Friday, July 26, 2013

Suing telemarketers (and their enablers)

Some people know that over the course of the last semester, I sued a telemarketing company in small claims court lawsuit for violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991. A story about that lawsuit, authored by myself and some classmates, has been posted over at the Life of the Law. Due to space constraints, it doesn't have all the details, but it provides a good overview of what was certainly my most personal foray into consumer protection laws:
Congress passed the Telephone Consumer Protection Act in 1991 to put a stop to unsolicited phone calls. The TCPA is rather unique because it specifically allows individuals who receive these illegal calls to sue the telemarketers in small claims court where the average person can get justice for minor damages and they don’t need a law degree to do so. It offers plaintiffs relief of between $500 to $1500 for violations. 
It is illegal under the TCPA to initiate or cause to be initiated “any call (other than a call made for emergency purposes or made with the prior express consent of the called party) using any automatic telephone dialing system [ATDS] . . . [to any] cellular telephone service.” 
The TCPA also prohibits “any call using any automatic telephone dialing system to any cellular telephone service.” In short, those annoying automated Averett had been getting are illegal under federal law. So, with the help of some fellow Macalester students, he sought protection under the law.
The full story behind them company I sued, Callerid4u, can be found on the Telecom Complaince News Press. To sum it up: they are a "telecom utility" company that makes money by routing millions of illegal robocalls thorough US numbers (instead of online) and sharing the resulting "dip fee" revenue with overseas telemarketers.

I also ended up losing my small claims court lawsuit, which alleged that Callerid4u "caused to be initiated" illegal robocalls by sharing the per-call revenue with telemarketers. It seems clear that new legislation will be required to end this practice, but I have little hope anything will get done in the current political environment. I emailed the information on that blog, which is all sourced and appears to be accurate, to a number of press organizations and legislators. No dice so far.

But I haven't gotten a robocall on my cell phone since.

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