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State sues company in do-not-call case

United Vacation Network in Largo has been calling people on the no-call list, which is illegal, the lawsuit says.

Published August 26, 2006

LARGO - Seventy-one-year-old Leon Corbin, who is on the state's Do Not Call list, got a message on his answering machine last year from a telemarketer.

He called the travel company and told the phone representative he was on the state's no-call list.

But that didn't stop the calls.

"They kept pestering me," said Corbin. "So I told them I was going to turn them in."

Corbin of New Port Richey, as well as five others on state and federal no-call lists, made seven complaints about United Vacation Network in Largo to the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

And on July 31, the department sued the company for making unsolicited calls to people on the list.

By law, telemarketers are supposed to drop people on the no-call registry from their call list.

"If they flout the law and persist in calling people on the list, they ought to be held accountable," said department spokesman Terence McElroy.

The suit also claims that some of the company's calls contained recorded messages that were not announced by a live operator: a separate violation of state law.

The suit seeks to prevent the company from calling residents on the state list and requests fines up to $10,000 for each of the calls made to prohibited numbers.

The department says it has received $1.5-million from companies that have violated the law by calling people on the state's list, which has about 128,000 residents.

There's an initial $10 fee to register for the state's no-call list and a $5 annual renewal fee. McElroy said money obtained from a judgment will go toward renewal fees for the complainants.

Richard Brashear of St. Petersburg, who complained twice to the department about calls from the travel company, said he's on the state's list because he considers sales calls a pain.

"I shouldn't get calls from people I don't know unless I don't have anything to do and I want to talk to them," said Brashear, 66.

McElroy said a handful of complaints generally represents a lot more violations.

After complaints are made, telemarketers receive a warning letter.

"If we continue to get complaints beyond that, we take legal action against them," McElroy said.

The Do Not Call list is supposed to prevents sale calls to homes or mobile numbers, but business numbers can't be registered. Calls from nonprofits and businesses that residents have a previous relationship with are not prohibited.

Despite one bad experience, Corbin said, the list works.

Before registering, he got three or four sales calls a day, often at dinnertime.

Now, Corbin said, "I seldom get calls."

[Last modified August 26, 2006, 06:32:38]

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