48 states and D.C. sue telecom company over billions of robocalls

48 states and D.C. sue telecom company over billions of robocalls

U.S.

By Aliza Chasan


/ CBS News

Attorneys general from almost every state in the U.S. filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Avid Telecom, a company accused of making more than 7.5 billion robocalls to people on the National Do Not Call Registry. Attorneys general from the District of Columbia and every state except Alaska and South Dakota are acting as plaintiffs. 

The attorneys general are also suing Avid Telecom owner Michael Lansky and the company’s vice president, Stacey Reeves. Avid Telecom received more than 320 notifications about illegal robocalls before the suit was filed, according to the complaint. 

“Defendants chose profit over running a business that conforms to state and federal law,” the lawsuit alleged. “Defendants could have chosen to implement effective and meaningful procedures to prevent—or even significantly mitigate—the perpetration of illegal behavior onto and across Avid Telecom’s network but chose not to do so,” the lawsuit said. 

Neil Ende, Avid Telecom’s outside legal counsel, said the company was disappointed that the attorneys general didn’t communicate their concerns directly before filing the lawsuit.

“While the company always prefers to work with regulators and law enforcement to address issues of concern, as necessary, the company will defend itself vigorously and vindicate its rights and reputation through the legal process,” Ende said.

The lawsuit was filed in US District Court for the District of Arizona, where Avid Telecom is based. Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes said nearly 197 million of the robocalls allegedly initiated and facilitated by Avid Telecom were made to Arizona phone numbers between December 2018 and January 2023.

“Every day, countless Arizona consumers are harassed and annoyed by a relentless barrage of unwanted robocalls – and in some instances these illegal calls threaten consumers with lawsuits and arrest,” Mayes said in a press release. “More disturbingly, many of these calls are scams designed to pressure frightened consumers, often senior citizens, into handing over their hard-earned money.”

According to the suit, illegal robocalls are the most common contact method for scammers. In 2022, phone scams yielded a median per person loss of $1,400, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

The company allegedly helped make hundreds of millions of calls using spoofed or invalid caller ID numbers, the attorneys general alleged. More than 8.4 million calls appeared in part to be coming from government and law enforcement agencies. 

Avid Telecom sells data, phone numbers, dialing software and expertise to help its customers make mass robocalls, according to the suit. The company provides its customers with Direct Inward Dialing, which allows callers to fake their area codes so that they match the codes of their recipients. The practice increases the odds of the recipient picking up the phone.

“Contrary to the allegations in the complaint, Avid Telecom operates in a manner that is compliant with all applicable state and federal laws and regulations,” Ende said. “The company has never been found by any court or regulatory authority to have transmitted unlawful traffic and it is prepared to meet with the Attorneys General, as it has on many occasions in the past, to further demonstrate its good faith and lawful conduct.”

According to the suit, Avid Telecom allegedly sent or transmitted scam calls about the Social Security Administration, Medicare, auto warranties, Amazon, DirecTV, credit card interest rate reduction, and employment.

Seniors and vulnerable consumers have been scammed out of millions because of these illegal robocalls,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a press release.

The suit is a result of the nationwide, bipartisan Anti-Robocall Multistate Litigation Task Force of 51 attorneys general. It was formed last year.

The attorneys general in Tuesday’s suit are seeking jury trial, temporary and permanent injunctive relief, the imposition of civil penalties, restitution, statutory damages, an award of attorneys’ fees and costs, and other legal, statutory, or equitable relief.

Aliza Chasan

Aliza Chasan is a digital producer at 60 Minutes and CBS News.

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