A recent Supreme Court decision involving a lawsuit brought against Arrow Financial Services LLC over alleged nuisance phone calls has put other similar businesses and telemarketers on notice. The high court’s decision effectively allows people who are annoyed by nuisance phone calls to sue in state and federal courts.
Here we present an update of current telemarketing litigation:
Monitronics lawsuits consolidated
• On December 16, 2013, four class actions alleging violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act have been consolidated by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation.
• The lawsuits all claim the home security company violated the TCPA by making telemarketing calls to people who had listed themselves on the national Do Not Call Registry or contacted cell phones without the person’s consent. The MDL will be tried in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia with Judge Irene M. Keeley presiding, and is now referred to as Monitronics International Inc. Telephone Consumer Protection Act Litigation, MDL No. 2493, in the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation.
• It was decided to consolidate the four TCPA class-action lawsuits against Monitronics because of the “common factual allegations” that the cases share “regarding Monitronics’ policies and procedures for calling customers, directly or through agents, for the purpose of selling home security products or services, as well as its procedures for obtaining and recording a consumer’s consent to receive such calls.”
• The MDL panel wrote “Two actions propose virtually identical nationwide classes of persons who received automated telemarketing class on wireless lines. Another action proposes a nationwide class that encompasses both types of the allegedly distinct violations - that is, calls to those on the Do Not Call Registry and calls using a pre-recorded message.”
Magazine telemarketers targeting seniors
• The Consumer Protection Section of the Colorado Attorney General’s Office has filed a civil lawsuit against Rocio Trujillo and her husband, Anthony Trujillo, and several companies they operate for violating the Colorado Consumer Protection Act (CCPA). The complaint alleges that the Trujillos orchestrated a magazine telemarketing scam that victimized thousands of consumers, specifically, the elderly.
• Denver District Court Judge Laff has entered a temporary injunction shutting down these businesses and freezing their bank accounts.
• From 2002 to the present, the Trujillos ran several interrelated companies, RNA Direct Marketing, LLC; America’s Elite Media, Inc.; America’s Elite Magazines; Patriotic Readers Club; AA Publishers, LLC; and All American Publishers. Also named in the complaint are Subscription Data Processing, LLC and Fulfillment Data Processing, Inc., companies the Attorney General alleges acted with full knowledge of the deceptive telemarketing scheme and facilitated its success.
• The complaint filed in Denver District Court alleges that the defendants orchestrated a three-pronged business model to complete their deception. First, the Trujillos placed harassing sales calls to magazine subscribers with the goal of convincing the consumer they are their current magazine provider. Once accomplished, consumers were next deceived into participating in a recorded “verification” process. Then, the Trujillos would claim the “verification” process was an oral contract and aggressively collect on the “contracts.” The Trujillo’s typical magazine package supposedly provided the consumer with five magazine subscriptions each of which ran from one to five years, and cost $1,200. In actuality, some consumers were billed up to $100 per month and have “contractual obligations” in excess of $2,000.
• One elderly woman received 46 magazine orders including seven orders for Redbook, five for Woman’s Day and three for the TV Guide. Some of the 46 orders were submitted by the Trujillos while others were from other telemarketers; however, all were handled by Subscription Data Processing.
• In addition, the Trujillos are accused of engaging in other deceptive trade practices including threats to send consumers to collection agencies to bully them into participating in the “verification.” Assuming a consumer could even get in touch with the Trujillos to try to cancel their subscriptions, the Trujillos claimed their sham “verification” process entitled them to charge consumers a $400 cancellation fee for the first year of the “contract” and $200 for canceling in the “contract’s” second year. Sometimes, the Trujillos failed to even order the magazines.
• The Attorney General’s Office is seeking permanent injunctive relief against the defendants to prevent them from engaging in further deceptive trade practices. In addition, the Attorney General’s Office seeks to have any financially injured person completely compensated and for civil penalties to be ordered payable to the state’s general fund. With respect to each elderly victim, the Attorney General’s Office seeks a penalty per person of up to $10,000.
Utah-based telemarketer sued by federal regulators
• The Federal Trade Commission recently filed a 42-page lawsuit against 14 companies and nine individuals, alleging the defendants operated as a single enterprise that enticed consumers with e-mails and websites to buy relatively inexpensive work-at-home kits.
• The lawsuit also alleges the telemarketers then tried to sell those purchasers even more expensive “coaching services” and related goods that were promoted as an opportunity to build profitable online businesses.
• Additionally, the telemarketers allegedly urged consumers to purchase other pricey business offerings such as website design, accounting and tax-filing services in a practice known as “up-sells.”
• “In truth and in fact, consumers rarely, if ever, end up with profitable online business,” the complaint says, “and defendants’ scheme continues either until consumers realize that they are victims of a scam or until they reach the limits of their credit cards.”
• Among those named in the complaint was Orem resident Ken Sonnenberg, the owner of Apply Knowledge and eVertex.
Arkansas sues New Jersey-based General Yellow Pages
• Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has filed a lawsuit against a New Jersey-based online advertiser alleging it attempts to coerce Arkansas businesses into paying for services the businesses did not authorize or seek out.
• Electronic Media Marketing Group Inc., which does business as General Yellow Pages, is accused of violating the federal Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act, the Federal Telemarketing Sales Rule, and the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
• General Yellow Pages is accused of attempting to convince business owners that the businesses had agreed to a “free trial” of advertising, and because the service was not affirmatively canceled, they were obligated to pay hundreds of dollars for an additional year of advertising services. The defendant would then invoice those business for $599.95 each.
• According to the lawsuit, the businesses had never agreed to an advertising “free trial” and the businesses had never sought paid advertising from General Yellow Pages.
• While several businesses have asked General Yellow Pages to provide proof that free-trial advertising had been authorized, the company has been unable to provide such proof, but has continued to send invoices to businesses, some of which reflect “late fees” because the businesses did not pay previous invoices.
• McDaniel asked the Court to issue an injunction requiring General Yellow Pages to cease its practices and to order the defendant to pay civil penalties, restitution and attorneys’ fees and costs.
Yellow Pages Update:
Here we provide correspondence received by LawyersandSettlements from Vladimir Adolphe, CEO of “Yellow Pages”, by way of an update on this Yellow Pages legal action described above:
“We provided the Office of the Arkansas Attorney General, audio recordings, transcripts, copies of transmissions as evidence the advertisers had agreed:
- To pay for the service after the 30-Day Trial period.
- To cancel during the trial to rescind on the engagement to pay for the service.
• We provided evidence we were diligent, and there was nothing other or further we could have done in good faith prior to billing for our services when an advertiser opted not to cancel during the trial.
READ MORE TELEMARKETING LEGAL NEWS
• The Attorney General of Arkansas has failed the obligation to ensure the accusations it formulated and presented as deceptive constituted the violation they presented these actions as; - section 5 of the Attorney General of Arkansas formulated “EMMG uses the name General Yellow Pages to deceive owners and consumers, as it is close in name to the well-known Yellow Pages”
Whereas; The words “Yellow Pages” and the “Walking Fingers” logo are not registered trademarks "Yellow Pages" as well as the "Walking Fingers" logo first introduced in the 1970s by the Bell System-era AT&T. In the United States, neither the name nor the logo were registered as trademarks by AT&T, and are freely used by several publishers.