Our first featured speaker at the Government Affairs Fly-In, Lois Greisman, was incredible and I’m so glad she kicked off our two day conference. As associate director, she currently heads the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Division of Marketing Practices as part of the Bureau of Consumer Protection.
Under Greisman’s management, Marketing Practices leads the FTC’s law enforcement initiatives tackling telemarketing fraud (including Do Not Call enforcement), fraudulent investment opportunity schemes, and internet frauds, with particular focus on challenges posed by new technologies and convergence issues.
She was kind enough to share her knowledge and insights with us about the space. Greisman said that the FTC may be quieter these days, but that doesn’t mean the FTC aren’t still leading the charge against robocalls, online theft and more.
Robocalls are more than just those pesky phone calls you get four maybe five times a day. Robocallers promise debt relief, student loan relief, medical bill relief, etc. The FTC receives around 500,000 do not call complaints per month and 60 percent of those complaints are about robocalls.
It’s scary the kind of technology that robocalls can employ to scam unsuspecting folks. The pre-recorded messages sound realistic. Greisman shared her own personal story of when she answered a robocall and asked if it was a robot only to be met by a pre-recorded laugh for when the bot expected to be asked this question.
Speaking of scary technology, Greisman mentioned that calls that use soundboard “avatar” technology will now be treated as robocalls under The Consumer Protection Act. Avatar calls require a person behind the scenes playing prerecorded voice fragments rather than using their own voice. And let’s not forget that these operators can control multiple Avatar calls at the same time. Marketers be aware! If you’re using this technology, you must now obtain written consent before contacting consumers this way.
In the cases of online theft, scammers are frequently scaring consumers into purchasing fake anti-virus software. By promising to fix the “virus” for hundreds of dollars, they are actually putting people’s savings accounts at risk.
Luckily, businesses, just like the FTC, are in a position to help consumers by stepping up and employing self-regulation. Businesses in our industry can report businesses they know to be using these methods illegally. Transparency is the first step to a greater relationship with the FTC. There just needs to be a willingness from industry members to allow self-regulation to happen.
Tips from industry members to the FTC on who to investigate, is just one way to allow self-regulation to happen. Meanwhile, the FTC is continuing its efforts to educate businesses on the importance of proper business marketing and educate consumers on how they can protect themselves.
Stay tuned for more presentation recaps from the conference in the weeks to come. To all who joined us or spoke at the conference, thank you for taking part and making this event a success!
About the Author
Bill McClellan serves as ERA's Vice President of Government Affairs. Prior to joining the association, Bill worked as a lobbyist at the Georgia Automobile Dealers Association, covering the state legislature and Georgia's congressional delegation. Before working for the GADA, Bill managed political campaigns at both the congressional and state constitutional levels.