We were wondering how Feature Films For Families, the company that’s randomly calling home lines and cellphones to sell a movie to people who are on the Do Not Call list, was able to get around federal and state telemarketing rules. It turns out they’re hiding behind a non-profit, and non-profits are exempt from following the Do Not Call list. Something similar happened in 2006 between Feature Films For Families and a different non-profit named the Dove Foundation, and the state of Missouri fined them $70,000. It might be time for you to start filing complaints with your state Attorney General and the FTC.
I’ve been curious about this story since being tipped off to it on Wednesday. It combines two known evils on this planet—badly made children’s movies and telemarketing—and yet the company behind it claims to be a morally upright, praise Jesus sort of place that you wouldn’t expect to try to skirt morally unambiguous laws or tell lies.
When I first tried to talk to somebody at Feature Films For Families on Wednesday, I was routed to 801-284-7206 and told it was “the corporate office.” There a woman named Vicki cut me off as I explained why I was calling and asked, “How did you get this number?” Vicki told me I’d have to speak to Russel, and she transferred me to Russel D. Harris. Russel put me on hold, then came back and said he would only answer questions via email, and said his email address was firstname.lastname@example.org, which I’m pretty sure is a fake email address. I sent an email to that address anyway and have yet to hear back.
This morning, a reader tipped us off to the Dove settlement from 2006. In March of that year, the Missouri Attorney General obtained a restraining order against the two organizations for trying to evade the Do Not Call rules:
The temporary restraining order is part of a lawsuit alleging that Feature Films For Families Inc. of Murray, Utah, and the Dove Foundation of Grand Rapid, Mich., conspired in a scheme to evade state No Call laws. Telemarketers from the Dove Foundation claimed its status as a charitable organization provided them with an exemption to the Missouri No Call law. In reality, the Dove Foundation was using that status to solicit sales for Feature Films For Families, a for-profit organization that sells DVDs and videos. The Attorney General’s No Call unit received almost 300 complaints about the calls.
In August of that year, Feature Films For Families and the Dove Foundation agreed to a $70,000 settlement:
According to the agreement, the Dove Foundation and Feature Films For Families must pay $70,000 to the state Merchandising Practices Revolving Fund and obey all merchandising practices and No Call laws in the future. The respondents must also provide the Attorney General’s Office with a detailed plan of practices and procedures they will implement in their businesses to ensure compliance with the state No Call law. They have also agreed to subscribe to, and remain current with, the Missouri No Call database.
Any future violation of the agreement by the respondents could result in contempt of court proceedings and civil penalties of up to $2,000 per violation.
I called the corporate number of Feature Films For Families again this morning and asked started asking questions. A woman named Holly, who said she was a manager at the call center, explained it to me this way:
- Feature Films For Family is a for profit company and is only calling the numbers of people who are existing customers (which is allowed)
- Kids First (aka Kids First Cares) is a non-profit company and is randomly calling everyone else—but since they’re not collecting any money for the film, it’s okay, see?
So that’s the secret—get a non-profit to make your sales pitch for you and you can call any damned person you want, la la la, nobody can stop you. Well, unless you anger an Attorney General somewhere because you’re obviously trying to break the rules against telemarketing.
By the way, I asked Holly how people can get put on the Kids First internal Do Not Call list, and she said they can call the number I called—801-284-7206—and tell whoever answers.
Or, if you feel that Feature Films For Families and Kids First are breaking FTC rules, you can file a complaint. Be sure to check out your state’s Attorney General website to make a state complaint as well.
“Company selling films used non-profit organization as front to try to circumvent state No Call law, Nixon says” [Missouri Attorney General] (Thanks to Bruce!)
“Company selling films will pay $70,000 over No Call complaints in agreement obtained by Nixon” [Missouri Attorney General]