Since the anti-telemarketing registry came into existence in 2003, the FTC has been increasing its efforts to curtail this form of unwanted solicitation. The federal do-not-call list now includes about 97 million telephone numbers which have generated some 1 million complaints against telemarketers.

The FTC has already issued 20 citations to companies who have called several numbers on the registry. A citation is a warning which does not carry a financial penalty. Other companies which have committed more egregious violations have been fined, however, and have reached settlements with the FTC.

AT&T Corp. has agreed to pay $490,000 to settle charges of calling customers who had specifically asked the company to stop calling. Primus Telecommunications Group Inc. settled for $400,000 for violating the list on many occasions.

In February, the FTC announced a settlement of over $500,000 with two time-share companies and their telemarketer for calling over 300,000 telephone numbers on the registry.  Presently, the FTC is pursuing an Arizona mortgage company for $700,000 for violating the do-not-call list.

Columbia House Co., the home entertainment giant, has now become the latest company to settle a claim by the FTC relating to do-not-call list violations. Columbia House has agreed to pay $300,000 with respect to charges of having improperly called tens of thousands of former customers to solicit them to re-subscribe to the company’s various home-entertainment clubs.

Companies may call former customers on the registry if they have had a business relationship with them within the previous 18 months. In the case of Columbia House, the former customers on the list had ceased their relationship with the company for at least 18 months thereby making the solicitations improper.

Columbia House was also charged with soliciting active members to purchase additional services or products even thought the customers in question had specifically instructed the company not to.

Columbia House did not admit any wrongdoing and claimed it was settling with the FTC to avoid the time and expense of litigation. The company did, however, admit it had made “a substantial investment in compliance” to meet the federal guidelines.

The fine for violating the do-not-call list may be as much as $11,000 per call. Enforcement of the registry is shared by the FTC and the FCC (Federal communications Commission).           

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