Connecticut Attorney General's Office

Press Release

Attorney General, DCP Sue Paid Telephone Solicitor, Join In National Consumer Warning Regarding Public Safety Charity Phone Solicitations

May 20, 2009

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal today filed a lawsuit seeking more than $100,000 in penalties from a Michigan telemarketer for allegedly violating state laws requiring it to clearly and conspicuously inform consumers of its business name and that it is a paid solicitor.

Blumenthal sued Associated Community Services on behalf of Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) Commissioner Jerry Farrell, Jr.

Blumenthal said, "Associated Community Services repeatedly and knowingly broke the law, failing to clearly and conspicuously state its name and its paid solicitor status in correspondence to consumers. The company listed its true name and solicitor status in barely legible print on the back of its mailing, effectively concealing its identity and purpose. I will seek a $2,500 fine per mailing, a potentially hundreds of thousands dollars. This suit sends a powerful message: Connecticut will not tolerate solicitors who break our laws."

The lawsuit coincides with today's launching of a national campaign by the Federal Trade Commission and numerous states to warn consumers about telephone solicitations for police, fire and other public safety organizations. Telemarketers for such campaigns keep an average of 67 cents of every dollar they collect, while many of the groups they represent often spend little on causes they claim to support.

Blumenthal urged consumers to ask paid telephone solicitors how much of their donation will go to the group and what percentage the group spends on its stated cause. They strongly suggested consumers consider giving directly to public safety organizations instead of through a paid phone solicitor.

Blumenthal said, "Associated Community Services and other solicitors exploit consumers' commendable desire to support police and emergency workers. I urge consumers to ask detailed questions of solicitors, including the amount they turn over to charities, their fees and what percentage of its income the group spends on its stated cause. Consumers should seriously research charities before donating and give directly to assure that their entire contribution -- not a miniscule percentage -- benefits the group."

Firefighters Support Services, the group for which Associated Community Services is raising funds, for example, has spent less than 1 percent of its income for charitable purposes.

According to filings with the Attorney General's Office, the company has raised $634,400 and spent $626,210 during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2008, the most recent figures available. Of the expenses, $538,999 was for fundraising, $83,895 for administrative expenses, and only $3,316 for the charitable purposes the organization says it supports.

The courts have prohibited laws that require solicitors to turn over a minimum percentage to the group on whose behalf they are raising money.