Quotes from 2007

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

December 30, 2007

"It is a significant infraction of the rules and laws established in Oregon that fundraisers have to follow. This particular telemarketer has a history of only turning over about 20 to 30 percent of the funds they collect to charity."

Victoria Cox of the Oregon State Justice Department, commenting about a call center in Coos Bay Oregon closing as a result of an investigation by the Oregon attorney general's office into a New Jersey based telemarketing company.

The center bears the name of the Oregon Volunteer Firefighters Association, its insignia and a fire-engine red paint job.  But callers' salaries and the building's lease are paid by Civic Development Group.

A state spokeswoman said the company's callers didn't identify themselves as representing a professional fundraising organization. Civic Development Group argued that the callers were employees of the nonprofit group.

According to the attorney general's Web site, in 2006 the Oregon Volunteer Firefighters Association generated nearly $1.2 million, with about $900,000 going for fundraising services and nearly $20,000 to the association's administrative costs.  That left $245,113, or about 21 percent of revenues, that went toward firefighter training, equipment and other program services.

Under an agreement reached in November, the telemarketing firm's activities are restricted for five years, although it can operate charitable or nonprofit call centers under the terms of state law, and the Volunteer Firefighters Association can't pay professional fundraising firms for five years.

The firefighters association must pay $10,000 to cover the Justice Department's attorney fees and investigative costs. The telemarketer is to pay $20,000.

From Oregon Live.com, Coos Bay call center to close under agreement with state, December 28, 2007.  Ms. Cox can be reached, via the State Attorney General's office at: (971) 673-1880.

CATS Comment:  Welcome to the "old switcharoo," a time honored technique employed by telemarketers.  Here's an example:  Your phone rings, your answer it and the caller asks for you.  After verifying that you are the person that the telemarketer wants to talk to he says:

"Hi, Mr. Jones.  This is Bob calling on behalf of the Firefighters Safety Fund.  How are you tonight?"

Q: So who called?  A: Bob
Q: Who does Bob work for?  A: Not the Firefighters Safety Fund!

Remember, Bob said that he was calling on behalf of the Firefighters Safety Fund, not from the Firefighters Safety Fund.  He probably works for a telemarketing company hired by the Firefighters Safety Fund.

Lesson Learned:  When a telemarketer calls listen very carefully to what they say.  Make this your New Year's resolution.

Class dismissed.  And oh yes...CATS wishes all our viewers a very Happy and telemarketing-free New Year.

December 23, 2007

"Congress intended that once you signed up for the Do-Not-Call registry you were on it until you asked to be taken off.  That's what this bill intends to re-establish.  Without it, millions of Americans will either need to start re-registering on October 1, 2008, or get ready to hear their telephones ring during supper time again with unwanted commercial solicitation calls."

US Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) commenting about the Do-Not-Call (DNC) Improvement Act of 2007,  The act was introduced last March by Senator Dorgan.  Before the bill passed, consumers on the list had to renew their registration every five years.

A second bill passed Monday that permanently authorizes the FTC to administer the registry while capping fees that marketers pay to access the list.

To date, the DNC list has approximately 145 million registrants.  Dorgan said he expects the “Do Not Call Improvement Act of 2007” to quickly move to the White House for the President to sign into law.

From DM News, Senate votes to make Do-Not-Call Registry permanent, December 18, 2007.  Senator Dorgan can be reached at: (202) 224-2551 

CATS Comment:  The National "Do-Not-Call" list, for the most part, has been a success.  Now if Congress REALLY wants to give consumers a real Christmas present, they should make the list apply to political calls as well as commercial solicitations.

We, here at CATS, wish everyone (including telemarketers and members of Congress) a very happy holiday season.

December 16, 2007

"We're okay with the list being permanent just as long as they are showing that they have a process in place, where they are purging and updating the list regularly,"

Tim Searcy, CEO of the American Teleservices Association (ATA) commenting about the US House of Representatives voting to make the Do-Not-Call Registry list permanent. The measure, which still raises some eyebrows in the industry, still needs approval from the Senate.

Before the passage of the Do Not Call Improvement Act, consumers had to renew their participation in the registry every five years. The bill also requires that the FTC remove disconnected and reassigned numbers periodically.

From DM News, House of Representatives makes Do-Not-Call Registry permanent, December 13, 2007.  Mr. Searcy can be reached, toll-free, via the ATA, at (866) 500-4272 x103.

CATS Comment:  Talk about a wrong number!  On September 21, 2003, Mr. 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."  The ATA then spent thousands of dollars in legal fees to fight the implementation of the list.  The ATA eventually lost.

Four  years later, it seems that Searcy is now "OK with the list...."

We, here at CATS, marvel how a highly intelligent gentleman like Mr. Searcy took 4 years to learn the obvious.

December 9, 2007

"Since our calls were informational in nature, and not telemarketing sales calls they violated no laws."

Rose G. Foley, a paralegal for DirecTV, responding in a letter to a consumer that the calls were “not to sell you anything” but were “purely informational calls intended to remind you of your status and give you an opportunity to change your do-not-call preference.

The letter also stated "We initiated this recent do-not-call update campaign in order to make sure that information about our customers' preferences is up to date and accurately reflects our customers' wishes. We have found that a customer who at one time requested to be put on our internal do-not-call list may later decide that he or she would like to receive information from us about a variety of things."

From the New York Times, The Fed Jammed Your In-Box, October 6, 2007.  Ms. Foley can be reached at: (310) 964-2021.

CATS Comment: It should come as no surprise that the Federal Trade Commission in 2005 fined DirecTV $5.3 million for violating its telemarketing sales rule. This was the largest civil penalty the F.T.C. has ever announced in a case enforcing any consumer protection law.

According to a DirecTV spokesman, the "informational calls" have stopped. 

December 2, 2007

"A recent poll by Harris Interactive reported that the FTC [Federal Trade Commission] has been doing a good job getting the word out. Among the 2,565 adults polled by Harris in October, 71% of those who are registered said they knew about the planned expiration, while only 29% were unaware. Curiously, those in the West and those with postgraduate degrees were less likely to know they needed to renew (33% each)."

Beth Negus Viveiros, Executive Editor of Direct Magazine commenting on the fact that most Americans are aware of the planned expiration of their names and phone numbers on the National Do-Not-Call list operated by the FTC. 

She also reported that overall, 96% of those questioned said they planned to renew. Six percent of registrants claimed they still get as many calls as before they signed up, and 1% said they actually get more calls.

Eighteen percent reported they don't get any telemarketing calls and 59% noted that they still receive some, but far less than before they registered.

From Direct Magazine, DNC Registrants Ready to Renew, December 1, 2007.  Ms. Viveiros can be reached at: (617) 916-2762.

CATS Comment: The Federal Trade Commission recently settled six cases and levied nearly $7.7 million in fines against companies and individuals accused of violating the requirements of the National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry.  Simply put, enforcement works.

November 25, 2007

"In New York people were awakened at 2am in the morning because a computer was misprogrammed.  Obviously if these calls were made by a person as my bill would require, that person would not be calling at 2am, but a computer can make mistakes."

"We had one incident in Wisconsin where a person up in Appleton missed his own brother's funeral because there were so many calls on his answering machine he did not receive calls informing him of the death of his brother and the date of the funeral, so he missed his own brother's funeral."

Wisconsin State Representative Spencer Black (D-Madison) commenting about an incident involving robocalls in a recent election in New York State.  The Madison Democrat says the deceptive and harassing use of robocalls could happen in Wisconsin, that's why he says lawmakers need to pass legislation (AB-311, SB-172) banning such calls before next year's election.  Black says in some areas of active elections, people get as many as 30 intrusive robocalls a day ... annoying taxpayers and even blocking important personal calls.

Black says candidates have the right to get their message out, but taxpayers have the right to personal privacy. Black's measure was unanimously approved in a senate committee, but is not yet scheduled for a vote in the full senate.

From The Wisconsin Radio Network web site, Lawmaker wants to outlaw robocalls, November 17, 2007.  Representative Black can be reached at: (608) 266-7521.

CATS Comment:  A political robocall at 2 AM???  This should be a wake up call for politicians.

November 18, 2007

"Consumers have made clear that they greatly value the Do Not Call Registry, and they must be able to depend on its privacy protection,  By bringing enforcement actions, like those announced today, we will ensure that the small number of bad actors pay a price for not adhering to the law and respecting consumers’ privacy requests.”

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras commenting about her agency's actions against six telemarketers.   The FTC entered into six settlements totaling $7.7 million in civil penalties along with an additional filed complaint with the district court.

Companies named in the settlements involved Craftmatic, Ameriquest, Global Mortgage Funding, ADT and two of its dealers, and Guardian Communications and its affiliates.

In addition to money collected, the FTC, through the US Department of Justice, has taken legal action to prohibit defendants from committing future DNC violations.

More than $16 million has been collected, in addition to $8 million for consumer restitution or disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, through DNC legislation since its establishment in 2003.

The FTC recently announced plans to forgo the five-year renewal requirement, keeping numbers on the DNC list permanently, pending final Congressional and agency action.

From a press release on the FTC's website, FTC Announces Law Enforcement Crackdown on Do Not Call Violators, Six Settlements Require Payment of Nearly $7.7 Million in Civil Penalties; November 7,2007.  Ms Majoras can be reached, via the FTC, at: (202) 326-2100.

CATS Comment:  We called several of the violators and were unable to obtain a copy of their written "Do-Not-Call" policy, as required by law.  In fact all of the customer representatives we spoke to were unaware of the FTC action against their company.

Seems that the fines are just a cost of doing business to these companies.  It's cheaper to pay the fines than comply.

Way to go Ms. Majoras!

November 11, 2007

"Having a voice in modern government means gaining access through the accepted political processes.  Campaign contributions accomplish a number of meaningful objectives including access, putting supporters of ATA issues in office, and preventing less favorable candidates from reaching office.  In 2004, the ATA directly or through its members contributed over $50,000 to candidate campaigns."

Tim Searcy, CEO of the American Teleservices Association (ATA) commenting on the ATA-PAC, the Political Action Committee.  According to the ATA website, the ATA-PAC was formed in order to raise awareness about Teleservices and the Contact Center Industry and to lend support to those political candidates who impact the industry. The ATA-PAC is a critical way for the ATA to have a bigger presence on Capitol Hill and in Statehouses across the nation.

The funds raised by ATA-PAC 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 channel.

From the ATA website, WELCOME TO THE ATA-PAC ONLINE, posting date unknown.  Mr. Searcy can be reached, toll-free, via the ATA, at (866) 500-4272 x103.

CATS Comment:  There was a time when politicians treated telemarketing company contributions like tobacco company contributions; they simply refused the money.  Ah, but times have changed, and now it seems that some politicians happily take the ATA's and the telemarketing company contributions.  To see what politicians are taking ATA-PAC money, click here.

This proves something that we, here at CATS, have said for some time - - The United States has the best Government money can buy.

November 4, 2007

"In many cases, however, individuals placed multiple phone numbers on [Do-Not-call] DNC — their residential line, their home office number and their cell phone.  So there’s another way to look at the numbers.  Of the 75 million total households in the US, approximately half are on DNC. The good news is that the other half are receptive to being called and remain available to telemarketers.  I should also point out that millions of names on the DNC can be called if they have an existing business relationship — an EBR — with a marketer.  According to [some] teleservices experts, companies that have EBRs with households find they are very receptive to pertinent offers."

