The Federal Trade Commission, seeking its first civil penalties against a telemarketer for violating the federal do-not-call list, has sued a Las Vegas firm, saying it called more than 300,000 numbers on the registry to sell time-share properties in Atlantic City.
In a lawsuit filed Monday in a Nevada federal court, the agency said Braglia Marketing Group LLC also broke federal rules governing the use of automated dialers. If consumers answer such calls, they must be connected to a sales representative within two seconds.
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"This is a pretty simple case because our requirements are pretty clear. You can't call numbers on the registry. These people did," said Eileen Harrington, the agency's associate director for marketing practices. The agency's rules call for an $11,000 fine for each violation, making the potential liability in the case more than $3 billion, an award that the commission is unlikely to obtain, agency officials said yesterday.
Braglia is owned by husband and wife Frank and Kate Braglia. Frank Braglia has been marketing time-shares for a long time, said Andrea Hackman, editor-in-chief of the Timeshare Beat Inc., an online publication that monitors the industry.
Sean Wilson, one of the Braglias' attorneys, said he would not comment on the lawsuit. Both he and FTC officials declined to say how large the Braglia call center was, although the agency said it was not among the nation's largest.
"What this case demonstrates is that it doesn't take a huge company to generate an awful lot of telemarketing calls," Harrington said.
In a Timeshare Beat online discussion last year, Frank Braglia was described as a "time-share marketing whiz" who had opened a state-of-the-art call center in Las Vegas. Hackman said Braglia "has a reputation within the industry for being very good at what he does and also for being willing to do whatever it takes to get the deal done."
She added, "It's a tough business. Folks hope they won't get caught. . . . And if they do get caught, it is usually shrugged off as the price of doing business."
More than 63 million telephone numbers have been registered on the national do-not-call list and more than 100,000 complaints have been filed at the FTC since enforcement began in October 2003.
"As a general matter, compliance has been pretty good," Harrington said.