PROVIDENCE — Attorneys general from 48 states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against a telemarketer for allegedly facilitating billions of illegal robocalls to millions of people. Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Neronha alleges the company violated numerous state and federal consumer protection laws.
Alaska and South Dakota are the only states where attorneys general did not join in the lawsuit against Avid as of Tuesday afternoon.
The suit was filed in the United Stated District Court for the District of Arizona against Michael D. Lansky, LLC, which conducts business under the name Avid Telecom. The complaint alleges that between December 2018 and January 2023, Avid sent or attempted to transmit a total of more than 24.5 billion calls nationwide, including more than 7.5 billion calls to telephone numbers currently on the National Do Not Call Registry.
Founded in 2001, Avid is a Voice over Internet Protocol, also known as VoIP, a service provider that sells data, phone numbers, dialing software, and/or expertise to help customers make mass robocalls. It also serves as an intermediate provider. Court documents from the 49 attorneys general claim that Avid facilitated or helped route billions of illegal robocalls across the country. More than 90 percent of those calls lasted less than 15 seconds.
Hundreds of millions of calls used spoofed or invalid caller ID numbers. More than 8.4 million calls appeared to have came from government or law enforcement agencies. Others appeared to have come from private companies, according to court documents.
Of those calls, 25 million were made to numbers in Rhode Island. In more than 3,000 calls, Avid allegedly used phone numbers with Rhode Island area codes, according to the complaint filed in court.
Neronha alleges that Avid violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, the Telemarketing Sales Rule, Rhode Island’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and other federal telemarketing laws.
In a statement sent to the Globe, Avid’s attorney Neil S. Ende said the company “operates in a manner that is compliant with all applicable state and federal laws and regulations.”
“The company has never been found by any court or regulatory authority to have transmitted unlawful traffic, and it is prepared to meet with the Attorneys General, as it has on many occasions in the past, to further demonstrate its good faith and lawful conduct,” said Ende.
In response to Tuesday’s legal action, Ende said Avid executives were “disappointed that the Attorneys General chose not to communicate their concerns directly before filing the lawsuit.” Ende said the complaint filed in court includes allegations that “cannot be sustained as a matter of fact.”
“While the company always prefers to work with regulators and law enforcement to address issues of concern, as necessary, the company will defend itself vigorously and vindicate its rights and reputation through the legal process,” said Ende.
Neronha said many of the calls Avid initiated contained content related to Social Security Administration scams, Medicare scams, auto warranty scams, Amazon scams, DirecTV scams, credit card interest rate reduction scams, and employment scams.
Attorneys general from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine also joined the lawsuit, which arises from the bipartisan Anti-Robocall Multistate Litigation Task Force of 51 attorneys general. The task force has been investigating — and taking legal action against — those responsible for routing significant volumes of illegal robocall traffic into and across the country.
The US Telecom-led Industry Traceback Group, which notifies providers about known and suspected illegal robocalls, sent nearly 330 notifications to Avid that it was transmitting these calls. But Avid continued to do so, according to court filings.
A recorded call containing false information about Social Security is available to listen to here.
Another call where a robot claiming to be “Ethan” from “Medicare Rewards” can be listened to here.
“This company knowingly sent millions upon millions of distracting, disruptive calls into Rhode Island,” said Neronha. “More than a mere annoyance, this problem is pervasive, it is a waste of resources, and it is against the law.”
Nearly 105 million calls from Avid were made to numbers in Massachusetts. In a statement on Tuesday, Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell said these calls made through Avid are “harmful” as consumers were “often tricked into revealing their personal or financial information.
Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said Avid “enabled criminal spammers to prey on American families.”
The Federal Trade Commission and the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General provided investigative assistance in the matter.
Bryan T. Cafferelli, the commissioner of Connecticut’s consumer department, advises that if you receive a call from an unknown number, to “be wary.”
“If the caller or pre-recorded message claims to be from a government agency such as the IRS or Social Security Administration, it is likely a scam,” said Cafferelli. “Typically, these agencies don’t make phone calls to individuals. Hang up immediately if they ask you for personal information, or to make a payment by gift card, wire transfer, or cryptocurrency.”
This story has been updated with comments from Avid Telecom attorney Neil S. Ende.