David Goldsmith is President and co-founder of MetaMatrix Consulting Group LLC.  Born and raised in Middletown, NY, David has studied at Fairleigh Dickinson University and Orange County Community College.  He received a Dual Major with a B.S. in Biology and a B.S. in Psychology at Syracuse University.

From DMNews, Q&A: Goldsmith on adapting industry to multiple platforms, October 13, 2007.  Mr. Goldsmith may be reached at: (888) 777-8857.

CATS Comment:  Mr. Goldsmith points out that individuals have placed multiple phone numbers on the DNC list.  Then he claims (according to some teleservices experts) that those consumers are 'very receptive' to getting sales calls.

If Mr. Goldsmith truly believes that consumers, after placing multiple numbers on a 'do-not-call' list, are then 'very receptive' to receiving sales calls, then we, here at CATS, think we know exactly what the "BS" in his Psychology degree stands for!

CATS Note:  In a later phone conversation with Mr. Goldsmith, we were amazed at how he perceives the telemarketing industry.  While our quote, and the DMNews article made it appear that he was pro telemarketing, the reality is that he is quite the opposite.  A trip to his web site where he talks about the future of telemarketing will reveal all.  To go there click here, and scroll to the teleservices industry section.

David Goldsmith responds:


1.  It's Goldsmith you used Goldstien.

2.  Make the third section in Red it and bold, it's only fair to your readers.  You wouldn't want to be known as being one sided. Don't believe it's your style or purpose.

3.  Comment to add...

My position with the teleservices quote along with hundreds of others quotes I've had in media is that often quotes are just a small component of the bigger picture comments I've generated for an industry.

Bob told me a television crew spent three days following him around only to put 5 minutes into the broadcast. I bet you those 5 minutes did not encapsulate his entire position. ( I presented for an hour and a half and so much was discussed.)

In this case I was asked to look at the future of the industry as well as give guidance to those in attendance at the ATA National Convention.  This is not pro or con position for teleservices nor was it a position to trick the consumer, government or anyone else for that matter.  My job was to help those create a better future for their organizations. 

As for my personal position, I am pro teleservices where it works and con where it does not.  Yes vague.  

I love to have my product, sales and technical support issues picked up on the first ring however that my never be possible where everyone is happy.

I love to have the CDC, my hospital, my pharmacy, my on-star ready and willing to help.

I love to have machines answer phones when it's better than human interaction and the opposite when necessary. I prefer Internet over a teller in a bank for most transactions.

I love to be able to speak to someone who understands my language however I've called English speaking people who work in the states who are absolutely useless in solving my challenges while the opposite has happened from call centers in India, Argentina, and the Dominican Republic.  I won't place everyone into one category!

I love getting a deal from the WSJ to secure for $99 the paper I did not renew given that now I also get the internet included in the price. On the other hand I hate being called again to sell me for the same product just because their DB is not in check.  Hey, that's technology today.  Did your couch arrive on time or your contractor finish the job as scheduled? This challenge of technology syncing may not be solved for some time just as world peace is not around the corner. 

I hate being called by the police to donate where only 10% goes to the police and yet I support my local services.

I hate being interrupted by the 50,000 call center employees who are not a part of the American Teleservices Association with companies trying so hard to live by the law.  These companies spend time cleaning their lists, watching for legal holidays, dotting every i and crossing every t.  They are not the problem, is the 6 room shop that is set up for a company that does not know the law or for that matter the large corporation who through ignorance has stepped over the line.

I can go on an on....

Lastly, the question about EBRs is also one that I do question and yet do not have an answer for what is rightfully an EBR.  The WSJ did have an EBR that I cancelled by not resubscribing however I am happy they did call.  We're all only human.

If you want to learn more check out the link provided OR call Bob Arkow.  We spoke for a little shy of one hour and had great conversation.  I believe his comment at the end was something to the effect of, "You've ability to understand the industry is quite impressive and I don't believe I've every spoken to someone like you in all the years I've been doing this."  (No it's not word for word, but you get the point.)

Bob feel free to fill in the exact quote.  I missed it on the website.

~ David

David: Your corrections and suggestions were used and appreciated.  And yes,  here is a link to the actual article.

October 28, 2007

"As we testified yesterday, the [Federal Trade] Commission now commits that it will not drop any telephone numbers from the Registry based on the five-year expiration period pending final Congressional or agency action on whether to make registration permanent."

Lydia Parnes, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) testifying before the Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection,United States House of Representatives.

Current FTC rules state that numbers on the registry last for five years before they must be renewed. Because the registry started in 2003, the first people to have signed up are set to be cleared from the list in June 2008.

A House subcommittee met earlier this week to discuss bill H.R. 2601, which would renew all numbers on the Do Not Call List through 2012.

Another bill, H.R. 3541, would make Do Not Call registrations permanent. In the Senate, the bill for permanent registrations is called S. 2096. In both the House and the Senate, the bill is still in its first stages and has been referred to a committee.

From a press release on the FTC's web site,  FTC Pledges Not to Drop Any Numbers From Do Not Call Registry, Pending Final Congressional or Agency Action on Whether to Make Registration Permanent, October 23, 2007.  Ms. Parnes can be reached at: (202) 326-3240.

CATS Comment:  Do you really believe that the Government will protect your privacy?  Take a minute to re-register your phone numbers now!  There is no cost to you.

To register,  just click here.

October 21, 2007

"There are few things in life less appealing than cold calling, but, until recently, that’s how most people thought about the role of the inside sales rep — endless cold calling.

"Recently, however, Web 2.0 technologies have enabled ways to leverage e-mail and the Internet, to speed up sales cycles and better serve customers.  Never before has there been so much prospect information so readily available to the frontline sales rep. It’s changing the way they sell, and it’s resulting in the death of the cold call.

"It used to be that reps had to spend countless hours researching, calling and re-calling to land a few conversations.  Unfortunately, many of those conversations were either fishing expeditions, misdirected or, at times, even counterproductive (not to mention exhausting and discouraging for the sales professional)."

David Thompson, co-founder and CEO of on-demand provider of marketing solutions for sales and marketing professionals, Genius.com commenting on how his company is changing the demographics of telemarketing.

From DM News, Technology’s sales upside: The death of the cold call, October, 13, 2007.  Mr. Thompson can be reached, via genius.com, at: (888) 643-6487.

CATS Comment:  Duh!  Does it take a take a person from Genius.com to figure out that people do not want their privacy invaded?

If that's the case, then telemarketers must be the dumbest people on earth.

October 14, 2007

"Drivers who slow and gawk at accidents will understand my instinct regarding the National Do Not Call Registry.  I've got a pretty good idea there's an impending pileup, and I've staked out a vantage point, packed some sandwiches and potato salad, and am waiting for the show to start.

"And here's the coming car wreck: The industry is making feeble efforts, if any at all, to get out in front of the news. In contrast, anti-telemarketing stories already have begun to run in the non-business media. Worse, lawmakers are taking advantage of the opportunity to re-examine the original do-not-call laws.  If legislative efforts such as The Do Not Call Improvement Act of 2007 are any indication, these folks do not have DMers' best interests at heart.

"That bill, introduced by Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) last month, would make any number on the list permanently off-limits.  Of course, political phone calls would continue to be excluded from do-not-call provisions. Free speech arguments aside, politicians are well aware of telemarketing's effectiveness."

Richard H. Levey, senior writer for Direct Magazine, commenting on the fact that next June, the first numbers that were put on the National 'Do-Not-Call' list will be dropping off the list due to the five year limit that the law has.

From Direct Magazine, An Anticipated Wreck, October 1, 2007.  Mr Levy can be reached at: (212) 204-4220.

CATS Comment:  Lawmakers are doing more than "Do-Not-Call'.  Several state legislators are considering 'Do-Not-Mail' bills similar to the laws that telemarketing industry deals with now.

Direct marketers have not learned their lesson.  If the message is misleading or offends the receiver, there will be both a consumer and political backlash.

Think about that next time you open your mail and get one of those "fake checks" or the envelope says "Important Document Enclosed," only to find just another ad.

The industry calls it "creative copy."  We call it misleading and offensive.  If the direct marketing industry doesn't learn from its mistakes, it will, again, pay the price.

October 7, 2007

"Prestigious, hard-earned, and lucrative, the annual Nobel Prizes will be announced next week. Prize by prize, Mr. Dynamite's money will go to top achievers in medicine, chemistry, physics, literature, peace. . .

"And if you see another member open his cell phone and text a message to others who begin holding back giggles, you'll know the foundation is about to secretly award the Nobel Prize for Telemarketing.  An emerging field that is becoming a worldwide art form, telemarketing was added to the academy's unofficial list in 1999. Since then, telemarketers from America and India have dominated.  Recent laureates earned recognition for figuring out how to skirt Do Not Call lists, devising algorithms for always calling at dinner time, and creating linguistic strategies for mispronouncing every name on their lists."

Bruce Watson, a writer for the Amherst Bulletin, commenting on a little-known aspect of the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize.  According to Watson,  the Nobel Prize Foundation members don't want you to know it, lest they become a laughing stock, but each year they pick Nobels in a few less prestigious fields.

From the Amherst Bulletin, The Nobel prizes nobody knows, October 5, 2007.  Mr. Watson can be reached, via the Amherst Bulletin, at (413) 549-2000.

CATS Comment:  We, here at CATS, protest!  If they are going to award a Nobel Prize for telemarketing, then, in all fairness, they should award a Nobel Prize for actions taken against telemarketers as well.

We nominate Robert Bulmash, founder of Private-Citizen, Inc. for that prize.

September 30, 2007

Galanter, 50, has represented a wide range of criminal defendants, including alleged drug dealers, money launderers, white-collar fraudsters, robbers and burglars and telemarketing schemers. Some have gotten press notice, but nothing like the attention paid to Simpson. He says they have a close but professional relationship."

Curt Anderson, Associated Press Legal Affairs writer commenting in a story about Yale Galanter, the attorney defending O.J. Simpson in his most recent dealings with law enforcement and the courts.

According to Mr. Galanter's web site, Galanter defends people in matters involving white collar crime, money laundering, grand jury subpoenas, Federal litigation, State litigation, homicide, drug offenses, sexual offenses, bond hearings, theft, fraud, forgery, appeals, DUI, DUI manslaughter, domestic violence, extraditions, illegal seizure of assets, burglary, and, of course, telemarketing violations.

From  Central Daily.com, Miami lawyer Galanter vaulted to limelight as 'O.J.'s lawyer', September 20, 2007.  Mr. Galanter can be reached at: (305) 576-0244.

CATS Comment:  You've come a long way, baby!  Yes, telemarketers can hire "dream team" lawyers to defend them against charges of illegal telemarketing.

But if you sue a telemarketer in California Small Claims Court, they CANNOT use a lawyer.  Lawyers are barred from California Small Claims Court.

Is it any wonder why many telemarketing defendants settle cases involving small claims courts rather than having a court hearing without their high-powered legal help?  Simply put, without 'dream team" lawyers, most telemarketing cases are hard to defend.

September 23, 2007

"First, the DNC (Do-Not-Call)  Registry was created out of consumer frustration and political expedience.  Neither of these causes has abated over time.  The success in curbing marketing efforts has only added fuel to the belief that DNC was a good idea.

"Second, the industry has survived and in many ways thrived in spite of the DNC Registry.  Foolish pundits would say that DNC has increased response rates and decreased frustration which has made the channel more effective.  No, the reason the industry has continued to succeed is the measurable nature of the medium, and the ingenuity of its users.  The channel has always been effective, but now it is more effective to a smaller pool of prospects."

