Attorney General wins full restitution for hundreds of Washingtonians who paid Global Grid’s hidden fee
OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson today announced that, as a result of his lawsuit against the company, Global Grid, a Corvallis, Ore.-based company, and its owner must shut down its illegal robocalling operation. The company must also stop all deceptive marketing practices, including misrepresentations about a product it falsely promised could block robocalls. Global Grid must pay more than $8,000 to the Attorney General’s Office, which Ferguson will deliver to approximately 200 Washingtonians harmed by the company’s hidden start-up fee.
Global Grid and owner Harry Hart III also face $603,000 in penalties, costs, and fees for its illegal conduct, including robocalls, which are suspended so long as they pay back the upfront fees and do not violate the terms of today’s consent decree.
In October 2021, Ferguson filed a lawsuit against the company asserting the company made over 54,000 illegal robocalls to Washingtonians, in violation of the Washington Automatic Dialing and Announcing Device (WADAD) Statute and the Consumer Protection Act (CPA). Ironically, the calls attempted to sell a purported robocall-blocking service.
The company also robocalled consumers on the Do Not Call Registry and made deceptive claims in its advertising. The company also told people that “subscriptions start at just pennies per month,” yet failed to mention that they would be charged up-front fees to activate the service — anywhere from $8 to $100.
Washingtonians impacted by Global Grid’s illegal hidden fees will receive restitution payments equal to the amount they paid. These payments will average approximately $35 per customer. The consent decree, filed in King County Superior Court, requires Global Grid to make all restitution payments to the Attorney General’s Office within the next 12 months due to the company’s current lack of funds and assets, which the Attorney General’s Office independently verified. The Attorney General’s Office will send checks to consumers once Global Grid has completed its payment. Consumers do not have to do anything to receive restitution.
Background of the case
From May 2017 through December 2019, Global Grid used an autodialing program to send pre-recorded commercial voice messages directly to the voicemails of CenturyLink customers with Washington landline phone numbers (i.e. robocalls).
Global Grid Telecom sent 54,410 robocalls into Washington state. The company robocalled 16,808 Washingtonians more than once. One Washingtonian received 23 robocalls from Global Grid Telecom.
The company made 46,332 robocalls to Washington telephone numbers on the Do Not Call Registry to advertise its service.
Global Grid Telecom offered a telephone service called “MAX|Command” that, the company represented, would stop unwanted telephone calls when added to the customer’s CenturyLink telephone line. However, the service did not function as represented, nor did it offer any unique features as its control features are already within CenturyLink’s telephone system.
The following is an example of one of the company’s robocall messages:
“Please do not hang up. The voicemail system has an urgent announcement for you regarding your security and the Federal Trade Commission’s National Do Not Call Registry. There’s a new telephone feature that you can add to your current CenturyLink phone line that will screen and block robocalls and unwanted telemarketers.”
Ferguson asserts Global Grid Telecom’s voicemail messages sounded like official messages from CenturyLink, and consumers complained that the messages deceptively sounded as if the offer came from CenturyLink. Nearly all of the company’s messages referred to a “voicemail system announcement.” Many of the messages also referred to the advertised service as an “upgrade” or new feature to CenturyLink accounts. Further, some of the messages referenced the Do Not Call Registry, which could have deceived people into believing the message was associated with the federal government.
The company also claimed its products would stop all robocalls, and would stop 90 to 100% of telemarketers and unwanted calls. In fact, “MAX|Command” did not prevent robocalls. It only would manage and add phone numbers to a list of blocked numbers on a telephone line, without actually blocking new incoming unwanted calls.
The robocall message did not provide an option for people to remove themselves from Global Grid Telecom’s call list. In some instances, consumers who informed the company they no longer wanted to receive messages from Global Grid Telecom continued to receive robocalls.
Assistant Attorney General Mina Shahin, investigator Eric Peters of the office’s Consumer Protection Division handled the case for Washington.
What should you do if you receive a robocall?
The best advice for Washingtonians who receive a robocall without their permission is to hang up.
Some robocalls may give you an option to opt out of receiving future calls, but if the caller is a scammer, they are unlikely to honor your request. If you believe a call is a scam, report it to the Attorney General’s Office by filing a robocall complaint at https://www.atg.wa.gov/robocall-and-telemarketing-scams or call toll-free 1-800-551-4636. Washingtonians also can report robocalls to the Federal Trade Commission at https://complaints.donotcall.gov/complaint/complaintcheck.aspx.
Some phone and wireless services offer call blocking or labeling services to help individuals determine whether a call is a telemarketer or a scammer. Consumers should contact their service provider to find out what is available.
Washington’s Attorney General serves the people and the state of Washington. As the state’s largest law firm, the Attorney General’s Office provides legal representation to every state agency, board, and commission in Washington. Additionally, the Office serves the people directly by enforcing consumer protection, civil rights, and environmental protection laws. The Office also prosecutes elder abuse, Medicaid fraud, and handles sexually violent predator cases in 38 of Washington’s 39 counties. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.firstname.lastname@example.org
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