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Lawyers Run The WorldTelemarketing Tumult: FTC Clamps Down on Response Tree's Duplicitous...

Telemarketing Tumult: FTC Clamps Down on Response Tree’s Duplicitous Tactics


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The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) recent crackdown on Response Tree LLC reveals a scandalous tale of deception in the telemarketing industry. This crackdown, targeting a company responsible for operating over 50 websites, unveils a nefarious web of exploitative practices. These sites lured unsuspecting consumers with the promise of services like home refinancing and solar panels, only to harvest their personal data for sale to eager telemarketers.

At the heart of this scandal lies the insidious operation of ‘consent farms’ – a term coined by the FTC to describe websites that manipulate consumers into relinquishing their personal information. This data, gathered under false pretenses, was sold off to telemarketers, who in turn flooded consumers with millions of uninvited calls. The FTC’s investigation shed light on the staggering scale of this operation, with up to 50,000 leads being sold daily.

The case against Response Tree and its President underlines serious breaches of the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR). The company’s defense, claiming consumers had consented to these marketing calls, crumbled under the FTC’s scrutiny. Consequently, a proposed order aims to bar Response Tree from engaging in such robocalling activities.

The severity of Response Tree’s misconduct is reflected in the hefty $7 million fine levied against it. This penalty is not just a financial setback but serves as a potent deterrent to others in the industry who might contemplate similar deceptive practices. This enforcement action by the FTC is a clear declaration of its unwavering commitment to protect consumer rights and privacy.

The FTC’s complaint paints a grim picture of how Response Tree used ‘dark patterns’ – manipulative user interface designs – to trick users on websites like and These designs covertly nudged consumers into sharing personal information, which was then commoditized. The FTC’s contention that disclosures were either hidden in fine print or cloaked in confusing language adds another layer to the company’s deceitful practices.

In a strategic move, Response Tree has agreed to settle the charges, promising to steer clear of making robocalls or contacting numbers on the FTC’s Do Not Call registry. The FTC’s stance on ‘dark patterns’, though a relatively new term in its lexicon, resonates with its long-standing directive that disclosures must be clear and conspicuous, not shrouded in obscurity.

This development comes amidst the FTC’s ongoing battle against Amazon over similar allegations involving ‘dark patterns’ in their Prime subscription services. Amazon’s defense, challenging the constitutional vagueness of these allegations, suggests a broader debate about the ethics and legality of certain marketing strategies.

In sum, the FTC’s actions against Response Tree mark a significant milestone in the fight against deceptive telemarketing practices. It sends a resounding message to the industry: manipulative tactics will meet with stringent resistance, and the integrity of consumer consent must be upheld. This case is not just a crackdown on one company but a clarion call for ethical conduct in digital marketing and data privacy.

Pesach Lattin
Pesach Lattin
Pesach "Pace" Lattin is one of the top experts in interactive advertising, affiliate marketing. Pesach Lattin is known for his dedication to ethics in marketing, and focus on compliance and fraud in the industry, and has written numerous articles for publications from MediaPost, ClickZ, ADOTAS and his own blogs.

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