Call provisions of the Telemarketing Sales Rule, and cannot hide behind the claims of their service providers. If a telemarketer purchases a ‘scrubbed’ list, they better make sure that it is current and squeaky clean or else they may be violating the law and subject to penalties."

Lydia B. Parnes, director of the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) Bureau of Consumer Protection commenting about her agency's action against Executive Financial Home Loan Corp., a Southern California-based mortgage broker. As a result of the FTC's action Executive will pay $50,000 under a court order for allegedly calling tens of thousands of consumers who are on the National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry for telemarketers and for failing to pay the annual fee required to access the DNC Registry. In addition, the company and its officers are permanently barred from violating the DNC provisions of the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) and from making illegal telemarketing calls in the future.

Although the defendants claimed they relied on service providers for their compliance with the DNC rules – specifically by buying “lead lists” of phone numbers from list brokers such as title companies – the FTC stated it was not enough for them to rely on the brokers’ claims that the lists had been properly “scrubbed” against the DNC Registry. A “scrubbed” list is one that has had all telephone numbers that are on the DNC Registry removed from it no more than thirty days before calls are placed. Further, although the defendants paid the brokers for the phone lists, they did not properly pay for access to numbers on the Registry, leading them to illegally call thousands of registered consumers.

From a press release by the FTC, Telemarketer Pays the Price for Using Unscrubbed “Lead Lists”, June 21, 2005. Ms. Parnes can be reached via the FTC, at (202) 326-2676.

CATS Comment: You go girl! Right on!!! We are all tired of the excuses that telemarketers use to justify their actions. Its about time someone held them responsible.

We, here at CATS, give you our complete support. When it comes to excuses, we have heard them all.

June 18, 2006

"Every time that phone rings, it's telemarketers. I wonder about the security of that line."

Delaware Governor Ruth Ann Minner commenting about how her secret homeland defense hot line in her office rings occasionally with telemarketing calls, offering, among other things, offers of time-share condominiums and "great deals" on long distance service.

The problem seems to be the random-number call generators that telemarketers use. Telemarketers have been lucking onto hot line numbers almost as long as they have been installed in governors' offices. In 2003, Wisconsin media reported that a telemarketer rattled Governor Jim Doyle by ringing the crisis line just as U.S. troops were launching their first full day of ground combat in Iraq.

Minner, who sits on a homeland security advisory panel of the National Governors Association, mentioned the annoying phone calls while visiting Washington DC recently.

According to Minner's office, the Department of Homeland Security has placed all the hot line numbers on the federal government's Do Not Call Registry, that's supposed to ward off telemarketers.

From azcentral.com, Secret homeland security hotline gets telemarketing calls, June 16, 2006. Governor Minner can be reached, via her office, at: (302) 744-4101.

CATS Comment: Hold the phone! We at CATS have come up with, what we believe, is a far better solution to the problem. Rather than stopping the calls, we suggest that every Federal, State, and Local Government telephone be equipped with a call transfer button programmed to the Taliban's number. Government employees would then be instructed to press that button when they receive a telemarketing call, thus sending the call to the Taliban.

Not only would such a plan help to eliminate telemarketing calls to Government Offices, it could eventually lead to the elimination of the Taliban. To see just how this clever plan would work, click here.
Our thanks to drunkencat.com for the use of their video clip.

June 11, 2006

"Consumers who join the [Florida State 'Do-Not-Call'] program are entitled to be spared the intrusion of commercial telemarketing calls, and we're committed to seeing that their privacy is protected. We have little tolerance for companies who flout the law."

Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson announced Friday that he has taken legal action against Cambridge Marketing and Financial Services Inc. for violating the state's "Do Not Call" law.

The legal action seeks an injunction prohibiting the company from making any future calls to residents on the list and fines of up to $10,000 for each of the calls it made to prohibited phone numbers.

To date, Bronson's department has collected or obtained judgments of more than $1.5 million against companies that have called residents on the list, and several such legal actions are pending in courts throughout the state.

From the Orlando Business Journal, Volusia business cited for 'Do Not Call' violations, June 9, 2006. Commissioner Bronson can be reached at (850) 488-3022.

CATS Comment: This isn't the first time that Cambridge has been sued over telemarketing calls. Last February, Verizon Wireless filed suit against Cambridge when they allegedly called "thousands" of Verizon customers with autodialers telling customers to dial a toll-free number to claim a Ford Explorer as a prize. Some customers received multiple calls, according to Verizon. The case was filed in New Jersey State Superior Court, as the Federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act allows carriers to file complaints at the state level. Verizon Wireless is based in New Jersey.

We, here at CATS, are betting that Cambridge will soon file bankruptcy, and that the assets of the business are probably already hidden from creditors. You will have to stand in line, Commissioner Bronson, to collect your money, if there is any to be collected. We wish you luck.

June 4, 2006

"One of the most prevalent forms of fraud we face today is from bogus telemarketing schemes. The perpetrators of this crime tend to target the elderly because they are the most vulnerable and the most available to telephone solicitors.

"I am so pleased that our program was awarded $2,000 to help create and distribute these educational flyers. I believe this program is especially important in light of the fact that many are still suffering from the after effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita."

Louisiana Attorney General Charles C. Foti, Jr. commenting on a program that he has created for senior citizens. The program proposed by him will include flyers which will contain fraud prevention tips on how to address telemarketing calls and contact information to report possible fraud.

Foti said that part of this program will be financed through a grant awarded to the Attorney General’s office by the National Consumers League.

From Attorney General Foti's web site, Louisiana Attorney General to Start Campaign to Alert the Elderly About Telemarketing Fraud, May 25, 2006. Attorney General Foti can be contacted, via his director, Dianne Shelmire, at: (225) 326-6705.

CATS Comment: You rock Chuck! Protecting senior citizens against unscrupulous telemarketers should be every Attorney General's top priority.

