Two Years and 30,000 Complaints Later, FTC Finally Busts Car Warranty Robocallers [UPDATED]
After more than one billion unsolicited calls and some 30,000 complaints–one from Senator Charles E. Schumer–the Federal Trade Commission is finally going after companies responsible for those supremely annoying car warranty robocalls.
You know the ones I’m talking about, I’m sure. They’ve been occurring since 2007 and go something like this: “This is the second notice that the factory warranty on your vehicle is about to expire.” Hang up and the machine calls you again later. Transfer to a “warranty specialist” and ask to be taken off the call list and you’re either hung up on or, in my case, given an 800 number to call that turns out to be a phone sex line.
In complaints filed in United States District Court in Chicago, the agency accuses telemarketer Voice Touch and warranty outfit Transcontinental Warranty of deceptive sales practices and violating telemarketing rules with their relentless prerecorded sales pitches for extended vehicle warranties. Among the companies’ numerous violations: dialing every number in a given area code, including those listed in the National Do Not Call Registry; robocalling 911 emergency centers; regularly spoofing call recipients by transmitting phony Caller ID information so that call they can’t identify the originating number; and pressuring consumers into purchasing bogus extended service contracts for their cars.
“This is one of the most aggressive telemarketing schemes the FTC has ever encountered,” chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement. “I’m not sure which is worse, the abusive telemarketing tactics of these companies or the way they try to deceive people once they get them on the phone.”
Right on. One question though: If this is the most aggressive telemarketing scheme the FTC has ever encountered, why did it take the agency two years and 30,000 complaints to finally jump into action?
The FTC has asked for temporary restraining orders to halt the illegal robocalls, an asset freeze on both defendants and a permanent injunction that would force them to disgorge their ill-gotten gains.
UPDATE: A federal judge has issued temporary restraining orders against the companies halting their “robo-dialer harassment.” He has also frozen their assets until a May 29 hearing on the FTC’s request for a preliminary injunction.