The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) issued warning letters to nine Voice over Internet Protocol (“VoIP”) service providers to warn them that “assisting and facilitating” illegal telemarketing or robocalls related to the COVID-19 pandemic is strictly against the law.
The FTC’s letters claimed that the VoIP service providers were using practices that “prey upon consumer fear of the pandemic to perpetrate scams or disseminate disinformation.” The letters further warned that the service providers’ actions may violate the FTC Act and/or the Telemarketing Sales Rule (“TSR”) and that the FTC may take legal action against them if they assist a seller or telemarketer who they know, or consciously avoid knowing, is violating the TSR.
The letters highlighted several types of prohibited conduct under the TSR, including: (i) calls about charitable donations; (ii) calls from a fake governmental agency; (iii) fake caller ID numbers; and (iv) making calls to numbers listed on the National Do Not Call Registry.
The FTC requested a response from the companies this week describing the specific actions they have taken to ensure their company’s services are not being used in Coronavirus/COVID-19 robocall schemes.
Takeaway: Advertisers and consumers should be vigilant over the influx of COVID-19 advertising and solicitation from bogus companies.