Tim Searcy, CEO of the American Teleservices Association (ATA), commenting on the effects of the National Do-Not-Call list on consumers and the telemarketing industry.  His comments come as many of the numbers on the list which were added to the list in June of 2003 will expire in June of 2008.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which runs the list, built the five-year expiration date into the program to account for changes, such as people who move and switch their phone number.

Telemarketers are required to pay an annual subscription fee to access the FTC list so those numbers can be blocked from their dial-out programs. The companies also must update their own calling lists every 31 days to ensure there are no numbers from the registry on them.

The annual subscription fee for the list costs $62 for each area code, with a maximum cost of $17,050 for access to all U.S. numbers on the list.

The FTC reported this year that 6,824 companies and other entities paid $21.7 million in fees to access the database in fiscal year 2006. All told, 15,218 entities have paid $59 million in fees to access the database since the program's inception.

From DM News, DNC Registry faces its 5-year milestone, September 21, 2007,  Mr. Searcy can be reached, toll free, via the ATA, at (866) 500-4272 x103.

CATS Comment:  Hold the phone!  According to Mr. Searcy, the industry has "survived and in many ways thrived in spite of the DNC Registry."

My, how things have changed in 5 years.

Exactly five years ago, on September 7, 2003, Mr. Searcy told the Boston Globe that if the DNC list ever comes into operation "It will be like an asteroid hitting the Earth.  Two million people will lose their jobs."

Five years later Mr. Searcy says that the DNC list has actually helped the industry.

So where's the asteroid?

September 16, 2007

"The Court’s orders also prohibit defendants from making misrepresentations about the goods and services they sell, and from charging consumers improperly. For example, the defendants are prohibited from misrepresenting that consumers will receive goods or services, that they will receive them free of charge, or that they bear certain characteristics or can be used in a particular way. The defendants also are prohibited from misrepresenting the terms and conditions of free-trial offers. In connection with obtaining payment for “free-to-pay” offers, the orders prohibit the defendants from improperly debiting consumers’ bank accounts or charging their credit or debit cards. For example, they are prohibited from charging consumers when consumers reject a sales offer; before a free-trial period expires; after consumers have cancelled; or when defendants have thwarted consumers’ ability to cancel. Finally, the defendants cannot make recurring electronic fund transfers from a consumer’s bank account without obtaining the consumer’s authenticated authorization and providing a copy to the consumer."

Press release from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), author unknown, telling some of the conditions regarding an agreed settlement between the FTC and Hispanic telemarketing company,  Remote Response Corp.

Remote Response was charged with deceiving Spanish-speaking consumers through their marketing of pre-approved, advance fee MasterCards, free ATM and phone cards, and a free-trial membership in a discount health plan.

The FTC complaint alleged that in numerous instances, consumers never received a MasterCard, received only some or none of the free items defendants offered, and that the items consumers received often did not work. In connection with the Amerikhealth discount health plan, the complaint alleged that the defendants misrepresented the free-trial offer by failing to provide consumers with a free-trial period at all or by thwarting consumers’ efforts to cancel during the free-trial period. The complaint also alleged that the defendants improperly charged consumers’ credit cards or bank accounts for the discount health plan, did not obtain consumers’ express verifiable authorization for the charges, and continued to charge consumers on a recurring basis without their written authorization.

From the Federal Trade Commission's web site, Advance-Fee Credit Card Purveyors Banned from Telemarketing, Telemarketers Targeting Spanish Speakers Settle FTC Charges, August 30, 2007.  The FTC can be reached, via their media contact, Jackie Dizdul, at: (202) 326-2472.

CATS Comment:  The FTC made the defendants agree to not misrepresent their products, improperly debit consumers' bank accounts, and not make recurring electronic funds transfers without authorization.

We thought those things were already illegal.

With settlements like this, is it any wonder that illegal telemarketing continues to happen?

September 9, 2007

"Tricking people into signing away their right to stop telemarketing calls isn’t the way to do business.  Telemarketers should respect the wishes of people who’ve made it clear they don’t want these calls."

Roy Cooper, the Attorney General of North Carolina, alleging in a press release that Craftmatic of Maryland, which sells adjustable beds directly to consumers, sent contest entry forms to North Carolina seniors that included information authorizing Craftmatic to contact them about its products.

Consumers who signed up for the contest soon got telemarketing calls from Craftmatic, even if they had listed their telephone number on the Do Not Call Registry to stop unwanted sales calls.

Under an agreement signed last week, Craftmatic of Maryland will make a number of reforms to its telemarketing practices including making it clear on any future mailings if signing up will result in telemarketing calls from the company. Craftmatic will promptly stop calling people when asked to even if the consumers’ numbers are not on the Do Not Call Registry or they have previously given the company permission to call.

Craftmatic of Maryland also agreed to follow all telemarketing laws, including not calling people who have signed  up for the Do Not Call Registry. The company will train its telemarketers to follow the law and keep detailed records of calls made to and complaints made by North Carolinians.

From a press release from the North Carolina Attorney General, Craftmatic to stop trying to get around Do Not Call list, says AG Cooper, Company used sweepstakes mailings to try to get people to sign away Do Not Call rights, September 4, 2007,  Attorney General Cooper can be contacted, via Noelle Talley of his staff, at: (919) 716-6413.

CATS Comment:  We contacted Craftmatic at (800) 320-2705 on September 9, 2007 and asked for a copy of Craftmatic's written "Do-Not-Call" policy.   We called twice, speaking to 'Jennifer' and 'Brenda'.

Neither agent could provide a copy of the policy, however they did take down our phone numbers and in one case, agreed to send sales literature to our P.O. Box.

According to Federal Law, a company must provide a copy of its written "Do-Not-Call" policy "upon demand" (CFR 64.1200).

Remember, Caftmatic assured the North Carolina Attorney General that they would "follow all telemarketing laws."

This proves the old saying, 'How you make your bed is how you sleep in it.'  If Craftmatic would stop calling people illegally, maybe they could get some rest.

September 2, 2007

"Most people have no idea how widespread and sophisticated telemarketing fraud has become.  It shocks even us."

James Davis, an lawyer with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) commenting about  how telemarketing fraud, once limited to small-time thieves, has become a global criminal enterprise preying upon millions of elderly and other Americans every year.

Vast databases of names and personal information, sold to thieves by large publicly traded companies, have put almost anyone within reach of fraudulent telemarketers. And major banks have made it possible for criminals to dip into victims' accounts without their authorization, according to court records.

Although some companies, including Wachovia, have made refunds to victims who have complained, neither that bank nor infoUSA stopped working with criminals even after executives were warned that they were aiding crimes, according to government investigators. Instead, those companies collected millions of dollars in fees from scam artists. (Neither company has been formally accused of wrongdoing by the authorities.)

In recent years, despite the creation of a national "do not call" registry, the legitimate telemarketing industry has grown, according to the Direct Marketing Association. Callers pitching insurance plans, subscriptions, and precooked meals collected $177 billion in 2006, an increase of $4.5 billion since the federal do-not-call restrictions were put in place three years ago.

From the Boston Globe (New York Times News Service), Telemarketing thieves sharpen their focus on the elderly, Bank accounts made vulnerable, records show, May 20, 2007.  Mr. Davis can be reached, via the FTC, at: (312) 960-5611.

CATS Comment:  Even Government officials are shocked at how widespread and sophisticated telemarketing fraud has become.

It's nice to know that the hard-earned pensions of our senior citizens can wind up in the hands of major corporations, thanks to telemarketing fraud.

Is it any wonder that these corporations donate millions of dollars to our legislators every year?

August 26, 2007

"Having a voice in modern government means gaining access through the accepted political processes.  Campaign contributions accomplish a number of meaningful objectives including access, putting supporters of ATA issues in office, and preventing less favorable candidates from reaching office.  In 2004, the ATA directly or through its members contributed over $50,000 to candidate campaigns.  The late Jack Valenti, former head of the MPAA, and our keynote speaker at the 2005 Annual Convention was clear that we are now in the "big leagues.

"We need big league support, and that means a personal contribution from you to the ATA-PAC. Additionally, let us talk to you about how all of your contact center employees can play a financial role in the future of this industry." 

Tim Searcy, CEO of the American Teleservices Association (ATA), touting the advantages of contributing to the ATA-PAC (Political Action Committee).

From the American Teleservices Association Web site, http://www.ataconnect.org/public/government/takeaction.php, no date of posting given.  Mr. Searcy can be reached, toll free, via the ATA, at (866) 500-4272 x103.

CATS Comment: Not only does Mr. Searcy want big companies to donate to the ATA-PAC, he has a plan to have the individual telemarketers contribute as well!  Just click here to see how.

Considering how poorly the industry pays telemarketers, it seems to us that when the boss asks for a "contribution" from telemarkteing employees, (who are probably are "at will employees") failure to donate could mean termination of their jobs. 

it is things like this make the telemarketing industry the job of last resort.  You should be proud, Mr. Searcy, of the reputation that your industry has.

August 19, 2007

"This unconscionable delay is part of a larger trend of Ottawa failing to set reasonable ground rules to protect Canadians from unwanted marketing.

"The exceptions unquestionably undermine the effectiveness of the do-not-call registry," 

Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa commenting about plans to create a Canadian "Do-Not-Call" list similar to the one in the United States,

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission announced Tuesday it will call for proposals later this month for bids from private, independent operators -- two-and-a-half years after the legislation was tabled.

Once a provider is up and running, Canadians who prefer not to receive unsolicited calls will be able to add their numbers to the database free of charge. Telemarketers face significant penalties for failing to follow the dictates of the list.

Under pressure from lobbyists, Geist wrote in the Toronto Star, the do-not-call list went from a comprehensive ban on marketing to listed phone numbers, with CRTC-dictated exemptions, to a Parliament-induced list that includes registered charities, political parties, pollsters, newspapers and businesses with an "existing business relationship with a consumer."

Geist says that means travelers who spend one night in a hotel can be called by the hotel chain for the next 18 months.

"The exceptions unquestionably undermine the effectiveness of the do-not-call registry," Geist said, adding some have dubbed what remains as "the do-not-hesitate-to-call" registry

From the Associated Press, Do-Not-Call List May Be Coming to Canada, Canada: Regulator Moves Toward Establishing National Do-Not-Call Registry, July 3, 2007.  Mr. Geist can be reached, at (613) 562-5800 x3319.

CATS Comment: Sound like Canada will have the same loopholes in their 'Do-Not-Call" laws that we have here in the United States.

Perhaps they should consider a "private right of action" clause to help enforcement.

August 12, 2007

"The stabilization of the access fees for the Do Not Call Registry is positive for telemarketers, especially since DNC fees have steadily increased since their implementation.  To ensure compliance, telemarketers may need to restructure their download schedule to accommodate the system ‘down times."

Tim Searcy CEO of the American Teleservices Association (ATA)’s chief executive officer commenting about the Federal Trade Commission's announcement that fees that telemarketers pay to access the National "Do-Not-Call" list will not increase this year.

Fees will remain at $62 per area code of data with the first five area codes of data provided at no cost. The fee for accessing the entire registry will remain at $17,050.  Exempt organizations will still receive access to the registry at no cost.

To be in compliance with the do-not-call laws, telemarketers have to check their lists against the national do-not-call registry at least every 31 days and they have to pay a fee to do this. 

Due to the fact that the Federal Trade Commission is switching vendors to maintain the list, telemarketers will be unable to access the lists or make scheduled payments for several days.  Telemarketers will need to make plans to re-arrange their schedules so they can make sure they stay in compliance with the 31-day rule.

