The Missouri Attorney General’s Office recently filed a complaint in the Eastern District of Missouri against Charter Communications, Inc. (“Charter”), a cable, internet, and telephone company. The complaint alleges violations of the TCPA, the Telemarketing Sales Rule, the Missouri No-Call Law, and the Missouri Telemarketing Practices Law, and seeks what amounts to multi-millions of dollars in civil penalties. See State of Missouri ex rel. v. Charter Commc’ns, Inc., No. 15-01593 (E.D. Mo. filed Oct. 19, 2015).
The Attorney General’s Office alleges to have received over 350 complaints from Missouri consumers regarding Charter’s telemarketing practices since September of 2011. Compl. ¶ 53. Specifically, the complaint alleges that Charter provided consumer lists to third-party vendors to market its products and services, and that Charter is “responsible for any illegal actions conducted in the course of any joint venture with any third party,” including any TCPA or other statutory violations committed by its vendors. Id. ¶¶ 25, 38. According to the complaint, these consumer lists contained the identities of both subscribers and non-subscribers to Charter’s services. Id. ¶ 42. Many of the consumers on the lists allegedly did not give Charter permission to call them or are on the Missouri Do-Not-Call and/or Federal Do-Not-Call Lists. Id. ¶ 50.
Additionally, the complaint alleges that Charter and its telemarketers placed “at least thousands of telemarketing calls to Missouri consumers, even after the consumers asked that Charter stop calls and had not rescinded that request.” Id. ¶ 51. In instances where a consumer requested not to receive additional calls, the complaint alleges that the amount of time it took to add consumers to Charter’s internal do-not-call list (45 days) and the number of calls placed to consumers during that 45-day period was unreasonable. Id. ¶ 52.
As relief, the Attorney General’s Office is seeking civil penalties, permanent injunctions, and other equitable relief. Specifically, the Attorney General’s Office is seeking a civil penalty of up to $16,000 for each violation of the Telemarketing Sales Rule, a minimum of $500 for each violation of the TCPA, a civil penalty up to $5,000 for each violation of the Missouri No-Call Law, and a civil penalty in such amount as allowed by law for each violation of the Missouri Telemarketing Law. See Prayer for Relief. Notably, on the same day this complaint was filed, the Attorney General filed a complaint and consent judgment against Farmers Insurance Exchange, Truck Insurance Exchange and Fire Insurance Exchange alleging violations of state no-call and telemarketing laws for $575,000.
Given the significant statutory penalties that are at stake in this type of Attorney General action, this complaint demonstrates how important it is for companies to ensure that they and their vendors have adequate compliance procedures in place. Having appropriate preventive measures is the only way to avoid real (or perceived) violations, thereby greatly decreasing the chance of costly litigation.