May 28, 2006

"Contact centers are engines for social change in communities. We employ the difficult to place individuals including college students, the elderly, single mothers, veterans and those at risk of falling through the cracks in our society. We provide upward mobility, financial security and lifelong skills to both the aspiring and the forgotten. Unfortunately, our centers operate as silent heroes in cities all over this country."

Tim Searcy, CEO of the American Teleservices Association (ATA), commenting about how the call center industry creates jobs. Mr. Searcy said this during a speech to members of the ATA at their Washington Summit.

From the ATA Challenges Speech, presented by Tim Searcy, ATA CEO, at the ATA Washington Summit, April 4, 2006. To download a copy of the speech, click here. Mr. Searcy can be reached, toll free, at: (866) 500-4272 x103.

CATS Comment: That's wonderful! An industry that "helps those at risk of falling through the cracks in our society." What a wonderful thing your industry is doing.

But wait! - - There's more! - - It seems that your speech about the ATA omitted some facts.

The ATA often tells Congress and other legislators how the telemarketing industry (inbound and outbound) creates jobs for the community. What the ATA does not tell them is that the jobs that they create are, in many cases, not even in the United States.

That's right!

The ATA promotes foreign call centers and even has chapters in India and Canada! It is no secret that Americans are fed up with foreign call centers that cannot communicate effectively with consumers. One only has to go to the trade papers to read the horror stories. Despite these facts, the ATA continues to promote foreign call centers.

So much for the "silent heroes in cities all over this country." Yes, they are silent, silenced by the fact that their jobs went overseas, thanks to fine work of organizations like the ATA.

May 21, 2006

"We're all getting telemarketers' calls. With this ... people get angry because now they're the ones calling the telemarketers. It's an unscrupulous way for the telemarketers to solicit -- and to take advantage of people."

Lisa Wojno (D-Warren), a representative in the Michigan legislature, commenting about Michigan House Bill 4423, which prohibits "reverse telemarketing," a new ploy in which companies leave ominous telephone messages that prompt unknowing consumers to call back -- and then receive a sales pitch.

The measure targets businesses, typically banks or credit card companies, that leave a message on a phone answering machine or voice mail urging a consumer to quickly contact them. The tone of some messages suggests that they may have been victimized by identity theft or fraud.

When the call is returned, the caller is transferred to a telemarketer who makes a sales pitch for one of the company's products or services.

Wojno said her legislation is an "anti-annoyance bill," protecting consumers from the aggravation and stress that such calls can cause. In some circumstances, she said, the consumer must wait until the next morning -- or over an entire weekend -- to return the call before learning the true nature of the contact.

The bill, which Wojno introduced, was passed unanimously by the state House and Senate, and signed into law by the Governor on May 10, 2006.

Under the new law, reverse telemarketing will be added to the list of seven deceptive practices by telemarketers that are illegal in Michigan. A violation carries a maximum penalty of up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.

From the Macomb Daily Online Edition, Law prohibits 'reverse telemarketing' Consumers get sales pitch when returning calls. May 20, 2006. Ms. Wojno can be reached, via her office, at: (517) 373-2275

CATS Comment: As telemarketers are being restricted more and more by the 'no-call' laws, consumers will be exposed more and more to a practice known as inbound telemarketing.

This is not new. On July 2, 2004, DM News, a respected marketing publication, reported the following:

AT&T has faced accusations of a "back-door" marketing scheme involving the erroneous bills. The company began charging an extra fee for customers of its basic, direct-dialed long distance plan, but some consumers who didn't have the plan got charged -- including some who weren't AT&T customers at all. In May, 2004, the company said 1.1 million consumers received erroneous bills, including 200,000 to 300,000 non-customers.

Consumers reported receiving high-pressure upsells when they called AT&T to complain, causing some to think that they had to upgrade their plans to avoid the charges. This led to suggestions that AT&T issued the erroneous bills on purpose to generate inbound calls and avoid the national no-call list. AT&T has denied those accusations.

History will again repeat itself. Now that outbound telemarketing is, for all practical purposes, dead, marketers will find clever (and illegal) ways to get our attention on the phone. And just like outbound telemarketing, inbound telemarketing will be eliminated when consumers get angry and tell their Federal and State Legislators to eliminate the practice.

Hats off to you Ms. Wojno. You are ahead of your time. CATS salutes you.

May 14, 2006

"By banning the charities communications with past, current and prospective donors when made by professional representatives, while permitting calls for purely commercial conduct (for example, newspaper subscriptions, surveys, insurance, debt collection and real estate solicitations), the act unconstitutionally favors commercial speech over fully protected speech"

Errol Copilevitz, a partner in the law firm of Copilevitz & Canter, L.L.C. commenting about various non-profit groups asking the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago to overturn a ruling by a judge who last year upheld Indiana's phone privacy law.

Indiana's law allows charities to solicit over the phone if they use employees or volunteers to call. Professional fundraisers are barred from calling numbers registered on the list. The charities that sued used professional telemarketers to solicit donations.

Four nonprofit groups - The National Coalition of Prayer, the Kentucky-Indiana Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Indiana Troopers Association and the Indiana Association of Chiefs of Police - sued the state in April 2002, saying the anti-telemarketing law violated their right to free speech and thwarted their ability to raise money. The troopers' group later dropped out of the lawsuit.

From the Fort Wayne, Indiana News-Sentinel (Associated Press), Appeals court hears Indiana phone privacy case, May 3, 2006. Errol Copilevitz can be reached, via Copilevitz & Canter LLC's phone number: (816) 472-9000 x238.

CATS Comment: Is it any wonder that we have continuously said that when it comes to telemarketing lawyers, Errol Copilevitz is truly the best in the business? Take the above gem for example.