Marketers will not be able to access www.telemarketing.donotcall.gov from 12:00 a.m. ET Monday, October 1 to 9:00 a.m. ET on Thursday, October 4.  During that time, they will not be able to subscribe to the registry, pay for area codes, manage/renew subscriptions, manage clients or download telephone numbers.

There will be no interruption of service on the consumer registration Web site at www.donotcall.gov or the registry's toll-free numbers, 888-382-1222 and 866-290-4236 (TTY).

From DM News,  No increase in fees to access no-call registry, August 10, 2007,  Mr. Searcy can be reached, toll free, via the ATA, at (866) 500-4272 x103.

CATS Comment: How times have changed.  The ATA spent millions of (their members') dollars to fight the DNC list all the way to the Supreme Court.  Having lost that effort, they now offer 'compliance seminars' on how to comply with the very same laws that they tried to stop.

Sounds kind of hypocritical, don't you think?

August 5, 2007

"The Government [of Norway] has announced that it will be introducing new restrictions on telemarketing, including a total ban on calling prospective customers on weekends."

Rolleiv Solhol, a reporter for the Norway Post, reporting on new restrictions for telemarketers now in effect in the country of Norway.  Rolleiv also reports that Norwegians can register with the public Bronnoysund Exclusion Register. This register allows a private individual to stop his or her address from being used for unsolicited direct advertising by mail or for telephone sales.

From the Norway Post, New restrictions on telemarketing, June 17, 2007.  Mr. Solhol can be reached, via the Norway Post, at: 47 67176875.

CATS Comment: Wow!  Do-Not-Call and Do-Not-Mail.  Too bad we don't have both options here in the US.  Now that telemarketing is getting more restricted, our direct mail is getting out of hand.

Have you ever noticed that the mail marked "important" is usually an advertisement?  Norway has the right idea offering consumers the ability to opt-out of telemarketing AND junk mail.

We, here at CATS, predict that if the direct mail industry continues to mail misleading and offensive pieces, there will be restrictions placed on that industry as well.

July 22, 2007

"We have a policy in place that prohibits any blast campaigns for products or services to people who have not consented."

Patrick Kimball, public relations manager for Verizon Wireless, commenting in DM News about  a settlement in a class action suit accusing Verizon Wireless of violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) by sending 10,000 unsolicited faxes to Louisiana, Florida and Alabama businesses.

As part of the settlement, Verizon Wireless has admitted no liability.  However, the company has agreed to pay $397 per claimant, which number approximately 10,000. Verizon Wireless will also pay lawyers fees, which reportedly totaled $2.3 million.

From DM News, Verizon Wireless settles junk fax case, July 26, 2007.  Mr. Kimball can be reached at: (713) 219-8227.

CATS Comment: Verizon Wireless has a policy that prohibits blast campaigns?  It seems that that policy is for everyone else and not Verizon.  Let's look deeper, shall we?

The TCPA defines a "telephone solicitation" as: "the initiation of a telephone call or message (emphasis added) for the purpose of encouraging the purchase or rental of, or investment in, property, goods, or services, which is transmitted to any person......".  The law goes on to say that if there is an "established business relationship" the law does not apply, however....

A consumer can end the "established business relationship" by saying  something like, "Put me on your 'Do-Not-Call' list".  After that, companies are prohibited from sending telephone solicitations to that customer.  Thus, unsolicited text messages sent after the customer has requested to be left alone can be considered in violation of the law.

Enter Verizon Wireless, and customer Robert Arkow, President and founder of CATS.  Arkow, despite requesting to be on Verizon Wireless' 'Do-Not-Call' list still gets unsolicited and unwelcome text messages from the company.  The latest was sent last week; Verizon Wireless was touting a Chocolate phone by LG.

When Arkow requested a copy of Verizon Wireless' "Do-Not-Call" policy, he was told that "Verizon Wireless does not make those kinds of calls, and as such, there is no policy."

Considering how Verizon Wireless fails to obey their own policy regarding so called "blast campaigns" it seems to us that even if they had the required TCPA "Do-Not-Call" policy, they wouldn't obey it either.

Are you surprised?

July 22, 2007

"4.4.7. All Sellers shall create and make available, upon demand, their written In-House DNC policy to all Consumers requesting same. All Sellers shall send the Consumer making such a demand a copy of the policy within a reasonable time period not to exceed thirty (30) calendar days from the date of the demand."

From the American Teleservices Association (ATA) draft; Self Regulatory Organization Standards (SRO). The ATA is proposing these so called "standards" for the telemarketing industry.  The SRO may be downloaded from the ATA's web site, or  you can download a copy by clicking here.

The ATA can be reached, toll free at: (866) 500-4272.  Their CEO, Tim Searcy, can be reached at extension 103.

CATS Comment: Let see if we understand this, shall we?  The ATA is suggesting that telemarketers shall make their policy to all consumers that request one.

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (CFR 64.1200), passed in 1992 and signed by President Bush Sr. states:

Written policy. Persons or entities making calls for telemarketing purposes must have a written policy, available upon demand, for maintaining a do-not-call list.

Seems pretty clear to us; too bad that the ATA in just now proposing this rule, 15 years after the law was passed.

Let see how long it takes them to obey the SRO.

We, here at CATS, have some advice for aggrieved consumers, don't hold your breath on this one.

July 15, 2007

"We maintain the highest ethical standards creating a zero complaint environment for your program.  Every new-hire is trained in all aspects of compliance with the TCPA, TSR, and individual state regulations as part of their basic initial training.  Upon successful completion of this segment of the training the TSR signs a form that specifies that they have been fully trained and they understand all of the requirements of the applicable state and federal telemarketing laws and regulations."

From Dial America's web site, compliance section, author unknown.  According to the web site, DialAmerica is the largest, privately owned telemarketing company in the United States, with annual revenues of $185 million.  Their president serves on the Board of Directors of the Direct Marketing Association, and they claim to have an active, highly respected, in-house Government Affairs and Legislative Compliance (GALC) Department.  They also boast (on their web site) that their VP of GALC also serves as the chair of the Direct Marketing Association's Teleservices Ethics Committee.

Dial America's compliance department can be reached at:  (800) 318-6611

CATS Comment: Dial America claims that their ethical standards create a "zero complaint environment."  Well just hold the phone for a second.

In Wylder v Dial America, Judge Kevin E. McKenney said:

4. Defendant's interpretation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act is intolerably restrictive. Requiring a consumer to specifically ask to be added to the "do not call" list in order to stop these calls is inconsistent with the stated philosophy of the Act, which is "to protect residential telephone subscribers' privacy rights." Expressions of "not interested" and "do not call" are simple clear statements that as a matter of law should have been enough to stop repeated phone calls.

5. The phone calls of 2/1/02, 2/2/02, and 2/5/02 were placed in violation of 47 USC §227 and 47 CFR 64.120O(e)(Z)(iii).

6. 47 CPR 64.1200(e)(2)(iii) states in pertinent part: "If a person or entity making a telephone solicitation ... receives a request from a residential telephonic subscriber not to receive calls from that person or entity, the person or entity must record the request and place the subscriber's name and telephone number on the do-not-call list at the time the request is made." This section does not require a subscriber to follow the procedures described by Mr. Jannicelli. A request ... not to receive calls,,," should suffice.  Plaintiff's entreaty "do not call" should have resulted in placement on the do-not-call list.

7. 47 USC $227(b)(3)(H) authorizes an award of $500 damages for each of these three calls which violated 47 USC §227 and 47 CFR 64.1200(e)(2)(iii).

8. The evidence in this hearing and defendant's efforts to justify continual calls in spite of plaintiff's protestations "do not call again," "not interested" and "do not call," require the court to conclude that defendant willfully and knowingly violated this subsection and regulations prescribed under this subsection and therefore award plaintiff an additional $1,000 pursuant to 47 USC §227(b)(3).

By the way, Dial America had William E. Raney. Esq., of Copilevitz & Canter, a high powered law firm based in Washington, D.C. and Kansas City, MO, as part of their defense team.

July 8, 2007

"Now, more than ever, if we are to remain responsible list and data providers, we need to take a proactive stance screening the telemarketing scripts, mail promotions and e-mail messages of our clients before providing names, telephone numbers, addresses or e-mail addresses.

"In 2004, the Federal Trade Commission charged three list management companies for aiding telemarketers in the marketing of advance fee credit products, which are illegal under the Telemarketing Sales Rule.

"The FTC position is clear and unyielding. Those of us who provide lists share at least some responsibility for knowing what promotion will be communicated to those lists, and especially for knowing when the script or promotion violates the TSR.

"Additionally, the FTC is not limiting its involvement to just telemarketing offers. Those who provide lists to marketers promoting products via e-mail can also be held responsible for reviewing promotions."

Stacey Girt, senior vice president of the list management division of Newton, PA-based MKTG Services, commenting about the FTC’s new policies regarding telemarketing enforcement.

From DM News, Protecting consumers and our industry, June 7, 2007.  Ms Girt can be reached, toll free, at: (800) 936-6210.

CATS Comment: We agree with you Ms. Girt.  But sadly, and all too often, list brokers and others simply "pass the buck" when it comes to obeying the law. 

While your company may refuse to do business with an obviously fraudulent telemarketer, there are plenty of companies that will.  And the beat goes on......

So the best advice we here at CATS can give the consumer is simply this: Don't ever buy from a telemarketer.

July 1, 2007

"DMA [The Direct Marketing Association] fully supports the efforts of the Committee to enact legislation prohibiting caller ID spoofing.  Spoofing is a malicious practice that undermines caller ID as a useful verification device, and when used for illegitimate purposes, can cause harm to both consumers and businesses.

"Caller ID providers consumers with choice and control over their telephone. It alerts a consumer as to the identity of a caller and allows the consumer to choose whether to answer a call from a marketer offering a product or service of interest."

Jerry Cerasale, DMA’s senior vice president for government affairs, testifying to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce about the Truth in Caller ID Act (S. 704).

The bill, introduced by Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL), Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) in February, makes it unlawful to transmit misleading or inaccurate caller ID information.

In 2004, Mr. Cerasale pointed out, DMA adopted Caller-ID requirements as part of the Association’s Guidelines for Ethical Business Practice, adherence to which is a requirement of DMA membership.  DMA requires its members, including nonprofits and other groups, to transmit caller ID information. Specifically, he noted, when DMA members make marketing calls, they are required to transmit the name of the seller and the telephone number by which a called party can call back during normal business hours to ask questions or request not to receive future calls.

From DM News, DMA offers support for Caller ID bill, June 22, 2007.  Mr. Cerasale can be reached, via the DMA at:  (212) 768-7277 x 2423.

CATS Comment: We agree with the DMA on this issue.  Since this web site has been critical of the DMA in the past, we must, in fairness, commend them when they do something right.

We commend you, Mr. Cerasale, for getting it right on this issue.  Honesty with the consumer begins even before the predictive dialer is programmed.

June 24, 2007

"Traveling teaches many lessons about the vast differences in cultures.  In the contact center industry, my own travel and conversations have taught me how similar we all are in the issues that we face.

"Recently I visited the Contact Center Global Forum in Cannes, France, as a speaker. At this show, trade groups and companies from all over the world were represented.  With a wide range of people and backgrounds, there were still many common themes.

