Telemarketer Sued for $6M in Illegal Calls

     CHICAGO (CN) – A telemarketing firm cost a Chicago energy supplier $6 million by calling several hundred thousand numbers on the Do-Not-Call list, the latter claims in Federal Court.
     AEP Energy filed the federal action Friday in Chicago against Infinity Marketing Group dba Infinity Energy Solutions, a Florida telemarketing company, and its president, Donald Wood.
     The Chicago energy supplier says it first contacted Infinity about its services in 2012.
     “In communications with AEP Energy at that time, Don Wood and others held [Infinity] out as an experienced, trustworthy telemarketer serving deregulated electricity markets,” the complaint states. “Indeed, even today [Infinity’s] website continues to proclaim that [Infinity] is a skilled and reliable telemarketing partner for energy retailers.”
     Months after AEP contracted with Infinity for telemarketing to Ohio customers in 2012, the Ohio Public Utility Commission in June 2013, “advised Ohio residents of their right to prevent unwanted telemarketing calls by placing their telephone numbers on the National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry,” the complaint states.
     Though [Infinity’s] then-COO, Bart Hawk, “reassure[ed] AEP Energy that ‘we abide by all DNC and disclosure requirements,'” that representation was false, the energy supplier claims in the lawsuit.
     Ohio resident Philip Charvat filed a class action against AEP on April 29, 2014, claiming that it had called “hundreds of thousands or even millions of potential customers whose numbers had been registered to the DNC list,” according to AEP’s lawsuit.
     But the class action “came as a surprise to AEP Energy,” the complaint states. “Throughout the life of the Ohio telemarketing program run by [Infinity], AEP Energy had not received any complaints.”
     The energy supplier says that because the Telephone Consumer Protection Act “allows for recovery of up to $500 per violation, without requiring any proof of actual injury, AEP Energy faced a huge theoretical liability. If the complaint was correct that there had been as many as 100,000 illegal calls, the potential exposure for AEP Energy was up to $50 million. A million violative calls would generate potential exposure of up to $500 million.”
     The energy provider says Infinity ultimately “conceded that it had called several hundred thousand residential phone numbers that were contained on the then-current federal DNC list.”
     Infinity’s AEP call log allegedly shows that “from November 2012 onward [Infinity] had been making calls to residential telephone numbers without regard to whether those numbers were on the federal DNC list, sometimes calling the same registered number multiple times.”
     Plus, “As many as 40 percent of the calls [Infinity] made to numbers on the federal DNC list were placed after Phillip Charvat filed his lawsuit against AEP,” the energy supplier says.
     AEP says it ultimately settled the Charvat litigation for $6 million on June 18, 2015.
     The supplier demands that Infinity pay that amount, plus the Charvat litigation costs, and the “profits [AEP] reasonably expected to earn from customers who were brought to it by [Infinity], but who [Infinity] solicited away from AEP Energy on behalf of a competitor.”
     AEP also claims that Infinity signed an agreement that it would “not solicit business from commercial customers it brought to AEP Energy. Since termination of the commercial contract as of August 2014, however, [Infinity] has breached that contract by soliciting – on behalf of other energy companies – commercial customers that IES originally brought to AEP Energy.”
     The plaintiff seeks to permanently enjoin Infinity from marketing to these customers.
     The complaint asserts claims for breach of contract and contractual indemnification against Infinity, fraud against Wood, and tortious interference against both defendants.
     AEP is represented by James Thompson of Lynch Stern Thompson LLP in Chicago.
     Attempts to get comment from Infinity were unsuccessful.

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