(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — With the bipartisan backing of other state attorneys general, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost today co-sponsored separate letters to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) urging greater protections against phone scams and stricter record-keeping requirements to hold telemarketers accountable.
“There is strength in numbers,” Yost said. “We have come together to call on the FTC to extend protections for consumers so Americans don’t lose hard-earned money to unscrupulous scam artists. We are watching out for you.”
Yost’s first letter to the FTC, co-sponsored by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, was sent in response to the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued in late April by the FTC.
The attorneys general seek enhanced safeguards against an increasingly common form of telemarketing known as “negative option.” Under this practice, a seller considers a customer to have accepted an offer for goods or services unless the customer explicitly rejects the offer.
In many cases, negative-option offers contain automatic renewal provisions – as with some magazine subscriptions – or take the form of free or low-cost trials that require the customer to cancel the offer before the trial period expires.
Yost and Shapiro are advocating that the FTC require all telemarketers pitching these types of goods and services to provide consumers with notice and the opportunity to cancel an offer before being billed.
Additionally, the attorneys general want the commission to revise the federal Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) to better protect consumers. Specifically, they are asking the commission to end the TSR exemptions for business-to-business telemarketing calls and for inbound telemarketing (calls made by the consumer in response to an advertisement) centered on computer technical-support services.
The suggested TSR revision would help Ohioans avoid tech-support scams that trick consumers into believing that there is something seriously wrong with their computers. Such scams can begin with a fake pop-up resembling an error message about a virus or other serious problem or by serving a consumer an online advertisement for tech support services, with both messages encouraging the consumer to call a company to “fix” the problem.
In such cases, after calling the number, consumers are told that their computer is at risk and are sold a “protection product.” In reality, the company never performed a diagnostic, and the product the consumer purchased was unnecessary.
Signing on to Yost and Shapiro’s letter were attorneys general from Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
Yost’s second letter to the FTC, co-sponsored with Shapiro and North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, seeks additional changes to the TSR to require stricter recordkeeping.
During the past 25 years, the FTC has updated the TSR to address the increase in unwanted calls and scam calls, but the rule has not been updated to require additional records necessary to ensure fair practices by telemarketers and that would enable law enforcement to go after bad actors.
Among their proposed changes, the attorneys general are encouraging the FTC to require telemarketers and sellers to maintain the following records to prove that:
- A seller has an established business relationship with a consumer.
- A consumer is a previous donor to a particular charitable organization.
- A seller is in compliance with do-not-call registries.
Signing on to the trio’s letter were attorneys general from Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Orgon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
To report a potential scam to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, call 800-282-0515 or visit www.OhioProtects.org.