Three American film companies made 117 million illegal robo-calls to flog DVDs, a court has ruled.
A jury in the Utah District Federal Court found the three outfits and their owner guilty of violating the FTC's Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) by making the millions of calls touting DVDs of their movies. Ninety-nine million of the calls were to numbers on the Do Not Call Registry (DNCR).
The verdict, announced Thursday, was the first jury case win for the Federal Trade Commission on violations of those rules.
The FTC brought the case against Forrest S Baker III and three companies he controls (Feature Films for Families, Inc, Corporations for Character, LC, Family Films of Utah) in 2011, alleging violations of the TSR and DNCR rules.
The FTC said that, in addition to making millions of calls to people on the Do Not Call list, the companies had violated the TSR by misrepresenting themselves as a non-profit family film campaign, when in fact the distributors themselves were keeping 93 per cent of the proceeds from movie sales.
The FTC had also alleged that the companies tried to hide the company names from Caller ID services, repeatedly called those who had asked not to be contacted again, and misrepresented the nature of their calls by not identifying operators as salespeople.
Damages in the case are due to be decided by the jury at a later date, but could possibly extend well into seven figures.
The FTC notes that each of the 117 million TSR violations carries a maximum fine of $16,000. Last year, the FCC extracted a $3m fine from a Florida company for violating robocall rules, and the FTC levied a $1.7m fine for robocall infractions. ®