US District Judge, Matthew F. Kennelly, has ruled a group of companies that used promises of free cruises to entice people to take telephone political surveys, have appeared to have broken federal law, it has been claimed. This kind of cold calling timeshare scam thus has legal precedence, at least in the US, of being illegal.
Economic Strategy Group, Caribbean Cruise Line Inc., Berkeley Group Inc. and Vacation Ownership Marketing Tours Inc. violated the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act by using a prerecorded voice to call mobile phone numbers.
Cold Calling Timeshare Scam Ruled Illegal
The claimants are represented by two groups of people, all of whom received these survey phone calls from Economic Strategy Group to either their landline or mobile phones. It was revealed that the company’s founder, Jacob DeJongh, made the calls under the guises of ESG or Political Opinions of America. According to the documents that were given in Court, Mr. DeJongh testified he founded ESG, a registered nonprofit, to raise awareness of political issues he felt passionate about. Moreover, his intent was to conduct meaningful political surveys so he could market the results to the likes of political parties, political action committees and other media based outlets.
However, the Court learnt that when somebody answered an ESG phone call, an automated voice asked them to take a political survey, and promised after the survey had been completed they would be eligible for a “free” cruise to the Bahamas.
Survey participants were then connected to a representative with Caribbean Cruise Line. The Court documents showed that the cruises were “nominally free,” and the people who took advantage of the cruise offer still had to pay taxes, including port fees, gratuities and fees for amenities/activities. Customers were also offered an upgraded package if they agreed to take a timeshare tour at a Berkeley facility.
The plaintiffs in the case claimed the calls were mainly intended to drum up business for the companies associated with ESG.
In contrast, the defendants claimed the calls were made by and for a nonprofit with the primary purpose of collecting political survey data, which they claim exempts them from some provisions of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
Under the TCPA, it is illegal to deliver a prerecorded message to a consumer without stating consent unless it’s in an emergency. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly concluded that there was no question that in this instance, the provision of the law had been violated.
Even though the defendants argued that their political surveys were exempt from the law, the Court still rejecting their claim.This was because the Court found the companies worked in unison and that the prohibition on calls made with pre-recorded voices and autodialers stood despite the call’s primary motive of conducting political research.