Phone firm pushes back against FTC
A Newbury Park-based company is vowing to fight charges by the Federal Trade Commission that it broke telemarketing rules by helping clients make so-called “robocalls,” violate the national “Do Not Call” registry and mask caller IDs. The FTC alleges the calls generated thousands of complaints from consumers.
Peter Turpel, the founder of Phone On-Hold Marketing Systems and its corporate parent, Sonkei Systems, said in a statement on Dec. 29 that his company’s trade name had been hijacked and that his firm was not responsible for the allegedly illegal calls.
“Sonkei Communications has been the victim of unauthorized use of its trade name by third parties which are not affiliates of Phone On-Hold or Sonkei Communications,” Turpel said in a release. “Neither Phone On-Hold nor Sonkei Communications is in the business of making unauthorized telemarketing calls to consumers.”
Turpel, who could not immediately be reached for an interview, said in a statement that his company has never used its services to target consumers. Instead, he has targeted businesses, for whom telemarketing rules are different.
“Sonkei Communications’ involvement in telemarketing has been limited and has exclusively involved business-to-business calls and other non-consumer campaigns, which are entirely lawful,” Turpel said in the statement. “We shall vigorously defend against the allegations made by the FTC and are optimistic that the commission will dismiss its complaint after it investigates the facts of this case.”
Phone On-Hold Marketing Systems was founded in 1984 by Turpel, a former radio disc jockey who built a business on recorded marketing messages that companies could play to clients while they were on hold. On Nov. 22, the Federal Trade Commission announced that the U.S. Justice Department had filed a suit against Sonkei Communications, the corporate parent of Phone On-Hold, for allegedly breaking FTC rules.
In its complaint, the FTC alleges that starting in 2008, Sonkei sold “robocall” services – recorded message played when consumers pick up a phone call – to telemarketers who peddled credit card services, security systems and other offerings. The alleged crimes occurred in that Sonkei masked the caller IDs of the outgoing calls to read “Service Message” or “Service Announcement” and knew or consciously ignored that the clients were calling numbers on the national Do Not Call Registry.
Over nearly three decades in business, Turpel slowly expanded Phone On-Hold, which won the Business Times’ Spirit of Small Business Award in 2008, beyond on-hold marketing to include business-class voicemail and other services.
Turpel has been deeply involved in the Conejo Valley business community, serving as a board member or advisor to the former Thousand Oaks-Westlake Village Regional Chamber, the Conejo Valley Unified School District Advisory Council, Thousand Oaks Rotary Club, Conejo Valley Days, Boy Scouts of America Ventura County, the Conejo Future Foundation and the Conejo Valley Historical Society, among others.