FTC wins monster $7.5 million penalty against "Do Not Call" list violator

The Federal Trade Commission today said it has won a $7.5 million civil penalty the largest ever -- against Mortgage Investors Corporation, one of the nation's biggest refinancers of veterans' home loans for allegedly violating "Do Not Call" requirements.

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According to the FTC's complaint, Mortgage Investors Corporation called consumers on the Federal Trade Commission's National Do Not Call Registry, failed to remove consumers from its company call list upon demand, and misstated the terms of available loan products during telemarketing calls.

Specifically, the FTC said Mortgage Investors' telemarketers called more than 5.4 million numbers listed on the National Do Not Call Registry to offer home loan refinancing services to current and former U.S. military consumers in violation of the overarching Telemarketing Sales Rule. The telemarketers also allegedly led service members to believe that low interest, fixed rate mortgages were available at no cost, often quoting rates that they implied would last the duration of their loan. In reality, Mortgage Investors only offered adjustable rate mortgages in which consumers' payments would increase with rising interest rates and would require consumers to pay closing costs. In addition, Mortgage Investors allegedly misled consumers about their affiliation with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the FTC said.

The settlement, announced on the 10-year anniversary of the DNC Registry, marks the 105th such action since the agency began enforcing the Do Not Call provisions of the TSR in 2004. Some of the FTC's lawsuits have been against household names like DirecTV, Columbia House, Craftmatic, ADT Security Systems, Ameriquest Mortgage, and the marketer of Rascal Scooters. Litigation against Dish Network is ongoing.

"We created the National Do Not Call List to put consumers in charge and reduce unwanted and intrusive calls from telemarketers," said Timothy Muris, the former FTC Chairman who spearheaded the initiative in a statement. "Ten years later, with 221 million American consumers registered, it is one of the agency's most recognized consumer protection achievements."

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