Sep 102009
 September 10, 2009  Posted by  Business, Court, U.S.

An Illinois telemarketing firm has agreed to pay a $15,000 civil penalty to settle a lawsuit alleging it violated Indiana’s Do Not Call law by pestering Hoosiers with dozens of pre-recorded “robo-calls.”

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller today announced the settlement of the State of Indiana’s lawsuit against Sonnenschein Financial Services, Inc., and Sonnenschein Marketing Services, LLC. Both entities have an address of 2 TransAm Plaza in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois.

The settlement resolves a lawsuit filed in November 2007 in Porter County Superior Court by former Attorney General Steve Carter. The suit alleged the two Sonnenschein companies called 78 Hoosier households who had signed up for Indiana’s Do Not Call list and then played them a pre-recorded sales message without asking their permission or giving them a chance to opt out.

Here is the text of the pre-recorded robo-call that was automatically dialed to consumers between Nov. 18, 2005, and May 16, 2006:

“Hi, this is Paul from the Prize Claim Center. We have great news for you regarding the contest entry form you submitted to win a brand new automobile. We pulled our ticket. You guys have actually won one of our top four major prizes, and it would be in our best interest to call back as soon as possible. We can be reached toll free at 877-256-7894. Do not hesitate to give us a call back, folks, we have great news for you.”

Caller ID showed the robo-calls originated from one of the Sonnenschein entities. Some of the consumers who received calls also were invited to the company’s sales presentation in Crown Point, Ind., according to the suit.

Such robo-calls violate Indiana’s Auto Dialer Act, which prohibits pre-recorded sales calls from for-profit entities unless a live operator first obtains the customers’ permission to play the message. Beyond the Do Not Call and robo-call violations, the message itself was a misrepresentation, since the consumers had not entered a contest or drawing for an automobile and the company did not identify itself by its true name. The attorney general’s lawsuit also alleged a violation of the Indiana Deceptive Consumer Sales Act.

“These telemarketers were brazen: Calling people who asked not to be called and playing them a recorded message they did not want to hear announcing they had won a contest they did not enter,” Zoeller said. “Fortunately in Indiana, we have strong telephone privacy laws on the books to penalize this sort of deceptive and illegal conduct.”

In last month’s consent decree that settled the lawsuit, Sonnenschein Financial Services and Sonnenschein Marketing Services, while not formally admitting wrongdoing, agreed to a court injunction prohibiting them from engaging in such tactics again and agreed to pay a civil penalty of $15,000 to the state. Zoeller said the penalty will be used to enforce future telephone-privacy actions.

Zoeller noted that since the Indiana Telephone Privacy List took effect in January 2002, the Indiana Attorney General’s office has reached settlements with or judgments against at least 248 companies and individuals, and has been awarded a total of $12,051,154.50 in penalties.

Source: Indiana AG Press Release

hat-tip: Legal Newsline

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