FTC and FCC Take Joint Action to Stop COVID-19 Scam Robocalls

April 8, 2020 | Marc S. Ullman | Compliance, Investigations & White Collar

On April 3, 2020 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) announced that they had issued Warning Letters to VoIP providers: SIPJoin, Connexum and VoIP Terminator d/b/a BLMarketing. According to the letters, investigations have revealed that the companies transmitted calls offering fraudulent COVID-19 home testing kits or claiming that HVAC cleaning services will help fight the virus.

The letters warned the three companies that they had  48 hours to stop routing or transmitting harmful robocall traffic from their clients making COVID-related claims or the FCC will authorize all other U.S. voice providers to block all calls from them and take all steps that may be needed to prevent further transmission of unlawful calls from those companies. The agencies added that they will evaluate whether further action is warranted against the recipients of the letters.

In an unprecedented move, the two regulators simultaneously sent a letter to  telecommunications trade association USTelecom. The letter thanks USTelecom’s Industry Traceback Group for promptly identifying fraudulent COVID-19 robocalls and lists companies and providers that appear to be responsible for illegal calls – businesses the Industry Traceback Group helped to name.  The letter further lets USTelecom know that if the three companies don’t comply, the FCC will authorize U.S. providers to block all calls from those companies and to take steps to prevent further transmission of unlawful calls from them.

These letters follow nine earlier letters sent by the FTC to VoIP providers warning against violations of the Telemarketing Sales Rule, which makes it unlawful “to provide substantial assistance or support to a seller or telemarketer” if they know or consciously avoid knowing that the seller or telemarketer is violating certain provisions of the Rule including:

  • Making false or misleading statements to get a person to buy a product;
  • Making false or misleading statements to get charitable contributions;
  • Misrepresenting a seller or telemarketer’s affiliation with a government agency;
  • Transmitting false or deceptive caller ID information; or
  • Initiating or causing the initiation of telemarketing calls to numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry.

A complete list of FTC COVID-related Warning Letters, including the FCC joint letters, can be found here:  https://www.ftc.gov/coronavirus/warning-letters.

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