"...consumers are more frequently seeking government’s intervention on outbound calls. Hong Kong, China, India, Australia and many other countries are contemplating or have adopted new do-not-call policies.  Some standards mimic the U.S. approach and others are entirely new opt-in plans, which could virtually eliminate sales calls.  Regardless of style, politicians view these laws as a means of satisfying their constituents and eliminating complaints"

Tim Searcy, CEO of the American Teleservices Association (ATA), commenting in an article that he wrote for DM News, about the telemarketing industry overseas .

In the article, Mr. Searcy goes on to tout the ATA's recently introduced "self-regulatory organization" or SRO, which provides so-called "standards" for comment and review by the market. 

From DM News, Call center problems go global, June 21, 2007.  Mr. Searcy can be reached, toll free, via the ATA, at (866) 500-4272 x103.

CATS Comment: Wow Tim, you certainly have become a globe trotting telemarketer!

It must give you a good feeling to know that wherever you go, from Boston to Beijing, from Canada to Chile, your industry is hated world-wide.

It seems that whatever the country, whatever the race of the people, whatever the culture, almost everyone hates telemarketers.

While the world's people may not agree on many issues, it seems that they can certainly agree on telemarketers.   Simply put, no one wants to hear from them!

June 17, 2007

"This issues involves telemarketing fraud along with cheating the elderly — two things that together make it a perfect issue for politicians.  When a major candidate for president jumps on the issue, from an industry perspective, that’s just not a good thing.

"InfoUSA would be well advised to take a different posture from the one they have now, which is that they didn’t’ do anything wrong.  There is a problem here and they have to acknowledge it."

Robert Gellman, a privacy and information policy consultant and DM News contributor, commenting on a New York Times report that an investigation by the authorities in Iowa found that InfoUSA sold consumer data several years ago to telemarketing criminals who used it to steal money from elderly Americans.  It advertised call lists with titles like “Elderly Opportunity Seekers” or “Suffering Seniors,” a compilation of people with cancer or Alzheimer’s disease.

Stormy Dean, Chief financial officer of infoUSA, in reference to the New York Times article, has stated that, "I believe the state of Iowa knows we have done nothing wrong,"

From DM News, DMA, ATA respond to congressional attention, June 1, 2007.  Mr. Gellman can be reached via e-mail at: bob@bobgellman.com.

CATS Comment: This is another variant on the classic "blame game" that most telemarketers play.  Company "A" buys a targeted telemarketing list from data broker "B" and hires telemarketing company "C" to make the calls.

If the telemarketing call is in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and you take company "A" to court, they will blame company "B" or company "C".  If that doesn't work they blame a "computer glitch" or a discharged employee.

Or worse yet, they blame YOU!

June 10, 2007

"If you think you're getting telemarketing calls illegally, use every resource at your disposal.  We can't go after every small company in the country.  We just don't have the resources for them, because we go after companies that have thousands of complaints against them.  But there are a lot of ways you can go about fighting back, if you will."

Mitch Katz,  a spokesman from the Office of Public Affairs of the Federal Trade Commission, (FTC) commenting about individuals and companies that violate the National 'Do-Not-Call" list law.

Last year, roughly 375,000 Americans filed 1.1 million complaints with the Federal Trade Commission about telemarketers. In the four years since the National Do Not Call Registry was launched, the commission has settled 29 cases against the country's worst telemarketing firms.

The Federal Trade Commission isn't the only government agency charged with policing the National Do Not Call Registry. At various times, the Federal Communications Commission and state attorney general's office investigate registry violations.

From the Contra Costa Times, Registry doesn't stop all telemarketers, so some citizens fight back, June 8, 2007.  Mr. Katz can be reached at: (202) 326-2161.

CATS Comment: We agree with Mr. Katz that fighting back is the best answer to the problem. As Edmund Burke once said, "All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing."

We here at CATS agree.

June 3, 2007

"The New York Times brought up a telemarketing scam where scam artists were preying on elders.  I am not sure why this

"In my opinion the author of the column in the Times [Charles Duhigg] does not understand the list industry and took giant leaps of faith with this story.  We are in no way promoting taking advantage of the elderly."

Stormy Dean, chief financial officer of infoUSA, commenting about an article in the Sunday New York Times that said millions of the nation’s senior citizens are at risk of being robbed of their good credit standing, life savings and privacy.

InfoUSA Inc. was singled out in that article, which referred to the fact that in 2005, state regulators in Iowa collected documents indicating that it had sold lists containing the names of older Americans to telemarketing criminals.

InfoUSA claimed the Times’ assertions about the company are based on the files of a "now completed investigation of a suspected telemarketing criminal" by the Iowa attorney general. Three years ago, infoUSA-owned Walter Karl provided documents at a meeting with Iowa’s assistant attorney general. Iowa authorities determined infoUSA had done nothing wrong.

From DM News, DMA, ATA respond to congressional attention, June 1, 2007.  Mr. Dean can be reached at: (800) 321-0869.

CATS Comment: The author of the column does not understand "the list industry"????

We here at CATS believe that the average person fully understands "the list industry."  What most people don't seem to understand is how to get off of the thousands of mailing and telemarketing lists marketed by "the list industry."

Perhaps you could educate us on just how to do that, Mr. Dean.

May 27, 2007

"Start right from the basics. No need to mince words: we call it direct mail; consumers call it junk mail. We call it e-mail, but to consumers it's spam. We call them customer service representatives, but to the world they're telemarketers. We know them as direct response television ads; consumers prefer to say infomercials with a smirk thrown in.

"So the battle for the terminology is lost. And it's not just consumers. Pick up any mainstream magazine or newspaper, view television news shows, listen to radio broadcasts: any reference to direct marketing is derisory, condescending and mocking.

"Who's to blame for this state of affairs? It's easy to pin this malaise on the unscrupulous among the direct marketing industry and those that skirt the edge of legality. But that ignores the larger issue. Has this industry done enough to police itself? The trade associations will surely protest and say yes and point to the breadcrumbs as evidence."

Mickey Alam Khan, Editor in Chief of DM News, commenting about an article in the May 20 New York Times on how elderly consumers were being scammed by telemarketers, banks and a data supplier to convince even a presidential hopeful to toss his hat into the debate.

From DM News, The direct marketing industry needs to act - now, May 26, 2007.  Mr. Khan can be reached via DM News, at: (212) 344-0759.

CATS Comment: The American Heritage® dictionary defines "junk" as:

ADJECTIVE: 1. Cheap, shoddy, or worthless: junk jewelry. 2. Having a superficial appeal or utility, but lacking substance: “the junk issues that have dominated this year's election” (New Republic). 

We believe that the American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language is quite accurate in describing the product that unwanted postal mail, telephone solicitations,  and e-mail bring into our homes.

The telephone and mailbox are the main portal to the American home.  The direct marketers know this.

Who would want want "junk" in their house?  Then why ship this stuff to consumers' homes?

That's why they call it "junk".

May 20, 2007

"Should businesses care that the FTC [Federal Trade Commission] lets some law violators off cheap?  If the Congress and the public recognize that the FTC does little to truly protect consumers, they will demand better enforcement, including private litigation and class actions.  If those are the alternatives, I’d bet that more businesses would agree that real FTC enforcement might not be so bad after all."

Robert Gellman, a Washington-based privacy and information policy consultant and former chief counsel to the House subcommittee on information, justice, transportation and agriculture commenting on the FTC's recent enforcement actions.

In February, the commission took action against DirectRevenue. The charge was that the company used unfair and deceptive methods to download adware onto consumers’ computers and to prevent consumers from removing the adware.

The settlement bars future downloads of DirectRevenue’s adware without the express consent of consumers. The company also must provide a reasonable way for consumers to locate and remove the adware from their computers. The fine was $1.5 million.

One of the commissioners voted against accepting the consent decree. In his dissenting opinion Jon Leibowitz called the result “a disappointment because it apparently leaves DirectRevenue’s owners lining their pockets with more than $20 million from a business model based on deceit.”

Two aspects of Mr. Leibowitz’s opinion are noteworthy. First, he actually dissented. Most consent decrees approved by the commission fail to adequately justify the nature of the relief obtained, the harm imposed on consumers or the size of the fine. Mr. Leibowitz deserves great credit for raising these issues.

Second, the dissenting opinion included financial information about the company. It suggested that the revenues from DirectRevenue’s activities exceeded $23 million, making the fine another relative pittance. Mr. Leibowitz cited an article that appeared in BusinessWeek for his numbers.

From DM News, FTC’s low fines could cost the agency its privacy reputation, May 11, 2007.  Mr. Gellman can be reached via e-mail at: bob@bobgellman.com.

CATS Comment: Bravo Mr. Gellman!  We agree completely.

A review of our last few "Quote of the Week" postings echo the same theme.  Until it costs telemarketers 'real' money and not just a relative pittance, the calls will keep on coming. 

What is needed is a private right of action with a fine that is meaningful, say $3,000 per violation.  This will allow consumers to go to the nation's small claims courts and collect fines.

The Federal Government would no longer have to expend resources to enforce the law.  It would also make violators more concerned about violations of the law.

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which was passed in 1992, provided a "private right of action" for $500 per violation.  However, in today's dollars a $500 judgement is a joke, and not worth most consumers' time.

Currently, there is no "private right of action" for calling people on the national "Do-Not-Call" list.  So telemarketers can call anyone that they want with little or no government action.  Even if they get caught, they usually pay a fine of less than 10 cents per call, a far cry from the $11,000 per call fine that the law provides for.

And the telemarketing industry is banking on that fact.

May 13, 2007

"Our ultimate goal is to supplant the need for the federal government, as well as the regulators ­— the FTC and the FCC — to regulate us because we are unwilling to do so ourselves."

Tim Searcy, CEO of the American Teleservices Association (ATA), commenting about the release of the ATA's so-called "Self Regulatory Standards.

The standards, which were announced at the 2007 ATA Washington Summit, were compiled by the ATA’s Self-Regulatory Organization, an ensemble of industry leaders with a stake in the future of the contact center industry.

A key standard requires members to follow a “Teleservices Bill of Rights,” which says that ATA members must commit to uphold the highest standards of conduct in their inbound and outbound telephone communications with customers.

From DM News, ATA releases self-regulatory standards, May 8, 2007.  Mr. Searcy can be reached, toll free, via the ATA, at (866) 500-4272 x103.

CATS Comment: Supplant the need for the Federal Government and regulators?

We, here at CATS, decided to look up the word "supplant" in the dictionary.  It said:

Supplant - To supersede (another) especially by force or treachery, Synonym: replace.

When it comes to the ATA's intent, treachery seems to be an appropriate word here.

The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) for years touted its "Telephone Preference Service (TPS) and told legislators, including Congress, that there was already a "National Do-Not-Call" list, i.e. the TPS,  and no action by the Government was necessary.  The scheme worked for many years, but with consumer outrage growing, the Government had no choice but to step in.

In the past, ATA tried a similar scheme called "Telewatch" in an attempt to thwart legislation.  Telewatch failed as well.

We wish you luck in your efforts.  When you and your members anger the public enough, the Government will again step in and produce meaningful legislation.

In fact, the public's acceptance and positive experience with the National "Do-Not-Call" list (regulated by the Federal Trade Commission) is now causing consumers to ask for a "Do-Not-Mail" list for the junk mail industry.

We can thank the ATA for that as well.

May 6, 2007

"The DirecTV action provided a much needed wake-up call to general counsels across the country who were working under the mistaken impression that telemarketing compliance could be outsourced in much the same manner, and just as easily, as the telemarketing programs themselves  The background and underlying facts that led to the penalty against DirecTV provide a cautionary tale for any general counsel whose task it is to manage the many risks associated with telemarketing in the United States."

