Three U.S. companies have been hit with penalties totalling $1,175,000 US for making telemarketing calls to people on the U.S. national do-not-call list, regulators said Tuesday.
Westgate Resorts, one of the largest U.S. time-share companies, will pay $900,000 after several thousand consumers filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission.
Florida-based travel company Accumen Management Services Inc. and its subsidiary All in One Vacation Club LLC. agreed to fork over $275,000 US to settle charges against them.
The commission said Westgate, based in Orlando, Fla., bought phone numbers from an internet-based lead generator that collected contact information in connection with offerings on its Brandarama.com website.
Two other companies named in the Westgate complaint — Central Florida Investments Inc. and CFI Sales and Marketing LLC. — did telemarketing for Westgate.
In the case of Accumen and its subsidiary, the commission said they made telemarketing calls to consumers who had filled out entry forms for a sweepstakes to win vacation packages.
Many of those called, the FTC said, were on the do-not-call registry and did not agree to receive the telemarketing pitches for timeshares and vacation getaways.
The latest enforcement actions bring to 40 the number of do-not-call cases the FTC has filed against companies since the registry began in June 2003. More than 167 million phone numbers are registered.
The biggest case to date involved satellite television provider DirecTV Inc., which paid a $5.3 million US settlement.
Canadians complain about increased calls
In Canada, many consumers have complained that they are receiving more phone calls from telemarketers than ever since registering on the Canadian do-not-call list.
The Consumers' Association of Canada says the highly touted list designed to stop many telemarketing calls is having the opposite effect.
"It's a travesty," president Bruce Cran said. "Here we have all these people thinking they were getting rid of incoming phone calls. Anyone who is registered should suspect their phone number is being broadcast to the four winds."
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission launched the registry in September to great fanfare, promising that those who registered would see a drop in unwanted calls. Millions of Canadians have registered their names, home phone numbers and in some cases their cellphone numbers.
The problem, said Cran, is that the CRTC sells the registry list online. "In Toronto, you can get 600,000 names for $50," he said.
Telemarketers are required to subscribe to the list, paying an annual fee that depends on how often they chose to download updates. Those who violate the list by calling registrants may be fined up to $15,000 per call.
Glenn Thibeault, NDP critic for consumer protection, wrote to the federal privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart on Jan. 16 urging her to investigate.
"When the service is not only ineffective but assists in worsening the problem, Canadians have a right to be concerned, " he said.
"We are concerned as well," said Heather Ormerod, a spokesperson for the commissioner. "We are in contact with the CRTC and trying to gather relevant information to see how to proceed."