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Cooper takes action against telemarketer that tied up hospital phones

Release date: 9/13/2004

Telemarketer flooded phones at Davie County emergency room, Morganton business

Raleigh: A satellite television company that tied up a North Carolina hospital’s phone lines with prerecorded telemarketing pitches has been ordered by a federal court to pay $676,000, Attorney General Roy Cooper said today.

“Telemarketing calls are unwelcome and annoying, and in this case, even dangerous,” said Cooper. “We put a stop to the calls, and now this telemarketer has been ordered to pay for disrupting a North Carolina hospital, a local business, and consumers’ peace and quiet.”

US District Court Judge N. Carlton Tilley, Jr. agreed this week with Cooper’s request for the judgment and a permanent injunction to bar TNT DBS Marketing Inc. of Arlington, Texas from making illegal telemarketing calls to North Carolina consumers.

TNT has been ordered to pay $275,000 in damages to Davie County Hospital in Mocksville for 400 calls it made to the hospital during two days in early 2004 and to Continental Teves for tying up all 150 phone lines at the Morganton auto parts manufacturer during two days in December 2003. The court also ordered TNT to pay $401,500 for illegal prerecorded telemarketing calls it made to more than 80 North Carolinians, funds designated by law to go to the public schools.

Cooper brought the case against TNT in 2004 after more than 40 consumers complained about TNT’s telemarketing calls. According to complaints from the hospital, hundreds of prerecorded calls from TNT flooded Davie County Hospital, tying up telephone lines to the Emergency Room as well as to patients’ rooms.

Cooper argued that the company violated federal and state Do Not Call laws by making illegal telemarketing calls using prerecorded messages. TNT did not use a live operator to ask recipients if they wanted to hear its sales pitch offering satellite installation for $29.00, nor did the company identify itself at the beginning of the message as they are supposed to. North Carolina law bans commercial prerecorded calls, unless the call is first introduced by a live person who asks you if you’re willing to listen to the recorded message.

Consumers who sign up for the Do Not Call Registry can cut down on all commercial telemarketing calls. Cooper is asking legislators to change the law so that prerecorded political calls are covered by the Registry as well.

“People who’ve made it clear that they don’t want to get telemarketing calls should be free from these interruptions,” said Cooper.

More than four million North Carolina numbers have been placed on the list since it began last year. To cut down on telemarketing calls, consumers can sign up for the Do Not Call Registry by visiting www.nocallsnc.com or by calling 1-888-382-1222 from the number they wish to register. Consumers who have signed up can report telemarketers who call them to Cooper’s office by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free within the state or by going to the website.

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