Bryan Cave LLP Attorney Joe Sanscrainte, chair of the American Teleservices Association’s State Legislative Committee. commenting about the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) announcement of a $5.3 million penalty against DirecTV for violations of the national Do Not Call registry and other telemarketing rules.  The fine was the largest civil penalty in a consumer protection matter ever handed down by the FTC.

From a press release on Bryan Cave's web site, Recent FTC Actions Give Guidance on Telemarketing Compliance, November 28, 2006.  Mr. Sanscrainte can be reached at (212) 541-2045.

CATS Comment: Nice thoughts, Joe, but the average telemarketer in the United States would rather "throw the dice" when it comes to telemarketing enforcement worries.

Illegal Aliens do not fear the Government, due to lack of enforcement.  Errant telemarketers feel the same way.  The likelihood of getting caught is small.  And should they get caught, unlike a poor illegal alien facing charges, the telemarketers have a well-heeled group of lawyers to defend them.  Even if they do have to pay fines, the fines are pennies on the dollar.  While the FTC can charge $11,000 per violation, the usual fine is just a few cents per call, largely due to the volume of calls that the telemarketers make.

DirecTV had to pay a $5.3 million fine, yet the FTC failed to say how many calls DirecTV and their dealers made.  We, here at CATS, suspect the number was well over 50 million calls, making the fine per call about 10 cents.

Simply put, it is cheaper to break the law than comply with it.

If you find this hard to believe, pick any telemarketer in the local Yellow Pages, call them up, and ask them for a copy of their "Do-Not-Call" policy.  According to the law, they have to provide you with a copy of the policy.

Let us know how you do.

April 29, 2007

"There is speculation that the [established business relationship] exemption is being overused by industry and the cause of many of the complaints received by congressional offices and the FTC.

"What would happen if that were the case in all 50 states?  Can you imagine a scenario where thousands of your customers could not be reached by telephone?  That would drive up marketing costs, reduce effectiveness and increase your competitors' chance to take your clients.

"Do we really want the FCC to create more rules?"

Stuart Discount, president of 121 Direct Response and chairman of the ATA (American Teleservices Association) Government Affairs Committee, commenting at the ATA's 2007 Washington Summit.

Mr. Discount said the ATA has spent a significant amount of time lobbying Congress, the FTC and the FCC. In most cases, the ATA has learned that the existing business relationship exemption under the DNC is being watched closely.

Mr. Discount said that to fight these bills the ATA has to have a unified program that is well funded. A key part of the program is keeping track of the number of jobs that would be lost in different jurisdictions if call centers were closed as a result of regulations, Mr. Discount said.

The ATA also has a Political Action Committee and is donating thousands of dollars through it to lawmakers it would like to dialogue with.

From DM News, ATA lays out legislative, advocacy priorities, April 25, 2007.  Mr. Discount can be reached, toll free, at: (800) 371-1300 x306.

CATS Comment: Yep!  The ATA is at it again, lobbying Congress and hoping that they can somehow convince legislators that telemarketing is good for consumers.  Don't you guys ever learn?

The ATA tried the same tactic when the National "Do-Not-Call" list was being bantered about Congress and it simply did not work.  Despite the money, the law passed with flying  colors.

Why did this happen?

In our opinion, it is because the uninvited calls were simply offensive to most consumers, and simply put, most consumers vote.

Members of Congress that accept contributions from the telemarketing industry can expect the same backlash from voters that they receive when they accept contributions from the tobacco industry.

We, here at CATS, suspect that Congress, for the most part, has learned its lesson on this issue.  Too bad the ATA hasn't.

April 22, 2007

"Still, can you really experience a fine vintage online? Ask any wine snob and they'll tell you that enjoying a fine merlot or chardonnay is a full sensory experience. You need to taste it, you need to smell it&ldots;but can you hear it?

"No, of course not. But that doesn't stop Goosecross Cellars from engaging in a bit of 'warm telemarketing' to customers in the winter, when people aren't likely to travel to Napa Valley for a tasting.

"David Topper, owner of the Yountville, CA winery, says the calls are one of the ways it keeps in touch. 'I'm a little cautious to say this, but I believe it so firmly I don't mind: To us, the relationship with the customer is more important than the wines we produce.'"

Beth Negus Viveiros, executive editor of Direct Magazine commenting on the marketing practices of Goosecross Cellars, a winery in Yontville, CA.

From Direct Magazine, No Promotion Before Its Time, February 1, 2007.  Ms. Viveiros may be reached, via Direct Magazine, at: 617-916-2762.

CATS Comment: Warm telemarketing???  We, here at CATS, decided to check out this new form of marketing.

We e-mailed Mr. Topper and asked him about this.  It turns out that Goosecross Cellars has very strict policies when it comes to telemarketing.  Simply put, they only call customers when they have requested information or asked for call-backs.  They make no unsolicited calls.

In fact, Mr. Topper asked us the source of the misleading information so he can contact them and have the error corrected.  We advised him of the source.

Mr. Topper is a responsible marketer, a rare breed in today's marketing society.

The marketing press often tries to make offensive marketing sound like something other than what it is...an invasion of the consumer's space.  AOL once called the telemarketing calls to it's members a "member benefit!"

We call it a "pain in the neck," although some people have a lower opinion!

We even helped one person sue AOL over the repeated calls to his home despite his asking them to stop.  He won $5,000.00 in California Small Claims court.

We suppose in his case, it was a "member benefit."

And yes, the marketing press has covered CATS a time or two as well, and frankly the spin that they use can drive us to drink.

Hopefully, it will be with a premium wine from Goosecross Cellars!

Ms. Viveiros responds:

Dear Bob,

To put the quote you pulled in context, could you please provide your readers with a link to the entire column?

Thank you.

Beth Negus Viveiros
executive editor
Direct magazine

April 15, 2007

"During the last election, hundreds of frustrated people told us that their phones rang nonstop.  People who’ve signed up for the Do Not Call Registry ought to be free from these prerecorded political calls."

Roy Cooper, North Carolina Attorney General commenting in a press release about legislation introduced today by Senator Tony Rand and supported by Cooper, North Carolina Senate Bill 1002, would ban political candidates and parties from making robo calls to North Carolinians who have placed their number on the Do Not Call Registry. Political robo calls are prerecorded telephone calls made by campaigns using automated dialers.

Following the 2006 elections, when hundreds of consumers called Cooper’s office to complain about political robo calls, Cooper said that he wanted to change the law so that North Carolina consumers who signed up for the Do Not Call Registry would be protected from these calls as well.

From a press release from the North Carolina Attorney General's office, Cooper pushes law to stop political ‘robo calls.’  Consumers who join Do Not Call Registry would be protected from prerecorded political calls, March 21, 2007.  Attorney General Roy Cooper can be reached, via his office at: 919-716-6400.

CATS Comment: Good for you Roy.  Too bad that our California Attorney General is silent on this issue, except, of course, at election time!

April 8, 2007

"The National Do Not Call Registry is, by virtually every available measure, an effective consumer protection measure.

"Americans continue to enthusiastically embrace the Do Not Call Registry"

Ken Magill, a reporter for Direct Magazine, quoting the findings claimed in the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) annual report to Congress on the National "do-not-call" list law.  You can download a copy of the FTC's report by clicking here.

The FTC also said that the relatively low number of complaints -- about 1.1 million -- it received in 2006 indicates a high degree of compliance by telemarketers and a "meaningful reduction" in unwanted calls.

During fiscal 2006, 6,824 entities paid a total of $21.7 million to access the registry, the report said. The registry has generated $59 million since its launch, the report added.

Moreover, in 2006 58,816 organizations accessed five or fewer area codes at no charge, the report said.

In 2004 the fee per area code was raised form $25 to $40, with the first five area codes provided free.

Magill also reports that violating the National Do Not Call Registry subjects telemarketers to civil penalties of up to $11,000 per violation. As of Sept. 30 2006, the FTC had filed 28 cases alleging violations and had settled 21 of them for a total of $15.8 million in penalties and redress, according to FTC reports.

From Direct Magazine, FTC Again Lauds Do-Not-Call List in Annual Report, April 6, 2007.  Mr. Magill can be reached via Penton Media Group at 203-358-9900 x34219.

CATS Comment: Good article, Mr. Magill.  We note in your article that the FTC has given out large fines to companies for violating the law, but when you break down the large fines divided by the number of calls, it comes out to just a few cents per call.

We wonder how, as a business reporter, you seem to have missed that fact.

April 1, 2007

"Speaking of fair, the moment someone requests to be put on your companies Do Not Call list, this request must be honored. Failing to do so and calling them in the future can result in some pretty heavy fines. To help with this OPC [Marketing] sells tools that clean out "Do Not Call" data from the Federal DNC call lists to ensure this won’t happen. When you import your calling list into the Dialer it “Cleans” the list and will not call--keeping you compliant with the law. This feature alone is worth the cost of the solution, if you’ve seen some of the latest fines that have been levied to non-compliant telemarketers in the news recently.

"Remember your companies Do Not Call List and the Federal Do Not Call List from the FTC are two completely different beasts, one is not the other. If someone asks to be removed from your list it is not the same as being removed from the other. You may need to inform some customers of this. The federal data gets updated every 30 days; you have a certain amount of time to stay compliant within the law for newly added DNC phone numbers. The FTC’s list is subscription based and you’ll need to keep up on those updates."

Stefania Viscusi, a TMCnet assistant editor (TMCnet was formerly Telemarketing Magazine) commenting on how companies should handle a 'do not call' request.  Ms. Viscusi is a 2005 graduate of Albertus Magnus College, Magna Cum Laude.  She currently holds a Bachelor’s degree in English and a Bachelor's degree in Communications.  Stefania has had four of her poems published by “Breakwater” (an Albertus-run literary magazine) and completed a successful internship with the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation as a Public Relations Specialist.

From TMCnet.com's web site, Playing It Fair With Predictive Dialers, March 16, 2006.  Ms. Viscusi can be reached, via TMCnet, at: (203) 852-6800.

CATS Comment: We agree with you Ms. Viscusi.  So when we ask a company to stop calling and they still call, what advice would you give?

We, here at CATS, have found that a TCPA lawsuit, filed in small claims court (where the company being sued cannot bring their attorneys) seems to get their attention. This works about 75% of the time.

Care to give us your suggestions?  We will post them on this web site.

Ms. Viscusi responds:

Hi Bob! 

Thanks for the call and for selecting a quote from my article as "Quote of the Week".

My first recommendation is for callers who do not wish to be called to place their name on the Federal Do-Not-Call list. I also support the recommendation that when people receive unwanted calls they prompt for the company name and phone number before they ask to be removed from lists, this way they will have that information if the company calls again and further action needs to be taken, such as taking it to small claims court.

We are in support of legitimate teleservice business, and find it just as frustrating when some companies abuse the business model and do not follow the "fair rules".

Placing names on Do-Not-Call list has also helped those companies with thriving and rule-abiding outbound teleservice businesses--- since it narrows and deepens the pool of receptive potential customers.

It is also important to remember that certain limitations like non-profits, political campaigns and companies you've purchased from do exist. So becoming informed of your rights and what is and is not "fair" is the best way to know how to act when receiving unwanted calls.

Also, please note TMCnet is not the "former Telemarketing magazine" as you stated but rather the web portal for Technology Marketing Corporation which owns Customer Inter@ction Solutions magazine, INTERNET TELEPHONY magazine, SIP, IMS and other properties and trade events.



