As practically every American with a phone knows, a veritable plague of automated telemarketing calls has spread across the land.
You ought to be able to vaccinate yourself against such calls by joining the official US “Do Not Call” list. But, that doesn’t always work.
Today, however, we can report a small win for the good guys. US authorities have filed a civil complaint against Go Green Education, Sunlight Solar Leads LLC, KFJ Marketing, and these firms’ owner, Francisco Salvat.
According to the US Department of Justice complaint, Salvat’s companies made more than 1.3 million calls to people on the Do Not Call list, and hid their tracks by failing to transmit accurate caller ID information (a.k.a. “spoofing”).
Since US law specifies a maximum $16,000 fine for every violation, Salvat could theoretically be on the hook for a whopping $20.8 billion, although it’s unlikely that it reach that high.
The feds allege that Salvat’s pre-recorded “robocall” messages warned consumers that their energy bills were about to increase by 14%. The robocallers would then invite consumers to “‘press one’ to lower your electric bill.”
If you took the bait, an actual human would coax you into scheduling a solar installation with yet another company.
One thing Salvat’s humans evidently wouldn’t do for you, even if you asked pretty please with sugar on top: help you escape their doggone call list.
Of late, Americans have been hammered with a blizzard of automated and live calls from questionable operators promoting rooftop solar.
About a year ago, Contra Costa Times columnist Tom Barnidge exposed the relentless barrage of unwanted calls being made by the “National Renewable Energy Center,” which he described as “a cold-calling, law-bending, solar energy huckster.”
Three thousand miles east, in Connecticut, the Hartford Courant reported on hard-sell telemarketing from “Solar Panels USA.” – one consumer claimed he’d received more than 200 calls from that firm in 18 months.
In 2013, a company with a similar name to one of Salvat’s firms plaintively blogged: “it’s not us.” And way back in October 2012, Consumer Reports was already citing solar as one of the nation’s most common frauds.
We’re all for solar, but please: don’t get burned. Don’t “press one.” Don’t respond to the unsolicited hard sell, whether from robot or human. If you’re in the US, do consider filing a complaint here.
While the US Federal Trade Commission probably hears a lot of telemarketing complaints, Salvat’s case demonstrates that it’s not a total lost cause.
And if you decide to try the strategy we told you about last month… well, who are we to judge?