By: Jeffrey Lapin
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that it pulled the plug on five companies allegedly responsible for millions of illegal robocalls calls from “Rachel” and others from “Cardholder Services.” The FTC estimates that five companies collected approximately $30 million from “Rachel” robocalls by “allegedly deceived consumers” by making phony claims that they could reduce credit card interest rates in return for an upfront fee. After collecting an up-front fee they did little, if anything, to help the consumer.
FTC, ROBOCALLS AND TELEMARKETING
The FTC has been very active recently regarding robocalls and telemarketing scams. On October 18, 2012, the FTC hosted a one-day public event, ROBOCALLS: All the Rage, to develop solutions to the rapid rise in illegal robocalls. This event included reports on the current state of the robocall technology and the industry, along with a discussion of the laws surrounding the use of robocalls. In addition, the FTC offered the $50,000.00 Robocall Challenge, open to the general public. Lapin Law Offices did a recent Blog Post on this Challenge: FTC Issues $50000 Challenge To Stop Illegal Robocalls.
RACHEL FROM CARDMEMBER SERVICES
FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a FTC press release regarding the enforcement action against these five companies, “At the FTC, Rachel from Cardholder Services is public enemy number one. We’re cracking down on illegal robocalls by bringing law enforcement actions and pursuing technical solutions to the problem.” (FTC Leads Joint Law Enforcement Effort Against Companies That Allegedly Made Deceptive “Cardholder Services” Robocalls). The FTC, as set forth in its Press Release, brought the enforcement actions against the companies using “Rachel” or others from “Cardholder Services” because:
The FTC alleges that the defendants place automated calls to consumers, typically with a prerecorded message from “Rachel” or someone else from “Cardholder Services.” The calls purport to have an “important message” regarding an opportunity to reduce high credit card interest rates. Consumers are urged to “press 1” to connect with a live representative, or “press 2” to discontinue getting such calls. Consumers who press 1 are connected to live telemarketers. Most consumers have no way to screen the calls using Caller ID, as the incoming number allegedly is often “spoofed,” or displayed as a false number. In many cases, the name displayed on the Caller ID is so generic, such as “Card Services,” that it provides little information about who is calling.
According to the FTC, consumers who reach a live telemarketer are then pitched allegedly deceptive offers to have their credit card interest rates substantially reduced . . . The telemarketers allegedly guarantee that lowering card interest rates will save the consumers thousands of dollars in finance charges in a short period of time and will allow them to pay off the balances more quickly. . . .
In some cases, according to the FTC, the telemarketers claim to be calling from the consumer’s credit card company. In other cases, they use “Cardholder Services” to suggest a relationship with a bank or credit card company. If the consumer expresses an interest in the rate reduction offer, the telemarketer sometimes conducts a purported “audit” to determine whether the consumer qualifies. Consumers provide their financial and personal information, and are then put on hold while the “audit” is completed. According to the FTC, the “audit” typically is used only to determine whether consumers have enough credit available on their credit cards to pay the company’s fee.
After consumers have been “approved” for the program, according to the FTC, the telemarketer informs them that there is an up-front fee . . . To convince them to pay the fee, telemarketers often say that it will be more than offset by the money the consumer will save through the program. In some cases, the FTC alleges that consumers’ credit cards were charged even if they did not agree to pay for the service. In other cases, the defendants allegedly do not disclose a fee at all, or claim there will be no fee. . . .
After consumers pay the up-front fee, the FTC alleges, they typically find that the companies do little or nothing to lower their credit card interest rates. The only thing that some companies do, according to the FTC, is to initiate three-way calls with consumers’ credit card issuers and orally request a rate reduction, a request that consumers could make on their own and that invariably is denied. In some cases, the companies may also apply in the consumer’s name for a new credit card with a low- or zero percent introductory interest rate.
One of the victims, 84-year-old Alyce Weisbach of Illinois, was charged almost $2,000 after speaking to one of the Green Savers telemarketers. She claims that telemarketer never mentioned a fee to her and she did not authorize any charges.
FTC ENFORCEMENT ACTIONS
The companies, located in Arizona, Arkansas, and Florida, allegedly involved in the “Rachel” and “Cardmember Services” telemarketing scam are: Treasure Your Success; Ambrosia Web Design; A+ Financial Center, LLC; The Green Savers; and Key One Solutions, LLC. In addition, principals from these companies were also named as defendants. In many instances, the FTC does not believe these companies made the robocall themselves; they hired other firms. For example, the FTC claims that a company named Asia Pacific placed 2.6 billion robocalls over an 18 month period.
The FTC filed enforcement actions against all five of these companies. Each complaint alleges that these companies violated the FTC Act by making material misrepresentations to consumers regarding lowered credit card interest rates. In addition, the complaints allege multiple violations: of the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), for misrepresenting their services; calling numbers on the Do Not Call Registry; collecting up-front fees; and making illegal robocalls. As these cases were just filed, none of the defendants have filed a response.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT TELEMARKETING
- American Express to Pay Millions in Refunds and Fines
- Discover Bank To Refund $200 Million for Deceptive Marketing
- 2011 Consumer Complaint Survey Report Released
- FCC Issues New Rules For Telemarketing Robocalls
Lapin Law Offices represents clients harassed by telemarketers, including “Rachel,” throughout Nebraska. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) allows consumers to sue telemarketers for illegal calls, including robocalls. To find out if you have a case contact us anytime (24/7) at 402-421-8033 (Lincoln), 888-525-8819 (Toll Free) or submit your case online, Contact Us. We offer a free initial consultation and do not collect a fee unless we get money for you.