Lifewatch Uses Predatory Sales Tactics, Feds Claim

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     CHICAGO (CN) – An alarm company preys on vulnerable elderly people to hawk its medical-alert systems, the Federal Trade Commission alleges.
Joined by Florida, the FTC filed the federal complaint Tuesday against Lifewatch Inc. and its officer and manager Evan Sirlin. The defendant is not related to LifeWatch Services, a company based in the Chicago area that sells cardiac monitoring and home-sleep testing services for physicians and their patients.
     The New York-based Lifewatch named in the complaint is accused of selling its system in the U.S. and Canada through “unsolicited telemarketing calls” that target consumers who are “elderly, live alone and have limited or fixed incomes” and are “often in poor health [or] suffer from memory loss or dementia.”
     Via recorded message, LifeWatch tells the consumer that “a medical alert system has been purchased for them,” that it is “available to senior citizens for free,” or “a friend, family member, health care provider or acquaintance” referred them for the service or purchased it for them, according to the complaint.
     The consumers allegedly discover later “that nobody they know” did so.
     Regulators say Lifewatch exaggerates the quality of its service by claiming the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, National Institute of Aging, AARP and American Red Cross, among others, recommended its system, even though none of those organizations have.
     To justify the “monthly monitoring fee,” agents tell consumers they will receive grocery coupons, prescription discounts, and that they can cancel the service at any time and send the device back for free, according to the complaint. In reality no benefits are included and consumers have difficulty canceling, the FTC says.
     Lifewatch’s telemarketers, including one company that the FTC has sued separately for its practices, called phone numbers that were on the National Do Not Call Registry and ones that asked to be removed from their list, the complaint states. They also allegedly “failed to disclose truthfully, promptly and in a clear and conspicuous manner” who was calling and why.
     The defendants are accused of violating the FTC Act, the Telemarketing Sales Rule and the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.