FTC Puts VoIP Providers on Notice About TSR, FTC Act Violations

TCPA Connect

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) staff sent letters to 19 Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service providers, cautioning recipients about “assisting and facilitating” illegal telemarketing or robocalling. The FTC enforces the FTC Act, which prohibits unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce, and the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), which prohibits deceptive and abusive telemarketing practices. A violation of the TSR is considered an unfair or deceptive practice under the FTC Act.

“VoIP service providers play a unique role in the robocall ecosystem, allowing fraudsters and abusive telemarketers to call consumers at a fraction of a penny per minute,” FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Andrew Smith said in a statement. “These warning letters put VoIP providers on notice that we will take action when they knowingly facilitate illegal robocalls.”

The letters highlighted several types of conduct that can violate either the FTC Act and/or the TSR, including:

  • Making a false or misleading statement to induce any person to pay for goods or services or to induce a charitable contribution;
  • Misrepresenting a seller’s or telemarketer’s affiliation with any government agency;
  • Transmitting false or deceptive caller ID numbers;
  • Initiating or causing the initiation of calls that deliver prerecorded messages, unless the person called provided the seller express written permission to call; and  
  • Initiating or causing the initiation of telemarketing calls to numbers listed on the National Do Not Call Registry, unless the person called provided express written permission to receive calls from the seller or the seller had an existing business relationship with the person called.

The FTC can obtain a maximum civil penalty of $43,280 for each illegal call, as well as refunds or damages for violations of the TSR, along with the authority to seek both preliminary and permanent injunctive relief.

“Combatting illegal telemarketing is a top priority for the FTC, with a special emphasis on halting illegal robocalls,” according to the letters, referencing a recent lawsuit filed by the agency against a VoIP provider for allegedly assisting and facilitating telemarketers it knew, or consciously avoided knowing, were violating the TSR’s prohibitions on calls delivering prerecorded messages. 

To read the VOIP warning letter template, click here.

Why it matters: The FTC’s letters put VoIP service providers on clear notice about their obligations to comply with both the FTC Act and the TSR—or face legal action and accompanying penalties.

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