Skip to comments.FCC slaps AT&T with fine over alleged telemarketing calls
Posted on 11/03/2003 3:52:23 PM PST by yonif
WASHINGTON - In the first major enforcement of federal "do not call" rules against telemarketers, the Federal Communications Commission on Monday fined AT&T Corp. $780,000 for allegedly phoning customers who had asked not to be called again.
The telecom giant, based in Bedminster, N.J., denied the allegations and said it would challenge the fine.
The FCC claims AT&T repeatedly solicited 29 consumers on 78 separate occasions over the last 12 months after they'd asked AT&T telemarketers not to call. The FCC is seeking $10,000 for each call.
The alleged violations don't involve provisions of the new national do-not-call registry, which was launched Oct. 1 after a series of legal challenges. That list now contains 54.3 million phone numbers that are off-limits to most solicitors.
The complaint says AT&T violated a longstanding FCC rule that requires telemarketers to honor company-specific no-call lists. Those lists consist of the phone numbers of consumers who have asked individual firms not to call them again. By law, the request must be honored regardless of whether the consumer's number is in the national registry.
Previous violators of company-specific no-call lists have drawn only warning letters from the FCC. The maximum fine for such violations is $11,000 per call.
"This puts telemarketers on notice that we will take all measures necessary to protect consumers who chose to be left alone in their homes," said FCC Chairman Michael Powell in a prepared statement. "Together with our partners at the Federal Trade Commission, we will remain vigilant to ensure that telemarketers respect the wishes of consumers."
AT&T claimed the charges were overstated.
"We are confident we can persuade the FCC in its fact-finding proceeding that there were not 78" violations, the company said in a prepared statement. It hinted at its defense, noting that the fines stemmed from "customers who believed they were on an AT&T-specific list and received a call they think was from AT&T."
Under FCC rules, AT&T has 30 days to file a response saying why the fine should be reduced or rescinded. The FCC will consider the response and issue a second order that upholds, lowers or eliminates the original fine.
Tim Searcy, president of the American Teleservices Association, a telemarketing trade group that opposed the national no-call registry, declined comment on the AT&T fine.
The FTC, which also helps enforce the national do-not-call registry, has received 51,610 complaints since Oct. 1 alleging unwanted calls to phone numbers on the national list.