The average person would have to agree with Copilevitz, as he does present a compelling argument. After all, how could any public official stop the free speech rights of people who want to pray, or the crying out of paralyzed veterans? And everyone supports the police, so why should their speech be restricted? The State of Indiana must be crazy, right?

Copilevitz's argument actually makes us feel sorry for his "poor" clients.

But--hold the phone for just a second........

Seems that the State of Indiana countered that argument with the following: "If the plaintiffs are suggesting that the act is merely an elaborate ruse to punish speech by charities - whose in-house solicitations are exempt - they are simply wrong on the undisputed facts. The very group that they claim receives preferential treatment over them - newspapers - has the exact same exemption from the law as the plaintiffs."

And Steve Carter, the Attorney General of Indiana (who attended the hearing) pointed out (in his legal brief) that it made no sense for the charities to complain when they already had more privileges under the law than telemarketers, and that the law balanced First Amendment rights with household privacy.

So the reality is that no free speech rights are at risk, a charity can call anyone it wants to. But if they hire professional fundrasiers to call donors, those professional fundraisers must not call people on the state's do-not-call list.

No matter what side of the argument you are on, we all can agree on one thing, Errol Copilevitz is the best when it comes to defending the offensive acts of his clients. Hats off to you, Errol, keep up the good work!

May 7, 2006

"An airline had pulled together a list of its best customers and sent them a free 'take your spouse on your next business trip' voucher. An executive at the carrier got the brilliant idea of phoning these spouses --- this was long ago, in an innocent time when consumer privacy was a nicety, and not a corporate covenant -- and asking them how they enjoyed the trip.

"The overwhelming reaction from wives?  'What trip?  My husband didn’t take me on any trip!'"

Richard H. Levey, Senior Writer for Direct Magazine, commenting on a telemarketing campaign gone awry. From Levey's column, Loose Cannon: A Meditation on A Solicitation, May 1, 2006. Mr. Levey can be reached at: (212) 204-4200 x4220

CATS Comment: Ooooops!

April 30, 2006

"Telemarketers deliberately targeted thousands of credit-challenged persons and promised them that, in exchange for a payment of about $219, they would receive a major credit card. In reality, not a single customer received a credit card; at most, victims only received applications for credit cards. These were low-income and credit-challenged people who couldn’t qualify for credit, as the defendants knew, so an application was worthless to them.

"These defendants were preying on vulnerable, low-income victims. They used lies and double-speak to manipulate people, just so they could enjoy six-figure incomes and drive expensive cars. They knew that they were stealing from poor people, but all they cared about was getting the money."

Bradley J. Schlozman, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announcing that the co-owner and three office managers of telemarketing firm Gecko Communications, Inc., were convicted by a federal jury for their roles in a $10.2 million telemarketing scheme that defrauded an estimated 50,000 victims nationwide.

Additionally, Zachery T. Whitehill, 29, of Sahuarita, Ariz.; Jaime E. Cook, 30, of Kansas City, Mo.; Bradley L. Lovstad, 44, of Muscantine, Iowa; and Monty E. Wanless, 30, of Kansas City, Mo.; were found guilty of all charges contained in a Nov. 17, 2004, federal indictment.

From a press release by the US Attorney's offiice, JURY CONVICTS GECKO COMMUNICATIONS OWNER, MANAGERS, IN $10.2 MILLION TELEMARKETING FRAUD, March 26, 2006. US Attorney Schlozman can be reached via the US Attorney's office of Public Affairs, Don Ledford, at: (816) 426-4220.

CATS Comment: Wow! Those telemarketers at Gecko Communications were sure busy making calls! While they were busy defrauding customers, they received yet another "distinction", in 2001, they were declared number 49 in the Sixteenth-Annual Top 50 Outbound Teleservices Agencies in ranking by Customer Inter@ction Magazine (formerly Telemarketing Magazine).

It's nice to see how the telemarketing industry honors the fine people in the business. Let's all give them a round of applause.

April 23, 2006

"It is unlawful for any person, in soliciting a sale or order for the sale of goods or services at the residence of a prospective buyer, in person or by telephone, to use any plan, scheme, or ruse which misrepresents his true status or mission for the purpose of making such sale or order for the sale of goods or services."

California Business and Professions code § 17500.3.(b). These sections were enacted in 1941 based on law that began evolving with a 1905 enactment. Many amendments have occurred since 1941. This section of law is sometimes called the California False Advertising Act. Author of this specific section of the Business and Professions Code unknown.

CATS Comment: With the success of the National "Do-Not-Call" list, most large companies have eliminated outbound telemarketing. But that does not mean that they have stopped selling by phone.

The latest craze in the marketing world is inbound telemarketing. When you call a company for service, or to ask a question, they will play pre-recorded advertising to you while you wait for an operator to answer. We've all had that experience, and it is a modern day annoyance, for sure.

But what if the company lies during the call? Say you got a brand new credit card from a bank. On the card it says that you have to 'authorize' the card by calling a toll free number from your home telephone. So you call the number and punch in your 16-digit card number. Then the recording says "While we are verifying your card, we would like to tell you about a new program from the bank," etc, etc. This lasts for 2 minutes, and then they subject you to yet another pitch.

When you 'authorize' a credit card from home, the bank's computers compare the 16-digit card number with your 10-digit home number that you send via caller-id. (Even if your phone blocks caller-id, the bank gets your phone number because you are calling an '800' number.) They do this for security reasons, to make sure that only you got the card. This is a relatively simple task for the computers to do, and takes less than a few seconds.

The premise of the advertisement is that they are 'waiting to verify your card.' Clearly, this is a ruse, and under California law, is illegal.

It seems that there is a major California bank doing just that. And this bank has been sued successfully over its telemarketing practices in the past! We here at CATS have informed them of the law. Will they "clean up their act?" Time will tell!

