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AG Cooper wins refunds for victims of telemarketing scam

Release date: 5/17/2004

Raleigh: A company that illegally billed consumers for telemarketing pitches made by collect calls must stop and pay refunds to consumers who paid the charges, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced today.

“This company tried to make people pay for collect calls they didn’t accept or got tricked into taking,” said Cooper. “We’ve put an end to these charges and consumers who paid them will get their money back.”

Under a settlement signed today, TalkTooMe must stop charging North Carolina consumers for these calls and will pay full refunds to all consumers billed by the company. Across North Carolina, 319 businesses that paid for the calls will get refunds totaling more than $9,000.

Today’s agreement settles charges that TalkTooMe knowingly helped American Directory Services, Inc. of New Mexico place collect telemarketing calls to North Carolina telephone numbers in 2002. TalkTooMe used the name 00 Operator to process the interstate collect calls and then billed North Carolina businesses for the calls in May of 2002.

According to consumers who complained to Cooper’s office, TalkTooMe charged a total of $28.84 for each collect call placed from a telephone number in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Consumers who were billed had not authorized the charges or agreed to accept the call. TalkTooMe sent bills labeled “Final Notice” and threatened consumers to pay by the due date or face late payment fees, penalties, collection charges and possible disconnection of their local phone service. None of the consumers who received these bills had previously gotten a bill for the supposedly late charges from TalkTooMe.

Under terms of the settlement, TalkTooMe is barred from serving as an operator for anyone placing collect telemarketing calls to North Carolina consumers. In addition, TalkTooMe may not imply that North Carolina consumers must pay collect call charges that they do not in fact owe and may not falsely label bills as final notices.

“Consumers shouldn’t be billed for charges they don’t owe,” said Cooper. “If you think you’ve been charged for a call you didn’t agree to, let my Consumer Protection office know about it.”