Stefania Viscusi
Assistant Editor
TMCnet Channels & SEO
(203) 852-6800 ext. 272

March 25, 2007

"My mother used to say don’t 'run with the wrong crowd, or you’ll get a bad reputation.'  Good advice for anyone. Guilt by association applies in school and in business as well.

"For 30 years, teleservices has been linked and maligned as a perpetrator of fraud.  Every scam that has been played on railroad card, in alleyways, by mail or door-to-door has been tried in one way or another by telephone.  Unlike other means of communication, teleservices, and in particular telemarketing, has been directly linked in the lexicon of policymakers to fraud.  As a matter of record and fact, policymakers refer to telemarketing and fraud as one term repeatedly in the Congressional Record, during hearings and debates on consumer protection as if they are inextricably entwined."

Tim Searcy, CEO of the American Teleservices Association (ATA), commenting in an article that he wrote, about how his industry has been given a bad reputation because of the fraud and deceit that telemarketers have done in the past.

From DM News, Fraud is an ongoing threat to teleservices industry, March 23, 2007.  Mr. Searcy can be reached, toll free, via the ATA, at (866) 500-4272 x103

CATS Comment: Good advice Tim.  So you are you suggesting that businesses should not associate with persons or entities that engage in unlawful behavior?

Since you believe that to be true, let's look at the members of the ATA, shall we?  How many members of the ATA have been successfully sued by consumers for violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act?  How many ATA members have been cited by the FCC and/or the FTC for telemarketing violations?  How many ATA members have had actions taken against them by Attorney Generals or other Government Prosecutors?

The fact is that in the past we could never find out this information because the ATA, under the guise of "protecting their members' privacy," would not release a list of their member companies.

Last week we again requested, via e-mail, a list of ATA member companies.  So far, our e-mail request has been cheerfully ignored.

The ATA has always kept their membership list a secret. 

Does the ATA 'run around with the wrong crowd?'  Since the ATA will not tell us who their members are, we can't seem to find out.

However, we, here at CATS, do not believe that the ATA 'runs around with the wrong crowd.'  We believe that the ATA is the wrong crowd.

March 18, 2007

"Consumers shouldn't have to pay for peace and quiet in their own home. That's why the burden is on telemarketers now, and that's the way it should continue to be in the future"

U. S. Senator Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas) commenting about his proposed legislation, the Do Not Call Reauthorization Act, will reauthorize the FTC's ability to collect fees from telemarketers to cover the operation costs of the program indefinitely.

Pryor pointed out the fact more than 142 million consumers have taken the initiative to register for the Do Not Call program, and he wants to keep the program free, simple and effective. He expressed concern that the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) authority to fund the program through telemarketer fees expires at the end of 2007.

From a press release on Senator Pryor's web site, Pryor to Hang Up on Telemarketers So You Can Eat in Peace, March 6, 2007.  Senator Pryor can be contacted, via his office, at  (202) 224-2353.

CATS Comment: Many telemarketing executives have actually praised the National Do Not Call list because it filters out the people that are not responsive to telemarketing as a marketing method.  As a result they make less calls, but their closing ratio (number of sales per 100 calls) is better.

By pre-filtering telemarketing lists, telemarketing companies save millions of dollars in phoning costs, and therefore, their profits are increased.  For that service, they should pay.

Good for you Senator Pryor, keep up the good work.  In this case consumers and businesses win.

March 11, 2007

"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 (FTC) Bureau of Consumer Protection commenting about an automated phone dialing service that 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.

At the FTC’s request, the U. S. Department of Justice filed a complaint in federal court against The Broadcast Team (TBT), based in Ormond Beach, Florida, because of “voice broadcasting” messages that the company delivered on behalf of a variety of clients. The complaint alleges that TBT can deliver more than a million prerecorded messages per day to answering machines and voice mail services and that, since October 1, 2003, it has received more than $2 million in revenue for telemarketing campaigns that violate the TSR.

The complaint also alleges that, for more than three months, TBT called telephone numbers listed on the DNC Registry to deliver prerecorded solicitations for one of its clients, Debt Management Foundation Services (DMFS). During part of this time, between January 15 and February 4, 2004, TBT called more than one million Registry-protected numbers. TBT also made calls for DMFS and other debt management services-related companies when the required annual fees for access to DNC-listed phone numbers were not paid.

From a press release from the FTC, FTC Seeks End to Telemarketer’s Practices, Automated Calling System Leaves Millions Of People Hanging, January 31, 2006.  Ms. Parnes can be reached, via the FTC, at (202) 326-2676

CATS Comment: And what price did TBT pay?  According to a press release on February 2, 2007 (about a year later) TBT agreed to pay a one million dollar fine.  Impressive?  Let's do the math, shall we?

OK, pull out your pocket calculators: $1,000,000.00 in fines / 64,000,000 calls = $.015625 per call, or slightly over 1½ cents per call.

The FTC warns telemarketers that illegal calls could result in a fine of $11,000 per call.  We, here at CATS, would like to see just that.  So would the 64 million consumers that had to listen to the illegal interruptions.

March 4, 2007

"Stop blaming the government for our problems. I have been guilty of misplaced blame for the past few years, and I am resolved to change. The government — politicians, in particular — are only reacting to consumer frustration when they create new rules.

"Granted, many of their attempts to remedy the problems demonstrated that the problems were bigger than anticipated and caused more problems for the teleservices channel. But the necessity to solve these problems is fair. However, if we stop assigning blame and start building plans, we just may remove the need for government to try to solve our issues for us."

Tim Searcy, CEO of the American Teleservices Association (ATA), commenting in an article that he wrote, appearing in DM News.

From DM News, New Year’s resolutions for the teleservices industry, January 22, 2007.  Mr. Searcy can be reached, toll free, via the ATA, at (866) 500-4272 x103.

CATS Comment: That's OK Tim.  Most New Years Resolutions aren't kept.

We, here at CATS, suspect that the teleservices industry won't keep these resolutions either!

February 25, 2007

"I would like to give some advice concerning the teleservices channel to the recently elected Congress. I hope our elected officials will take these comments to heart so that a channel that employs 5.3 million people and generates billions in economic value will not be maligned by the most recent Congress as it was by the previous one. Go see a contact center. Industry members have been able to introduce dozens of senators and representatives to the truth behind the teleservices channel. It employs good, law abiding citizens trying to make ends meet in a flexible and technically advanced profession. Members of the field are taxpaying voters, and if you spend time in a contact center, you will be overwhelmed by the professionalism and concern."

Tim Searcy, CEO of the American Teleservices Association (ATA), commenting in an article that he wrote, appearing in DM News.

From DM News, Call to Congress: Regulate with care, February 15, 2007.  Mr. Searcy can be reached, toll free, via the ATA, at (866) 500-4272 x103.

CATS Comment: OK--Here we go again, Tim.  You talk about how the industy is 'professional' and all the people that they employ.  Let's talk about the reality of your industry, shall we?

What does the average person in the USA think of the 'Call Center Industry'?  Click here to find out.

Our thanks to Air Farce.com and CBS TV for the Video Clip.

February 18, 2007

"While this case will keep a lot of folks in the mortgage industry up at night wondering if their next, its not bad news for the industry in general. Instead, the Dynasty case provides something that has been sorely missing from the world of DNC compliance: clarity. This case sets forth clear unambiguous rules that if complied with will insure that a business will never be subject to a government forfeiture proceeding for failing to comply with the DNC laws. And the case sets forth that first and foremost in avoiding the fate of Dynasty Mortgage is the implementation of a system that documents that none of your outbound calls are in violation of the DNC laws. Documentation is the key: originators will need to be able to show that in addition to having a system in place that checks to insure that the folks they are calling are not on the DNC Registry, that they also have – in writing – a DNC compliance policy and that they’ve trained their employees how to comply with these DNC laws."

Barry Kaye, a Beverly Hills, California lawyer licensed to practice law in California and New York and specializes in telecom, Internet, banking and real estate law.

From Originator Times, FCC Begins Long Awaited Crack Down on Do Not Call Violators: Lessons from the Dynasty Mortgage Case – Part 1, April 11, 2005.  Mr. Kaye can be reached, via e-mail at: barry.kaye@kfinancialgroup.com

CATS Comment: So just what does the Dynasty Mortgage case say about a firm's written "Do-Not-call" policy?

While the FCC has never issued standards on what the policy must contain, the Dynasty Mortgage case (like Mr. Kaye says) does offer some clear and unambiguous rules on the subject.  On page 12 of the Dynasty Mortgage case, the FCC says:

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

We agree with Mr. Kaye; this case provides clarity in the world of DNC compliance.  If you are a telemarketer, this would be a good time to check your written "Do-Not-Call" policy against the above paragraph.

February 11, 2007

"The American Teleservices Association plans to introduce new self-regulatory standards for its members to address consumer concerns and minimize legislation imposed on the industry.

"The new best practices from the ATA’s Self-Regulatory Organization will take into account existing state and federal laws along with standards to provide improved customer service.

"The teleservices industry includes call centers, users of telemarketing, consultants, trainers and suppliers. The ATA, Indianapolis, represents more than 4,000 contact centers employing 1.8 million-plus teleservices professionals.

"The first draft of these industry standards will be made public April 22-25 during the ATA’s 2007 Washington Summit at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City. "

Mickey Alam Khan, editor in chief of DM News, reporting on the ATA's claim that they are going to introduce a new Self-Regulatory Organization at their 2007 Washington Summit, April 22-25, 2007.

From DM News, ATA to debut self-regulatory standards, January 31, 2007.  Mr. Alam Kahn can be reached, via DM News at: (212) 344-0759.

CATS Comment: We often use DM News for our Quote of the Week because their reputation is spotless when it comes to accurate reporting.  But in this case, they have really dropped the ball.

Alam Kahn's article seems to imply that the ATA's self-regulatory organization is a new idea, but it is not.  The idea of ATA's SRO has been covered by DM News many times in the past.

In fact, If you use DM News' search engine on their web site, and search for "Self-Regulatory Organization  ATA" you get the following results:

ATA to debut self-regulatory standards

January 31st, 2007

The American Teleservices Association plans to introduce new self-regulatory standards for its members to address consumer concerns and minimize legislation imposed on the industry. The new best practices from the ATA’s Self-

ATA Calls on Members to Lobby for Industry

Scott Hovanyetz, Senior Reporter

April 19th, 2005

... - The American Teleservices Association urged members yesterday to lobby state and federal lawmakers to head off legislation harmful to the industry. ATA leadership asked members, who convened here at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill for the annual ATA Washington summit, to open their doors to lawmakers ...

Telemarketers Not Smiling Over Postal Inspectors Ad

Scott Hovanyetz, Senior Reporter

November 15th, 2004

... annual conference in Miami Beach, FL, and that it was a subject of discussion among attendees at the event. The ad drew an angry reaction from ATA CEO Tim Searcy. The postal inspection service failed to draw a distinction between legitimate and fraudulent telemarketing, playing on fears that every telemarketing ...

No-Call List Is Here to Stay

Tad Clarke

October 11th, 2004

... Teleservices Association wanted the Supreme Court to hear the case, but the court denied the request. Now its new motto is cooperation, and the ATA officially unveiled its plan to create a self-regulatory organization at its annual conference in Miami Beach last week. While there, outgoing chairwoman ...