April 16, 2006

"The ATA [American Teleservices Association] believes we must adopt a different strategy. We must move quickly and decisively and as one body to affect change. Everything we do must be geared to the dramatic improvement of our delivery to the end user and ultimately our image. We must work on everything. We must make a difference on every call, in every center, and inside every company. In the state houses, on Capitol Hill and in the commissions, we must make a difference in every bill or regulation proposed, and with every politician we meet. Our commitment is to work to this end."

Tim Searcy, CEO of the ATA, commenting about how the ATA has to change in the future.  Mr. Searcy delivered a speech to members of the ATA at their Washington Summit.

From the ATA Challenges Speech, presented by Tim Searcy, ATA CEO, at the ATA Washington Summit , April 4, 2006.  To download a copy of the speech, click here.  Mr. Searcy can be reached, via the ATA, at: (317) 816-9336 x103.

CATS Comment: Bravo Mr. Searcy!  We agree with you on this one.  So let's roll up our sleeves together and take on the lawbreakers among us.

The ATA announced in October 2004 that it intended to create a "Self-Regulatory Organization" or SRO, which would regulate the teleservices industry.  Yet every time we here at CATS call the ATA, it seems that the SRO is "not ready yet."  It turns out that we wanted to 'test' the effectiveness of the ATA SRO on a major bank that is violating California State Law with its teleservices practices. 

Was the SRO a genuine goal, or just a ploy to keep regulators from implementing the National "Do-Not-Call" list?  Let us know, Mr. Searcy, and we will publish your response.

April 9, 2006

"But we do think it's very important that we try to do something about this, because we know that it's an absolute scourge, that the complaints that we've had have just been overwhelming, and we really do need to move to ensure that people can have their telephone number respected rather than abused with sales pitches they don't want."

Australia Senator and Federal Minister for Communications, Helen Coonan, commenting about the fact that Australians can put their number on a national "do not call register" which will start next year.

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.

From ABC Radio News Australia, Govt curtails nuisance telemarketing, April 4, 2006.  Ms. Coonan can be reached at: (02) 6277-7480.

CATS Comment: In a radio interview Ms. Coonan describes telemarketing as an "absolute scourge."  According to Merriam-Webster Online dictionary, scourge is defined as:

1 : WHIP; especially : one used to inflict pain or punishment.

2 : an instrument of punishment or criticism.

3 : a cause of widespread or great affliction.

All three definitions seem to fit in this case.  We agree with the Senator from the land 'down under,' telemarketers are a scourge.  We, here at CATS, wish you great success with your new do not call registry.

April 2, 2006

"After years of prostitution, they know how to listen, look after people and are savvy in selling over the phone."

Gisela Zohren, a German dominatrix-turned-nurse, commenting about a church-run program that offers prostitutes training to become nurses or working the phones as telemarketers. She works at the Midnight Mission, a help center for sex workers in Dortmund, Germany.

According to Zohren, competition in prostitution is fierce, and the days when one could make a decent living out of it are long gone, especially once you hit the thirties.

From Reuters News Service, German prostitutes retrain as nurses, telemarketers, March 30, 2006. Ms. Zohren can be reached, via the Mitternacht Mission (Midnight Mission of Germany) at: 0231/14 44 91, or via e mail at: mitternachtsmission@gmx.de.

CATS Comment: This gives the term "call girl" a whole new meaning!

March 26, 2006

"This is the second time the Attorney General’s Office has sued Debt Solutions, Inc. The Federal Trade Commission [FTC] and our office are concerned that the company continues to market its so-called ‘debt elimination’ program to people who can’t afford more debt. Individuals pay hundreds of dollars for the promise of lower interest rates and rarely, if ever, save money."

Rob McKenna, Washington State Attorney General, commenting on the filing of a complaint this month in U.S. District Court in Seattle, seeking civil penalties and injunctions for violations of federal and state consumer protection laws and the national Do Not Call rule.

The complaint, filed by the FTC and Attorney General’s Office, alleges that Debt Solutions Inc. (DSI), and its affiliates have marketed what they call a “debt elimination program” since at least 2002 through unsolicited phone calls to consumers nationwide and advertisements on several Internet sites, including www.debt2wealth.com and www.acceleratedfinancialinc.com. Consumers were charged between $399 to $629 for the program.

From a press release on the Washington State Attorney General's, web site, Attorney General, FTC File Lawsuit Against Debt Solutions, Bogus ‘Debt Elimination Program’ Fails to Deliver Lower Interest Rates, March 21, 2006. Attorney General McKenna can be reached, via his office, at: (360) 753-6200.

CATS Comment: No surprise here, consumers get the short end of the stick again. The complaint against DSI alleges that they called phone numbers on the Do Not Call Registry and continue to call people who previously asked not to be contacted. (Where have we heard this before?!!)

In August 2004, McKenna's Office brought an action in Spokane Superior Court against DSI and its affiliates for similar violations, including high-pressure sales tactics and misleading pitches. The parties settled and DSI agreed to pay $250,000 in civil penalties, with all but $25,000 suspended on condition of compliance with the terms.

Despite that action, DSI seems to be at it again. So it now appears that DSI views these actions as a 'cost of doing business,' since they continued to violate the law again, especially after being caught once.

DSI continued to call consumers in violation of the law, even after their agreement with the Spokane Superior Court! Despite the actions of the Washington State Attorney General and the FTC, DSI's dialers kept cranking out calls.

Until consumers have laws with teeth that THEY can enforce themselves, we will see a lot more companies doing exactly what DSI did.

March 19, 2006

"The ATA has been predicting for a few years now that once issues around outbound telesales were addressed to regulators' satisfaction, a new interest around inbound sales, customer service and technical product support would emerge. The new legislation the ATA is tracking confirms that interest is growing at the state level."

