Arizona AG leads nat'l lawsuit vs. Tucson company over billions of robocalls
Arizona joined 47 other states in a lawsuit filed Tuesday against a telecommunications company accused of facilitating billions of illegal robocalls to people on the national do no call registry.
The legal action stems from the nationwide Anti-Robocall Multistate Litigation Task Force made up of attorneys general from all 50 states as well Washington, D.C. The lawsuit, filed by Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes in Arizona federal court, is joined by 48 attorneys general, excluding those from Alaska and South Dakota.
Plaintiffs accuse Avid Telecom, its owner Michael Lansky and its vice president Stacey Reeves of violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, the Telemarketing Sales Rule and 21 other federal and state telecommunication and consumer laws. Between December 2018 and January 2023, plaintiffs say Avid Telecom facilitated 7.5 billion illegal automated phone calls to people on the do not call registry. Nearly 200 million of those calls were made to Arizona phone numbers, according to a press release from the Arizona attorney general’s office.
Avid Telecom is a service provider that sells phone numbers, data, dialing software and expertise and advice to telemarketing companies. But it also serves as an intermediate network provider to route telemarketing calls across the country.
The states say in the lawsuit that many of the calls made through Avid Telecom used “spoofed” or invalid caller IDs to scam those who answered. More than 8.4 million calls were made to appear to come from government or law enforcement agencies and private companies, the attorneys general say. Scam calls were made impersonating organizations such as the Social Security Administration, Medicare, Amazon, DirecTV, auto warranty companies and credit card companies.
“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 the statement. “More disturbingly, many of these calls are scams designed to pressure frightened consumers, often senior citizens, into handing over their hard-earned money. Such a blatant disregard for consumer protection laws will not be tolerated and violators of these laws will be held accountable.”
Avid Telecom denies all the states' claims.
"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," the company's attorney Neil Ende said in a statement. "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."
Ende said he wishes the task force had contacted the company directly before going to court. But the AGs say Avid's been given enough opportunities to change its practices.
The states say in the lawsuit that U.S. Telecom-led Industry Traceback Group, which notifies providers about known and suspected illegal robocalls sent across their networks, sent at least 329 notifications to Avid that such calls were being made through its network, but the company ignored them.
Avid transmitted nearly 25 billion calls between December 2018 and January 2023, more than 90% of them lasting less than 15 seconds, which the states say is proof the calls are automated. Aside from tracking the timespan of each call made, the task force found many scam callers used a technique called “snowshoeing,” in which the company will use as many unique phone numbers as it can. Avoiding using the same number too many times allows that number to go undetected by legitimate companies looking to block scammers. Tracking calls to the do not call registry is one of the best ways to identify scam callers, as they’re much more likely than legitimate telemarketing companies to break that rule, plaintiffs say.
The anti-robocall task force was created in August 2022 in response to the increasing problem of unwanted robocalls. Aided by the Federal Trade Commission and the Inspector General, it’s tasked with investigating and taking legal action against companies routing illegal calls into and across the U.S.
The phone number extensions listed on Avid Telecom’s website for defendants Lansky and Reeves are no longer active, according to the company’s outgoing message. The company hasn’t replied to an email request for comment.