Finance Globe

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FTC Sues 3 "Interest Rate Reduction Program" Companies

I received an automated call a couple of months ago. After listening to the message from the other end, I thought it sounded strangely like my credit card company was calling me to give me a better interest rate - but when has that ever happened? The recording said that they were calling from "card services" so I pushed whatever number they told me to and was transferred to a real person.

The salesperson sounded very excited to be able to reduce my credit card interest rate. But when I asked him which of my credit card issuers he represented, he explained that he wasn't affiliated with my card issuers. Alright, that was enough for me to feel like something fishy was going on and I told him I was comfortable with my interest rates and hung up.

Good thing, because it sounds like that call may have been from one of the companies that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed suit against, accusing them of violating several laws through telemarketing "interest rate reduction programs."

The FTC announced on Tuesday that it has sued three organizations for allegedly making robocalls to sell worthless credit-card interest reduction programs to consumers for as much as $1,495.

This is the second major law-enforcement effort this year targeting telemarketers who violate the Do Not Call Rule and other laws by making hundreds of thousands or even millions of pre-recorded robocalls to consumers.

"The FTC has heard the public outcry against robocalls and has taken swift action to stop them. During these difficult economic times, the last thing anyone needs is to be bombarded by robocalls pitching worthless interest-rate reduction programs," FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said. "The lawsuits announced today are not the first, nor will they be the last, that the agency brings to protect consumers from intrusive, illegal, and deceptive telemarketing robocalls."

Virtually all robocalls - automated pre-recorded sales calls - have been illegal since September 1, 2009, unless the consumer gives written permission for companies to pitch them with robocalls. The law banning robocalls does not apply to automated calls that are not sales-related, such as from a school notifying a student's parent of a bus delay or a doctors office calling to remind a patient of a scheduled appointment.

The FTC alleges that the defendants - Economic Relief Technologies, LLC, Dynamic Financial Group (USA) Inc., and JPM Accelerated Services (JPM) - made illegal robocalls to consumers, using names such as "card services," "credit card services," or account services." The robocalls allegedly claimed that consumers could lower their credit card interest rates.

Consumers who followed the prompt were then transferred to a live salesperson who allegedly misrepresented that consumers could dramatically lower their interest charges and be able to pay their debts off faster - for an upfront fee ranging from $495 to $1,495.

The defendants then falsely stated that if consumers did not save a “guaranteed” amount – typically $2,500 or more – they could get a full refund of the up-front fee. However, the FTC charges that after securing the fee, the defendants did not negotiate lower rates on behalf of consumers as promised, and provided few refunds to those who were dissatisfied with the service.

The FTC alleges that the three companies broke the law by making robocalls and violating the FTC Act and the FTC's Telemarketing Sales Rule. Additional charges include calling consumers whose phone numbers are on the National Do Not Call Registry, calling consumers who had previously asked not to be called, and failing to transmit their caller ID information, as required.

Also, other charges include "spoofing" or masking their caller ID information, failing to promptly identify themselves, the purpose of their call, and/or the nature of the goods or services they were selling, improperly abandoning calls, and failing to make required disclosures in their robocalls.

The Economic Relief Technologies defendants are also accused of operating a related scam: using names like "Auto Protection Center" and "Warranty Services," they tricked consumers into believing they were affiliated with their vehicle manufacturer or dealership, and falsely stated that the consumers’ vehicles’ warranties were about to expires.

To help consumers and businesses understand their rights and responsibilities when it comes to pre-recorded telemarketing calls, the FTC issued two new alerts. “New Rules for Robocalls” and “Reining in Robocalls,” found at http://ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt162.shtm and http://ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/business/alerts/alt161.shtm.

The FTC is the nation's consumer protection agency against deceptive, abusive, and unfair business practices.


Source:
Federal Trade Commission
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Sunday, 18 August 2019

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