Tim Searcy, the CEO of the American Teleservices Association (ATA) commenting on the proposed new laws that would have an effect on the telemarketing industry. Presenters will discuss inbound regulations at the ATA's summit in Washington next month, the association said.

From DM News, ATA Eyes Inbound Legislation, March 15, 2006. Mr. Searcy can be reached, via the ATA at: (317) 816-9336, x103.

CATS Comment: Large corporations often use automated phone systems to answer customer calls for questions and service. We all have heard the expression (often an outright lie) that "Your call is important to us."

In this case, history will repeat itself again. In the 1980's, companies hooked up computers to telephones in order to place outbound telephone calls to sell consumers products and services. This is known as 'outbound telemarketing.' Consumers were fed up with the annoying calls so they pressured their legislators to pass laws like the National "Do-Not-Call" list. As a result, outbound telemarketing is now heavily regulated.

So companies now use automated systems to answer their inbound phone calls and use those systems to play advertisements to us. This is called 'inbound telemarketing.' Who wants to listen to advertising when you call a company with a service issue? You simply want to reach a human. Again, consumers upset with this practice are pressuring their legislators to do something.

American consumers have found many ways to avoid advertising. They throw away junk mail, hang up on telemarketers, make sandwiches during TV commercials, and switch stations on their car radios.

But if consumers call a company for service, they are forced to listen to the company's advertisements over the phone as they wait for the company's agent to answer. If one tries to ignore the advertising (by putting the call on hold,) when the agent answers the call and does not get a response, the agent simply disconnects. As a result, the consumer has to start the process all over again, thus taking even more of the consumer's precious time.

Advertisers say that getting the consumer's attention is paramount to the success of the advertisement. Since the customer must pay attention to the call in order to reach an agent, and considering the low cost of long distance and toll-free '800' number services, inbound advertising is clearly cost-effective advertising. And with all the rules about outbound telemarketing now a reality, companies are going to be putting us on hold more and more.

Unfortunately, while it is cost-effective to do, inbound telemarketing has the negative effect of angering consumers, and like outbound telemarketing, it is now causing legislators to look at the practice as their constituents complain. As a result, legislators will pass laws to regulate inbound telemarketing and customer service issues like they did for outbound telemarketing.

We agree with Mr. Searcy. As the members of his organization anger the American consumer with their practices, they should be afraid. Very afraid.

March 12, 2006

"The funds raised by ATA-PAC [American Teleservices Association-Political Action Committee] were contributed to Members of Congress and candidates for Congress who have been sensitive to the interests of teleservices, or are in a position to influence legislation affecting the teleservices industry.

"Senator George Allen (R-VA), Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX), Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Congressman Ted Strickland (D-OH), Congressman Lee Terry (R-NE), and Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) are the most recent supported by ATA-PAC."

Posting on the American Teleservices Association (ATA) web site. Author and posting date unknown. For information on the ATA-PAC, contact the treasurer of the PAC, Tim Searcy, via the ATA at: (317) 816-9336.

CATS Comment: Looks like the ATA is at it again! After an unsuccessful trip to the US Supreme Court (to block implementation of the National 'Do-Not-Call' list) the organization that claims that it is "dedicated exclusively to the teleservices industry" now wants to support members of Congress and candidates for Congress that are "sensitive to the interests of teleservices or are in a position to influence legislation affecting the teleservices industry."

What this really means is anybody's guess, and is subject to interpretation. But a review of the Federal Election Commission's (FEC) web site reveals that the ATA-PAC failed to meet the deadline five times in the last two years for filing the proper disclosure reports required by law.

The ATA offers "compliance seminars" to help telemarketers comply with the law. We, here at CATS find it somewhat amusing while the ATA claims to help telemarketers obey the law, they themselves appear to be in violation of the the laws and/or rules set down by the FEC.

Would you expect any less from the organization that represents telemarketers?

To see a FEC sample warning notice, sent to the ATA via Western Union, click here. To go to the FEC's web page that has the ATA-PAC information click here.

March 5, 2006

"The National Do Not Call Registry and company-specific do not call lists give consumers a choice – and a voice – about whether they want telemarketing calls. When consumers speak, companies must honor their requests. It’s not only good business, it’s also the law."

Lydia Parnes, Director of the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) Bureau of Consumer Protection, commenting about the FTC's most recent action brought against a company for failing to stop calling consumers who asked to be put on the company’s own do not call list.

The FTC alleged that Bookspan called more than 100,000 consumers on the National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry. The complaint and proposed order were filed in court today by the U.S. Department of Justice on the Commission’s behalf. The FTC alleged that Bookspan, a partnership of Book of the Month Club Holdings, LLC and Doubleday Direct, Inc., called tens of thousands of consumers who previously asked to be put on its own (“entity-specific”) do not call list, and also unlawfully called consumers on the DNC Registry. The court order settling the case bars the company from violating the FTC Act and Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) in the future. The DNC Rule is part of the Commission’s TSR provisions.

From a press release on the FTC's web site, Book Club Direct Marketer to Pay $680,000 for Do Not Call Violations, Book-of-the-Month Club Partnership Called Over 100,000 Consumers on DNC Registry; Continued Calling Customers Who Specifically Asked Not to be Called, February 23, 2006. Ms. Parnes can be reached via her office at: (202) 326-2676.

CATS Comment: We again commend the FTC for taking action against unlawful and intrusive telemarketing but we, here at CATS, have to ask a question: Did the consumers that had their privacy violated get any redress?

When the FTC gets 'settlements' with violators, consumers typically get nothing. As consumers 'wise up' to the FTC's way of doing business, they will stop filing complaints with the agency. The lack of response and redress by the FTC will cause consumers to be 'trained' to not file complaints with them.

Why complain to the FTC when all you will get is (maybe) a form letter acknowledging your complaint? As the complaint numbers go lower, the agency will eventually cite the reduction of complaints as proof that they are successful in enforcing the law.

