Georgia telemarketer to pay FTC $300,000 for dropped, unauthorized calls

telemarketersThe president of Georgia-based telemarketing company JAK Productions, Inc. must pay $300,000 to settle Federal Trade Commission allegationsthat the company abandoned millions of telemarketing calls and also dialed thousands of consumers who didn't want to be bothered.

JAK and its president, John Keller, called consumers as "telefunders," or for-profit telemarketers, seeking donations on behalf of charities. The FTC alleges in its complaint that JAK violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule by placing more than two million automated calls but then abandoning them when someone answered. The company is based in Atlanta but used call centers in West Virginia.

Telemarketers are required to limit the number of automated calls they make, according to the FTC. When too many are made, there usually aren't enough available representatives to handle the calls when they're answered.

The FTC considers a call "abandoned" when an automated call is made and answered but not connected to a live person within two seconds. Under FTC rules, telemarketers should not abandon more than 3% of calls that are answered by a person. FTC rules also require calls not referred to a live person be connected to a recording that identifies the caller by name and telephone number.

The FTC also alleges JAK called thousands of consumers who had previously placed their numbers on the do-not-call list of the charity for which JAK was calling. It's not illegal for telefunders to call numbers on the FTC's Do Not Call Registry, but consumers can request their number be placed on the charity's internal list, which has to be honored.

Laura Fremont, FTC attorney, told Consumer Ally the case is about making sure telefunders respect privacy rights.

"People who get calls they don't want should ask to be placed on the charities' do-not-call list and it's also a message to telemarketers and telefunders not to make more calls than they can actually handle," Fremont said. "Consumers shouldn't get a lot of calls where there's no one to talk to on the other end."

Under the settlement with the FTC, JAK and Keller are prohibited from violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule and must abide by certain reporting and monitoring provisions.

The FTC suspended a $1.45 million civil penalty because of the company's inability to pay. But Keller will have to pay the $300,000 civil penalty.
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