May 172010
 May 17, 2010  Posted by  Business, Court

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller has really made a point of going after robo-callers. Here’s a follow-up to a case reported last June:

A Texas company sued by the Indiana Attorney General’s Office for allegedly making more than 100 unwanted robo-calls to a South Bend business has paid a $30,000 settlement to resolve the lawsuit.

The consent decree reached Friday by Attorney General Greg Zoeller and the Texas company is part of Zoeller’s aggressive enforcement of Indiana’s Telephone Privacy laws. The Attorney General has filed similar lawsuits recently against other companies for Telephone Privacy violations.

“Hoosiers often tell me how much they appreciate our Telephone Privacy laws. They signed up for Indiana’s Do Not Call list because they hate the interruptions by telemarketers,” Zoeller said. “Our Indiana laws are quite clear. If  telemarketers and robo-callers don’t respect consumers’ privacy or don’t understand what we mean by ‘Do Not Call,’ then perhaps having to pay large cash settlements will get their attention.”

Last June 15, the Attorney General filed suit against Association Health Care Management Inc. of Houston, Tex., which also does business as Family Care. The company offers consumers a card for health care discounts. But the Attorney General’s Telephone Privacy Division fielded multiple complaints from businesses and consumers about Association Health Care Management’s automated telephone solicitations.

One business owner in South Bend lodged more than 100 individual complaints to the Telephone Privacy Division about Association Health Care Management calling his workplace and tying up his phone lines with robo-calls. Solicitation calls generated by an automatic dialing device with a prerecorded message violate Indiana’s Auto Dialer law unless a live operator obtains the customer’s permission first.

Under a consent decree – or settlement – approved by the St. Joseph County Superior Court on May 10, Association Health Care Management Inc. does not admit wrongdoing. The company notes that a former wholesaler generated the robo-calls against its policy. But the company also agrees to follow the Auto Dialer law, not make robo-calls and cooperate with the Attorney General’s Office on any future complaints.

As part of the consent decree, Associated Health Care Management Inc. on Friday paid the State of Indiana a $30,000 check that will be used to fund future Telephone Privacy efforts. The Attorney General’s Office is also pursuing several other Telephone Privacy actions against violators:

  • Today, Attorney General Zoeller filed suit in Bartholomew County against Tipton Lakes Athletic Club of Columbus, Ind. At least nine consumers who previously signed up for the state’s Do Not Call List complained they have received unwanted sales calls from Tipton Lakes Athletic Club offering fitness club membership products and services. The lawsuit seeks an injunction and civil penalties.
  • On April 22, Zoeller filed suit against Smoking Everywhere Inc., a company based in Weston, Fla., that sells electronic cigarettes and smoking-cessation products. Five Indiana consumers on the Do Not Call list complained to the Telephone Privacy Division that they received pre-recorded calls from Smoking Everywhere Inc. Moreover, the Florida company does not have a certificate of authority through the Secretary of State to do business in Indiana. Filed in Marion County Superior Court, the Attorney General’s lawsuit seeks an injunction to require the company to cease its promotion in Indiana, cease its robo-calls or any calls to customers on the list, and civil penalties.
  • On Feb. 12, Zoeller also filed suit against Blue Harbor Financial LLC of  Traverse City, Michigan. Multiple consumers complained about receiving sales calls soliciting Blue Harbor’s financial products, such as negotiating lower interest rates or consolidation of credit-card debt; and some complaints involved robo-calls. Four of the consumers who ended up purchasing services from Blue Harbor paid $3,500 or more, and their requests to cancel the company’s services were not honored. The Attorney General’s lawsuit seeks an injunction, civil penalties and a court order that any contracts Blue Harbor made with the consumers through deceptive acts are void. That lawsuit is ongoing in Marion County Superior Court.

Violations of Indiana’s Do Not Call law can result in civil penalties of $10,000 for the first offense and $25,000 for subsequent offense. Separately, violations of the Indiana Auto Dialer Act and Indiana Deceptive Consumer Sales Act carry civil penalties of up to $5,000 each.

“Diligent enforcement of Indiana’s Telephone Privacy laws started under my predecessor, former Attorney General Steve Carter, and has continued under my administration. Indiana has the toughest, most stringent telephone-privacy law in the nation, and I intend to enforce it aggressively and not relent until everyone gets the message and stops pestering our Hoosier consumers,” Zoeller said.

Source: Attorney General Greg Zoeller

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