By the way, the FTC settled the Bookspan case (above) for $680,000 or $6.80 per call. The so called 'fine' for violating the DNC rules is supposed to be 'up to $11,000.00' per call. It seems to us that Bookspan got a bargain, obtaining a 99.94% discount on the fines! Think about that the next time you get a traffic ticket!

Ultimately, consumers' only redress is to file suit under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) which gives consumers a private right of action under the law. The civil penalty provided by the TCPA is $500.00 per violation, and YOU get the money.

Five hundred dollars in YOUR pocket sure beats $6.80 in the Federal Government's pocket.

Still want to write complaint letters to the FTC?

February 26, 2006

"Ashes of Telephone Solicitors"

Product made Glassic Design LLC. The company makes novelty products depicting several subjects. From Glassic Design, Muddy Waters Ceramic Jars, manufacture date and author unknown. Glassic Design may be contacted at: 1-866-GLASSIC (1-866-452-7742).

CATS Comment: This product was sent to us by an individual that we know. We appreciate the unique gift, and display it proudly.

The fact that an industry is so hated that a private vendor can sell a product like this demonstrates just how much trouble the telemarketing industry, (and the direct marketing industry in general) really is.

With the relative success of the National "Do-Not-Call" list behind us, consumers are now demanding (and politicians are considering) things like 'do not mail' and 'do not e-mail' lists as well. Several states in recent months have had similar legislations offered in their state houses. Many communities have already passed laws regulating door-to-door solicitors.

Unless the direct marketing industry (and industry groups like the Direct Marketing Association) quickly changes their ways, we here at CATS predict that it is just a matter of time before there is more restrictive legislation placed against the industry.

You folks only have yourselves to blame.
Our thanks to Gina M. for the jar.

February 19, 2006

"God's Calling™ is a new and innovative outreach ministry for churches. This unique automated telemarketing survey program has the ability to capture the name, addresses, and phone numbers of unchuched people currently seeking a church in their neighborhood and provides a list of prospects to the church for immediate follow up. With Gods Calling™ reaching the unchurched in your church neighborhood is as easy as 1, 2. 3."

Statement on the web site of The Broadcast Team (TBT), a "voice broadcasting" company is located in Ormond Beach, Florida. TBT was recently cited by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for allegedly hanging up on more than 64 million people in violation of FTC rules. (See last week's 'Quote of the Week'.)

The FTC is charging The Broadcast Team with unlawfully calling "Do-Not-Call" (DNC) listed numbers and making calls when the required annual fee for access to DNC-registered phone numbers had not been paid. The FTC also alleged that when calls were answered by people rather than answering machines or voice mail services, TBT ended the call immediately or hung up after playing a recording.

Named as co-defendants are TBT’s owners, Robert J. Tuttle and Mark S. Edwards. By a 4-0 vote, the Commission referred the matter to the U. S. Department of Justice for filing in U. S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, which occurred on December 29, 2005.

From the web site of The Broadcast Team, date of posting and author unknown, February, 19, 2006. The posting can be located on their web site by clicking the "Industry" tab, then clicking Churches, then clicking God's Calling. The Broadcast Team can be contacted, toll free, at: (800) 353-1420.

CATS Comment: Praise the Lord and pass the predictive dialer. "Gods Calling™" is not only a summons from the Lord, but thanks to The Broadcast Team, a trademark as well, joining other fine trade marks as Burger King™, Coca-Cola™, and Trojans™.

Upon hearing that the Lord might be talking to his answering machine, one of our Catholic friends promptly poured holy water on his phone mate. (It should be back from the repair shop in a week or so!)

Upon hearing the same news, one of our Jewish friends promptly had a moil remove a sliver of plastic from the end of the tape take-up reel spool on his answering device.

(No word yet from our Moslem friend, but we are sure that he will check in on the subject.)

We here at CATS do not profess to be very religious, but we can't help but think that somehow the Lord would have better ways to communicate with his flock than a telemarketing call.

Our non-believing friend, in preparation of receiving the Lord's divine message on his voice mail, summed it up best--Thank God I'm an atheist!

February 12, 2006

"Telemarketers will pay a price for violating the Do Not Call Rule. They should also know they can’t hang up or play a prerecorded message when someone answers the phone, even when they are calling on behalf of a nonprofit organization.”

Lydia Parnes, Director of the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection commenting on an automated phone dialing service that allegedly hung up on more than 64 million people and called more than a million others whose numbers were listed on the National Do Not Call Registry.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged that The Broadcast Team (TBT), a "voice broadcasting" company in located in Ormond Beach, Florida, unlawfully called DNC-listed numbers and made calls when the required annual fee for access to DNC-registered phone numbers had not been paid. The FTC also alleged that when calls were answered by people rather than answering machines or voice mail services, TBT ended the call immediately or hung up after playing a recording.

Named as co-defendants are TBT’s owners, Robert J. Tuttle and Mark S. Edwards. By a 4-0 vote, the Commission referred the matter to the U. S. Department of Justice for filing in U. S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, which occurred on December 29, 2005.

From a press release on the FTC's web site, FTC Seeks End to Telemarketer’s Practices, Automated Calling System Leaves Millions Of People Hanging, January 31, 2006. Ms. Parnes can be contacted, via the FTC's staff contact, Michael Tankersley, Division of Marketing Practices, at: (202) 326-2991.

CATS Comment: So the FTC is at it again, now going after telemarketers that hang up on consumers that answer their phone. Well before you clap your hands and applaud their efforts, let's crunch some numbers, shall we?

Let's assume that they get a $5,000,000.00 (five million dollar) judgment against TBT. If they gave the money to the 64 million consumers that were bothered at home by TBT's hang up calls, each consumer would get about 8 cents.

