The owners of a New Jersey-based company that sells septic tank cleaning products agreed to a permanent ban on telemarketing and will pay more than $1.6 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that the company and its telemarketer made illegal robocalls to consumers, including tens of millions of calls to numbers listed on the agency’s Do Not Call Registry. In addition, the defendants will turn over a residential property as part of the settlement.
According to the FTC’s complaint, Environmental Safety International, Inc. or ESI; ESI’s two officers, brothers Joseph Carney and Sean Carney; and their other brother Raymond Carney, acted together to initiate more than 45 million illegal telemarketing calls to consumers nationwide between January 2018 and March 2019 to promote ESI’s “Activator 1000” line of septic tank cleaning products. The FTC alleges that 31 million of those calls were made to numbers on the DNC Registry. The Department of Justice filed the complaint and proposed orders on the FTC’s behalf.
According to the complaint, the defendants’ telemarketers falsely told consumers they were calling from an unnamed “environmental company” to give consumers “free info” on their septic tank cleaning product. Despite being told the robocall was “not a sales call or solicitation,” consumers who “pressed one” to receive free information instead received a sales pitch.
The complaint also alleges that ESI sent letters to consumers who agreed to buy their products but had unpaid invoices, falsely claiming that they would be referred to a “national collection agency” or to an attorney. However, ESI never took either of these actions.
In addition to the bans on telemarketing, the settlement orders impose $10.2 million civil penalty judgments against all defendants, which will be partially suspended after Joseph and Sean Carney pay $1,646,210 to the U.S. Treasury and Raymond Carney pays $15,000 to the Treasury.
In addition, Joseph and Sean Carney are prohibited from making material misrepresentations to consumers, including that they would be referred to an attorney or collection agency. They are prohibited from billing or attempting to collect payments from any consumers in connection with the sale of their septic tank cleaning products, and are required to notify all ESI customers with unpaid balances that they no longer have to pay ESI because their balances have been cancelled. Joseph and Sean Carney must also apply for ESI’s dissolution within 30 days.
The Commission vote to refer the civil penalty complaint and consent orders to the DOJ for filing was 4-0. The DOJ filed the complaint on behalf of the FTC in the U.S. District Court for District of New Jersey and the settlements have been approved by the Court.