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News : Hollywood Call Center Exposed by Local 10 News Now Closed
Hollywood, FL, Nov 26, 2014 -- A South Florida call center that is the focus of a state Office of the Attorney General investigation has closed.
Local 10 News first exposed the business practices of Federal Safety Compliance, also known as Federal Safety Publications, earlier this month.
Local 10 has learned telemarketers have been let go. A source said a few employees are still working in accounts receivable to collect revenue from past sales.
The Better Business Bureau of Southeast Florida, along with the BBB in the St. Louis, Missouri, area, has issued a national alert following a Local 10 Investigation.
Earlier this year, Federal Safety Compliance, Federal Compliance Publications and owner Joseph Mishkin reached an agreement with the office and promised to change their business practices.
"We have received 14 complaints since the assurance of voluntary compliance was entered, and we are investigating whether the company is in violation of the terms of the agreement," Whitney Ray, spokeswoman for the attorney general's office, told Local 10.
Angry business owners and employees nationwide feel the company misleads them into spending hundreds of dollars on something they can get for free.
Telemarketers who work for Federal Safety Compliance and Federal Compliance Publications sell federal documents they call an "OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) kit" for $298.50.
About 30-plus telemarketers worked out of a call center at 1121 S. 21st St. in Hollywood.
Telemarketers read off a carefully worded script, but a company insider, who asked not to be identified, said her coworkers would often go off-script.
"If the person would say, 'Are you from OSHA?' You say, 'Yeah, we're from OSHA,'" the insider told Local 10.
She said many of the businesses thought the call was coming from the federal government and that it was materials they needed.
"We were injecting (words like) 'homeland security,'" the woman said. "You know, it sounded official."
But OSHA, a federal agency that promotes safety in the workplace, provides needed materials to businesses free of charge.
The BBB has logged 300 complaints against the companies.
A man known simply as "Steve," who is alleged to run the call center, refused to comment and threw Local 10 News investigative reporter Jeff Weinsier out of the building.
Local 10 contacted businesses all over the U.S. that received calls from the Hollywood call center.
"They never once said they were with a private company," said the owner of an RV repair shop in Louisiana.
"I really and truly thought it was a government agency," said an office manager at an animal clinic in Texas.
Mishkin and the companies entered into an assurance of voluntary compliance with the Office of the Attorney General on July 1 in order to amicably resolve the attorney general's investigation.
The attorney general began receiving complaints from businesses that telemarketers and the company were engaging in unfair and deceptive trade practices.
Businesses alleged they received unsolicited OSHA rule books and labor law posters and were subsequently charged for these unwanted items.
Invoices demanded immediate payment for the unwanted items.
Businesses were told that by signing for the unwanted items, the businesses had automatically agreed to the purchase of the items.
Under the assurance of voluntary compliance, the company denied any wrongdoing.
As of July 1, the companies agreed to advise consumers, both verbally and in writing, that they are not affiliated in any manner with OSHA or any other governmental agency. The companies also agreed to cancel orders promptly and refund money within 30 days.
Additionally, the companies agree to not repeatedly call consumers or businesses which have expressed a lack of interest in purchasing the products.
Finally, Mishkin and the companies were required to make a contribution to the "Seniors vs. Crime" project in the amount of $15,000.
But the complaints continue.
This is not the only business selling OSHA materials. OSHA has put out several warnings about these sale practices.
All the information a business is required to have is available for free on OSHA.gov.
Below is a copy of the script read by the telemarketers in the call center.
"Hi, I am____________, with Federal Safety Compliance, may I speak to_______________(owner, manager, service manager). Hi I am________________ with Federal Safety Compliance regarding your OSHA compliance updates; our records indicate that you are due to receive your OSHA updates for _____________(say the year) which will include your 600 page OSHA safety journal and the journal on CD rom, your homeland security and EPA updates, your safety stickers incident and chemical logs and you laminated state and Federal required posters. Can you please verify your address for shipping purposes? I will be sending the material to your attention, do you have the authority to receive the material? May I have your first and last name? Your OSHA material will be shipped out to you in 3-5 days USPS priority mail and the invoice of $298.50. Will you like us to send it to your attention or to accounts payable? Our shipping department will contact you with to verify shipping before the OSHA material is sent to you. Thank you and have a great day."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
Today's Tip of the Day - Gather Your Own Information
Published: Friday, November 28, 2014