But the FTC rarely gives consumers redress. And, worse yet, you cannot sue for a violation of the Telephone Sales Rule (TSR) unless you have over $50,000.00 in damages. Those kind of damages are very unlikely on a single call.

While we applaud the FTC for going after telemarketers that abandon calls by hanging up on consumers, we here at CATS can't help but think that when it comes to getting consumers redress for telemarketing abuses, the FTC has a few hang-ups of its own.

February 5, 2006

"We deny all the charges and accusations that were made. [The state] said we were in violation without even looking at our books. They came in on a witch hunt."

Pastor Robert Ferris commenting on how he and Steve Sandlin will fight Utah state efforts to close down the House of Refuge, a supervised living center for men with substance abuse problems.

Utah Department of Human Services notified the pastors Thursday that the home's license to provide residential support services will be revoked Feb. 16 unless they appeal the decision. The agency charged that residents were forced to work for as little as 28 cents per hour for Transmetron, a telemarketing company owned by Sandlin, pastor of Central Christian Church in Salt Lake City.

Residents, most of whom were parolees or probationers, were told they would be kicked out of the program and sent back to jail if they didn't abide by the rules, the agency alleged.

House of Refuge and the pastors may face further charges pending investigations by Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, the U.S. Office of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and the Utah Department of Commerce, Stettler says.

Francine Giani, executive director of the state Department of Commerce, says Transmetron has failed to register as a telemarketing business and post the bond required by statute. And it might have violated the statute's requirements that certain people, including prison inmates, not be allowed to telemarket. She would not confirm or deny that an investigation into Transmetron was ongoing.

Jack Ford, director of public affairs for the Utah Department of Corrections, says House of Refuge has been dropped from the agency's list of alternatives for parolees and probationers without housing. Some judges believed House of Refuge was a substance-abuse treatment program, for which it was never licensed, and were referring it to people sentenced to treatment, Ford says.

Published reports Friday (2/3/06), said that most of the men had been removed from the House of Refuge by state agencies. Ferris says no residents have been pulled and that there are 11 enrolled men at the facility.

From The Salt Lake Tribune, Owners fight effort to close substance abuse program, Investigation: A state agency says residents of the House of Refuge were exploited, and it cites other violations, February 4, 2006. Pastor Ferris can be reached, via the Central Christian Church, at: (801) 363-5559.

CATS Comment: Is this a trend? Two weeks ago our "Quote of the Week" featured a Mayor in Georiga who was accused of being involved in telemarketing fraud.

Now we have two pastors in a similar situation. (We, here at CATS remind you that all suspects are innocent until being proven guilty in a court of law.)

In reviewing the web site for the Central Christian Church, we noted that they take prayer requests over the Internet. so here is our prayer request:

We pray that you guide the telemarketing industry toward the path of righteousness. We pray that you guide the programming of your predictive dialers to obey the laws of our land, and to respect the privacy of your prospects. Amen.

CATS note: An attempt to enter the above prayer request on their web site resulted in a "Error 404" reponse when we hit the 'submit' button. We pray that they wiil fix this. Amen.

January 29, 2006

"Legislation has been proposed [in Illinois] to create a new definition within the charitable solicitations law to-wit: 'contributions collections agent,' which is defined to mean any person, firm or entity who, for compensation or other consideration, collects charitable contributions in the form of property, including without limitation automobiles, motorcycles, and boats, and oversees the resale of such properties and the distribution of the funds collected therefrom. House Bill 4315 would require those individuals involved in this activity to register in a format to be determined by the attorney general."

Posting on the web site of Copilevitz & Canter, LLC a nationally recognized law firm by the nonprofit and fundraising communities. They are noted for their work regarding federal, state, and local regulation of charitable solicitation, whether carried out by charitable organizations or the professional firms they retain.

From Copilevitz & Canter, LLC's web site, news link, fundraising and non-profit report, January, 2006, Volume XIII, No. 1. They can be reached at: (816) 472-9000.

CATS Comment: Wow! Now the State of Illinois is getting into the act of 'renaming telemarketers.' The telemarketing industry used to call what they do 'telemarketing.' But as consumers began to get angry about the constant calls, the industry changed to the word 'customer contact centers.' When that wore out, they called what they do 'teleservices.' (The American Teleservices Association used to be known as the American Telemarketing Association.)

Similarly the non-profit telemarketing industry went though a similar process, First they were called 'charity telemarketers.' Then they became 'telefunders.' Now the State of Illinois is calling them 'contributions collections agent.'

What's next? Will the charity telemarketing industry call themselves 'non-profit distribution counselors' or 'charity funds assessment agents?'

Since most charity telemarketing calls are not regulated by "Do-Not-Call" lists, we here at CATS, have another name for the charity telemarketers. They're simply 'a pain in the neck,' although most consumers have a "lower" opinion.

January 22, 2006

"I would never do anything to intentionally embarrass the government or the city of Snellville, and I regret that this indictment has caused the city government embarrassment. I do not wish to become a sideshow or a distraction to the council.

"I adamantly maintain my innocence and pray that I will be able to clear my name during the trial of this case."

Mike Smth, Snellville Georiga's mayor pro tempore, commenting when he resigned his post January 20, 2006, eight days after he was arrested and charged with taking part in a $1.8 million telemarketing scam.

Smith was arrested Jan. 12, 2006 and released on a $25,000 bond the following day. His brother, Stephen D. Smith, and John Schopp are wanted by police for failure to appear in court on the charges, according to Gwinnett jail records. The fourth defendant, Heather Cushing, does not appear in jail records.

They are accused of selling customers' pre-paid credit cards and gift cards that prosecutors say their company, Global Financial Inc., never delivered. According to records of a Georgia State investigation, the company used telemarketers to sell MasterCard membership packages that included no interest, deposit-free credit cards. The company then used bank account information to debit customer accounts for purchase of bogus packages promising, among other things, hundreds of dollars in free coupons, gas rebates, and free satellite TV installation. But the packages were not delivered, according to the records.

