Illegal Robocall Operations Broken Up by Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Defendants made billions of robocalls, including millions to numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry
The two cases are FTC v. Justin Ramsey, et al. and FTC v. Aaron Michael Jones, et al. Many of the defendants involved agreed to court orders permanently banning them from doing the following: making robocalls, calling numbers listed on the National Do Not Call Registry, violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), and/or helping others to do so. The defendants who have chosen to settle will also be paying a total of more than $500,000 to the FTC.
"The law is clear about robocalls. If a telemarketer doesn't have consumers' written permission, it's illegal to make these calls," said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "The FTC will continue working hard to put a stop to telemarketers who ignore the law."
State attorneys general have previously sued the two operations' ringleaders, Justin Ramsey and Aaron Michael Jones, for telemarketing violations. The FTC continues to pursue lawsuits against them.
In the Ramsey action, the FTC claims that the defendants illegally made millions of robocalls in 2012 and 2013 to people registered on the National Do Not Call Registry in attempts to sell home security systems or generate leads for companies that install such systems. The defendants made more than 1.3 million such illegal calls to people across the country in a single week in July 2012, alleges the FTC, 80 percent of which calls were made to numbers listed on the National Do Not Call Registry.
In addition, the agency claims that Ramsey has continued to break the TSR. One instance it references took place in April and May 2016. In this instance, says the FTC, Ramsey and his company—Prime Marketing LLC—made at least 800,000 calls to numbers listed on the National Do Not Call Registry.
Two of Ramsey's previous business partners and their three companies have agreed to a settlement. In addition to the bans on making robocalls and violating the TSR and National Do Not Call Registry, the court orders impose on them a $1.4 million judgment. This judgment has been suspended based on their inability to pay; however, if it is discovered that they have misrepresented the state of their finances, the full amount of the judgment will become due.
The complaint filed by the FTC in the Jones action charges nine people and 10 corporate entities with operating robocalling businesses that Aaron Jones allegedly controlled. The FTC claims that the defendants either made or helped to make billions of robocalls between March 2009 and May 2016, at least. Many of these robocalls either sold extended vehicle warranties, search engine optimization services, and home security services, or they generated leads for companies that sold such goods and services. Many such calls were made to numbers listed on the National Do Not Call Registry.
According to the FTC, the defendants made more than 329 million robocalls to people in all 50 states in the first three months of 2014 alone. Thirty-two million of these calls were placed to numbers included on the National Do Not Call Registry. The agency also claims that 222 million such calls were made in the first quarter of 2015, 40 million to Do Not Call numbers.
Seven out of the nine individual defendants, as well as Local Lighthouse Corp., have agreed to court orders. These orders include, in addition to the bans on making robocalls and violating the TSR and National Do Not Call Registry, a $9.9 million monetary judgment. Based on the defendants inability to pay this amount, all but $510,000 of this judgement is suspend. As with the Ramsey action, however, if it is discovered that they have misrepresented the state of their finances, the full amount of the judgment will become due.