Antitrust Law Daily FTC, FCC warn more VoIP companies about Coronavirus-related robocalls
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Thursday, May 21, 2020

FTC, FCC warn more VoIP companies about Coronavirus-related robocalls

By Elizabeth C. Pope, J.D.

The letters are the latest in a series of warnings about fraudulent robocalls and unsubstantiated claims about products and therapies sent by the FTC in recent weeks as marketers seek to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The FTC and the Federal Communications Commission on May 20 announced the sending of warning letters to two additional gateway Internet service providers—PTGi International Carrier Services, Inc., and RSCom Ltd.—that are providing a pathway for scam robocalls related to the COVID-19 pandemic to gain access to U.S. networks and consumers, as well as call originator Intelepeer Cloud Communications LLC. The letters alert the recipients that they have been identified as routing and transmitting coronavirus-related scam robocalls, and tell them to stop such conduct immediately or face potential law enforcement actions. In a separate letter, the agencies wrote to thank USTelecom—The Broadband Association, a trade association that represents U.S.-based telecommunications-related businesses, for identifying and mitigating fraudulent robocalls attempting to take advantage of the Coronavirus crisis. Additionally, the FTC announced today that it has sent warnings to 50 more marketers nationwide to stop making unsubstantiated claims that their products and therapies can treat or prevent COVID-19.

Letters sent to providers Intelepeer Cloud Communications, LLC; PTGi International Carrier Services, Inc.; and RSCom Ltd. state that the FTC and FCC believe the companies have routed and transmitted scam robocalls, including messages falsely offering refunds for tech support services as well as false warnings threatening cutoff of Social Security benefits.

The letters request that the recipients cease these actions immediately or face potential law enforcement actions. The letters also notify the recipients that the FTC and FCC obtained information about their conduct working in conjunction with the USTelecom Industry Traceback Group.

"We never tolerate illegal robocallers, but it’s especially abhorrent when scammers exploit pandemic-related anxiety," said FTC Chairman Joe Simons. "These VoIP providers must stop allowing illegal scam calls to reach consumers."

U.S. Telecom letter. In addition to expressing gratitude for the USTelecom Industry Traceback Group’s efforts, the letter sent to USTelecom stated that if, after 48 hours of the release of the letter, any of the specific gateway or originating providers continue to route or transmit the specified originators’ robocalls on its network, the FCC will: (1) authorize other U.S. providers to block all calls coming from that gateway or originating provider; and (2) authorize other U.S. providers to take any other steps as needed to prevent further transmission of unlawful calls originating from the originator.

Products and therapies marketers. Today the FTC also warned 50 more marketers nationwide to stop making unsubstantiated claims that their products and therapies can treat or prevent COVID-19. The recipients include makers of supplements and Chinese herbal treatments, acupuncturists, homeopathic treatments sellers, nebulized therapy providers, ozone and intravenous therapies/hydrotherapy providers, and pulsed electromagnetic field therapy and scalar frequencies providers. In the letters, the FTC states that one or more of the efficacy claims made by the marketers are unsubstantiated because they are not supported by scientific evidence, and therefore violate the FTC Act. In all, the Commission has sent similar letters to more than 120 companies and individuals.

Earlier warnings. The FTC has sent multiple warning letters to companies allegedly selling unapproved products that may violate federal law by making deceptive or scientifically unsupported claims about their ability to treat or cure coronavirus and to VoIP service providers and other companies warning against "assisting and facilitating" illegal coronavirus-related telemarketing calls. They letters are collected on the FTC Coronavirus Warning Letters to Companies page.

Companies: PTGi International Carrier Services, Inc.; RSCom Ltd.; Intelepeer Cloud Communications LLC; USTelecom—The Broadband Association

MainStory: TopStory ConsumerProtection FederalTradeCommissionNews Covid19

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