More than 600 workers in North Dakota and Canada a lost their jobs after authorities raided Global Financial's Atlanta office and seized its assets. Their employer was WebSmart Interactive Inc., a Minot, N.D., telemarketing company contracted to sell Global Financial's membership packages. WebSmart, according to an unsuccessful federal lawsuit the company filed against Global, did not know customers weren't getting the packages. News accounts from the time say Global was WebSmart's biggest customer.

From the Gwinnett Daily Post, Councilman resigns after indictment, January 21, 2006. Mr. Smith can be reached, via his office at: (770) 985-3500.

CATS Comment: Now we have a telemarketing mayor who claims that he is innocent of charges that he engaged in illegal telemarketing pracitices. We, here at CATS, find it interesting that most telemarketers claim innocence when they are charged with law violations or private citizen lawsuits. How could the Government and private citizens make so many mistakes?

Kinky Friedman, a comedian, song-writer, and a candidate for Governor of Texas when he was asked what his qualifications were to hold office, promptly replied, "I haven't been indicted yet!". Maybe he's on to something.

January 15, 2006

"(The Do-Not-Call list) is a positive thing. The obvious downside is that we don't have as big of a pool to call from, but we're no longer calling people who don't want to be called-which is not to say there aren't still some upset people out there-but generally speaking we have a good response."

Mike Shipley, current Director of operations at Moneyline Financial, an outbound call center located near the Brigham Young University campus in Provo, Utah, commenting about the effects that the National "Do-Not-Call' list has had on the industry.

In spite of Shipley's beliefs that his employees are calling generally happy people, those actually making the calls at Moneyline report some interesting responses from the people they call.

It is hard to find a telemarketer at Moneyline who hasn't been sworn at, but some even wear their scars as badges of honor.

In between calls, many of the calling agents tell battle stories about the people they call. Stories about people who just scream or yell, hang-up, set the phone down and walk away and/or press phone buttons are generally too tame and common to be told around the call center campfire, but some stories are good enough to wait until everyone is on break.

From BYU Newsnet, An In-depth look at telemarketing, January 13, 2006. Mr. Shipley can be contacted via Moneyline Financial, at: (801) 370-9797.

CATS Comment: It still seems that people do not like to receive telemarketing calls. In all fairness to the telemarketing industry, people that do not want to receive telemarketing calls should put their name on the National "Do-Not-Call" list.

But what happens if the public perceives that the national list does not work? That is exactly what may be happening since there are so many "loopholes" in the law, and there are a few bad actors out there breaking the law altogether. The end result will be an even bigger backlash against the telemarketing industry.

January 8, 2006

''If a telemarketer says they are from the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association, you should know immediately that he or she is lying. Our decision to avoid telemarketing was deliberate. Unfortunately the efforts of a few hurt our legitimate attempts to support the sheriff."

Huron County Michigan Sheriff Kent D. Tibbits telling citizens of Huron County that an aggressive telemarketing campaign is not related to letters he recently mailed, inviting area residents to become members of the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association (MSA)

The MSA, created in 1877, is the oldest law enforcement organization in the State of Michigan, and the only one that officially represents the Office of Sheriff. Throughout the year, the MSA provides educational training and other programs for Sheriff Tibbits and his personnel. Roughly 20,000 people already show their support for the organization and the Office of Sheriff as citizen members.

The MSA never solicits funds by telephone.

From the Huron Daily Tribune, Huron County sheriff warns about a telemarketing scam, January 6, 2006. Sheriff Tibbits can be contacted, via his office at: (989) 269-9910.

CATS Comment: Avoiding telemarketing is a good practice for any law enforcement related organization. When a citizen (especially a senior citizen) receives a telemarketing call 'on behalf of' a law enforcement agency, a serious question is often raised, ie, if I don't give money, will the cops respond to my home in an emergency?

We, here at CATS, have heard this thought from many consumers. We tell people that the person on the other end of the line is probably NOT a police officer. In fact, recent media stories indicate that that the person on the other end of the line may have a criminal background, and in some cases, may even be an inmate at an institution! Just hang up.

We, here at CATS, take our hats off to you Sheriff Tibbits, and the Michigan Sheriff's Association. By refusing to use telemarketing as a fundraising method, you guys made a good call.

January 1, 2006

''As we eliminate people who are less likely to buy from our call lists, the success rate of telemarketers gets better."

Tim Searcy, chief executive of the American Teleservices Association (ATA), commenting about the state of the outbound telemarketing industry to Technology Marketing Corp. (formerly Telemarketing Magazine). Searcy says that one of the effects of "Do-Not-Call" lists is to eliminate poor prospects for telemarketing calls, and that has the effect of making the lists more successful.

From Technology Marketing Corporation's web site, Telemarketing firm survives do-not-call registry, December 30, 2005. Mr. Searcy can be reached, via the ATA, at: (317) 816-9336.

CATS Comment: Hold the phone! Is Mr. Searcy now claiming that "Do-Not-Call" lists benefit the telemarketer? According to his statement, this would seem so. Remember, Mr. Searcy was the gentleman who, as exectuive director of the ATA, told the press that if the National "Do-Not-Call" list were implimented that "It will be like an asteroid hitting the Earth. Two million people will lose their jobs." (Please see our Quote of the Week for September 21, 2003.)

Has Mr. Searcy had a change of heart? Not really. Remember that the ATA fought the National "Do-Not-Call" list all the way to the Supreme Court. Now that there is a national list, the ATA sells compliance products. By now embracing the National "Do-Not-Call list, the ATA can better sell its products and services.

2006 should be an interesting year for the Telemarketing industry. We wish all a Happy New Year.

Quotes from 2005