Asserting that "combating illegal robocalls is a top priority for the FTC," the Federal Trade Commission sent warning letters to a number of VoIP service providers, cautioning them that "assisting and facilitating" illegal telemarketing or robocalls related to the coronavirus is against the law. In the letters, the FTC charged that many of these robocalls "prey upon consumer fear of the pandemic to perpetrate scams or disseminate disinformation."
In the letters, the FTC warns the VoIP service providers that the agency may take action against them if they assist a marketer who they know, or consciously avoid knowing, is violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule. The FTC told the VoIP service providers to watch out for conduct that may violate the Rule, including:
- making a false or misleading statement to induce a consumer to buy something or contribute to a charity;
- misrepresenting a seller or telemarketer’s affiliation with any government agency;
- transmitting false or deceptive caller ID numbers;
- initiating pre-recorded telemarketing robocalls, unless the seller has express written permission to call; and
- initiating telemarketing calls to consumers whose phone numbers are on the National Do Not Call Registry, with certain exceptions.
Andrew Smith, the Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said, “It’s never good business for VoIP providers and others to help telemarketers make illegal robocalls that scam people. But it’s especially bad when your company is helping telemarketers exploiting fears about the coronavirus to spread disinformation and perpetrate scams.”
"Many of these robocalls prey upon consumer fear of the pandemic to perpetrate scams or disseminate disinformation"