ATA Urges Proactive Efforts to Protect Inbound

Scott Hovanyetz, Senior Reporter

October 6th, 2004

... from doing to inbound what it did to outbound, outgoing American Teleservices Association chairwoman Lisa DeFalco said yesterday. Speaking at the ATA 2004 Convention & Expo, DeFalco discussed the measures the ATA plans in order to head off a federal regulatory blitz on inbound teleservices. She ...

DNC a Year Later

Tad Clarke

October 4th, 2004

... center closings attributed to the list. Sixty-four million numbers are on the list, and the Supreme Court still hasn’t said whether it will hear the ATA’s challenge. Meanwhile, the ATA will announce at its convention in Miami this week that it wants to create an independent self-regulatory organization ...

ATA Plans Self-Regulatory Body for Teleservices

Scott Hovanyetz, Senior Reporter

September 27th, 2004

The American Teleservices Association board of directors has voted to create a self-regulatory organization for outbound and inbound teleservices, a plan it will announce at its Oct. 3-6 convention in Miami. The organization would be independent from the ATA and other interest groups and would set ...

Sorry Mr. Alam Kahn, but you need to do more research on this one.

February 4, 2007

"Telemarketing calls are unwelcome and annoying, and in this case, even dangerous.  We put a stop to the calls, and now this telemarketer has been ordered to pay for disrupting a North Carolina hospital, a local business,and consumers’ peace and quiet.

"People who’ve made it clear that they don’t want to get telemarketing calls should be free from these interruptions."

Roy Cooper, North Carolina's Attorney General, commenting about Federal Court actions against a satellite television

US District Court Judge N. Carlton Tilley, Jr. agreed this week with Cooper’s request for the judgment and a permanent injunction to bar TNT DBS Marketing Inc. of Arlington, Texas from making illegal telemarketing calls to North Carolina consumers.

TNT has been ordered to pay $275,000 in damages to Davie County Hospital in Mocksville for 400 calls it made to the hospital during two days in early 2004 and to Continental Teves for tying up all 150 phone lines at the Morganton auto parts manufacturer during two days in December 2003. The court also ordered TNT to pay $401,500 for illegal prerecorded telemarketing calls it made to more than 80 North Carolinians, funds designated by law to go to the public schools.

Cooper brought the case against TNT in 2004 after more than 40 consumers complained about TNT’s telemarketing calls. According to complaints from the hospital, hundreds of prerecorded calls from TNT flooded Davie County Hospital, tying up telephone lines to the Emergency Room as well as to patients’ rooms.

Cooper argued that the company violated federal and state Do Not Call laws by making illegal telemarketing calls using prerecorded messages. TNT did not use a live operator to ask recipients if they wanted to hear its sales pitch offering satellite installation for $29.00, nor did the company identify itself at the beginning of the message as they are supposed to.  North Carolina law bans commercial prerecorded calls, unless the call is first introduced by a live person who asks you if you’re willing to listen to the recorded message.

From a press release by the North Carolina Attorney General's office, Cooper wins $676,000 from telemarketer that tied up hospital

CATS Comment: Way to go Roy!  Here is yet another action by another State Attorney General against a rouge telemarketer.  Where was the Federal Government while this was going on?  Asleep at the switch?

The reality is that the enforcement of Federal telemarketing laws is getting less and less priority.  Again the states and private individuals have to step in where the Federal Government has failed.

So what else is new?

January 28, 2007

"This is good news for the many marketers who rely on prerecorded messages for communication with customers.  [The FTC announcement] "means that customers can continue to conduct ongoing campaigns without fear of punishment until the issue is resolved.

"We petitioned for this change because the FTC was going to start enforcement while reviewing a rule.  We wanted them to at least wait until they reviewed the rule to make any changes."

Jerry Cerasale, the Direct Marketing Association's (DMA) senior vice president of government affairs, commenting on a ruling by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that  will extend beyond Jan. 2 its policy of not bringing enforcement against sellers and telemarketers delivering prerecorded messages until the completion of an agency proceeding covering rules for prerecorded calls.

The FTC granted a petitioned request from the Direct Marketing Association and other groups.

In 2003, the FTC amended the Telephone Sales Rule to limit the proportion of calls to consumers that telemarketers may “abandon” without risking FTC enforcement. In an abandoned call, the consumer answers but finds no one on the line. The FTC amended the TSR to prohibit call abandonment but let telemarketers play a prerecorded message when a consumer answers in a maximum of 3 percent of calls answered by consumers in person.

However, the FTC said in October that it:

• Denied a petition to let telemarketers deliver prerecorded messages to consumers with whom the seller has an established business relationship.

• Proposed making explicit a prohibition against telemarketing calls delivering prerecorded messages without express written consent of the consumer.

• Would end its policy, as of January 2, of not bringing enforcement against companies using prerecorded messages in accordance with the 2003 rules.

The DMA and other groups petitioned the FTC to delay ending the enforcement policy until after a final determination on the proposed prohibition.

From DM News, FTC delays enforcement on prerecorded messages, December 28, 2006.  Mr. Cerasale can be reached at: (202) 861-2423.

CATS Comment: Your tax dollars at work--Again!  That's right, the FTC, the government agency that is supposed to protect consumers has backed down yet again, when it comes to enforcing its own rules.

Was this any surprise to you?  Well, here at CATS, it was no surprise to us.

As we have always maintained, 'No law, statute, rule, or ordinance will stop telemarketers as effectively as the law of economics. When they don't make any profit, the calls will stop.'

Thank goodness that the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) provides a 'private right of action'; in other words, the right to sue the telemarketer.  And that right was granted by Congress and signed into law by the President of the United States in 1992.

Too bad the FTC's rules don't 'get it.'

January 21, 2007

"DM News came out with an article today that says 'do not mail' is the next big target for state regulators. This is just stupid on a hundred levels. Look, I wasn't thrilled with the Do Not Call Registry, but it has become the law of the land, and the industry has survived. However, the thoughts on why a DNC make sense and the idea of a DNM Registry are apples and oranges.

"If a company wants to mail offers to the consumers it has targeted, this is an expensive and risky bet they should be allowed to make. This is not an issue of privacy, or interrupting a sacred American pastime or saving the environment. Direct mail is about a competitive marketplace, and allowing consumers to make choices from many available options in a

Tim Searcy, CEO of the American Teleservices Association (ATA), commenting on an article in DM News.

From the ATA's blog on their web site, Do No Mail . . . You have got to be kidding!, posted December 13, 2006.  Mr. Searcy can be reached, toll free, via the ATA, at (866) 500-4272 x103.

CATS Comment: Apples and oranges?  Not really!

People became fed up with telemarketing calls because many telemarketers kept calling when they were told to stop.  And let's not forget the fraudulent callers that used deceptive means to sell their wares.

Now the mail marketers are using similar means to bombard us at our homes (like the telemarketers did).  When we ask them to stop, they don't.

And like the telemarketers who called with deceptive offers, the mail marketers of today are using similar tactics to sell their wares.  We all have received the letters with the fake checks, and the advertising pieces marked "Important."

Eventually consumers will get fed up and demand action, and eventually the government will take action.  Perhaps you should read the U.S. Supreme Court case, Rowan v Post Office, to see how the government will stop this annoyance.

You have only yourselves to blame.

January 14, 2007

"Consumers should have the assurance that we will not allow businesses to take advantage of their customers. We will continue to protect our citizens from this type of fraud."

Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum commenting about an agreement that his office has reached with Copeland Marketing Corporation, a Daytona Beach timeshares company that used telemarketing and pop-up ads to sell timeshares. Copeland will pay more than $181,000 to reimburse more than 360 consumers who complained the company’s business practices were misleading or deceptive.

An investigation conducted by the Attorney General’s Economic Crimes Division revealed that consumers believed they were paying Copeland to sell or rent their properties. Copeland Marketing admitted it did not have the required real estate license to sell or rent timeshares. Hundreds of consumers complained that the company made false promises about the services to be provided and the availability of refunds or charged consumers’ credit cards before contracts were signed. After payment, attempts made by consumers to contact the company were in vain. The Attorney General’s Office began investigating the company last May.

Under the terms of the agreement, the company and its owners, Jason Lunt and Andrea DeMarco Lunt, will issue full refunds to all 364 complainants, including 48 Floridians, and will refund any additional complaints received prior to May 31, 2007. Copeland Marketing will also modify its business practices to comply with Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and must adhere to all Federal Trade Commission telemarketing rules and statutes. In addition to consumer restitution, Copeland Marketing will reimburse taxpayers for the cost of the state’s investigation.

From a press release by the Florida Attorney General, Timeshare Company Signs Agreement, Pays $181,000 to Consumers, January 11, 2007. Attorney General McCollum can be reached, via his office, at: (850) 414-3300.

CATS Comment: It seems that telemarketers are becoming more brazen when it comes to violating the law. Or is it the fact that the FCC and FTC appears not to be enforcing the law very well?

We, here at CATS, think that many telemarketers choose to "roll the dice" and take their chances with the authorities. Even if they get caught, they can usually settle for pennies on the dollar.

All the more reason to fall back on the TCPA's 'private right of action' clause. $500.00 in your pocket is better than a puny settlement (when you consider the number of violations made) to a government agency.

Of course, the best answer is to NEVER BUY FROM A TELEMARKETER.

Like many other Federal laws that are broken on a regular basis, citizens have to look to the states or the civil courts to get the laws enforced.

When it comes to enforcing telemarketing laws, 2007 will be an interesting year.

January 7, 2007

"Now so that we’re all clear, the former employee was terminated for things completely unrelated to the DNC [Do Not Call] regulations, the DNC regulations only came into the picture because the former-employee’s attorney was up to speed on the issue. Prediction: in a few years more and more plaintiff’s attorneys will be up to speed on this issue and more and more employers will face employee grievances alleging that due to a failure on the part of the employer to act within the law the employee was placed in a position where they were potentially subject to liability. "

Barry Kaye, a Beverly Hills, CA attorney who specializes in telecom, Internet, banking and real estate law, commenting about a case that he recently wrote an article about. In the article, Kaye points out that the bank needed to do two things very quickly. First they need to get themselves 100% DNC compliant immediately. They needed to not only start scrubbing phone numbers, they needed to train their employees on all the nuances of the regulations at both the national and state levels and implement a top to bottom system that would keep them compliant. Finally the bank needed to settle the matter with the former employee.

Jen Schwartzman of the Federal Trade Commission Office of Public Affairs, agrees with Kaye saying, “They’re [employees are] right in feeling concerned. If for any reason you are reported by a consumer, not only the company, but the person making the call can be held accountable.”

FCC Spokesperson Rosemary Kimball also agrees, saying that employees wishing to lodge a complaint against their companies can do so on the FCC web site. By not having a compliance policy and taking the DNC laws seriously, Kimball says “Their company has put them in a situation where they have a tough decision to make. If we get complaints, they will get caught.”

From OriginatorTimes.com. Make Sure Your Regulatory House Is In Order Before Terminating an Employee, November 13, 2006. Mr. Kaye can be reached, via e-mail at: barry.kaye@kfinancialgroup.com

CATS Comment: What an interesting concept! If you are an employee of a company that requires you to make "service calls" (i.e. telemarketing calls) your employer is putting you at risk of receiving a large fine by the FCC or FTC.

If Barry Kaye is right, companies that do not have a complete 'do not call' policy now face a possible risk of actions by past and present employees.

Maybe that will bring Corporate America into compliance with the law. Like Mr. Kaye, CATS suggests that companies bring themselves to 100% compliance with the law.

Quotes from 2006