The Telephone Consumer Protection Act ("TCPA") was passed by the United States Congress in 1991 and signed into law by President George H. W. Bush. The TCPA makes it unlawful to make 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 or an artificial or prerecorded voice (robocall) to a person’s cellular telephone, including text messages. In the event of a violation of the TCPA, the subscriber of the cell phone may sue for $500 to $1,500 for each call. In addition, the subscriber may seek an injunction.
If you are receiving these types of calls to your cell phone, consider the following:
Are the calls made in connection with the collection of a debt or are they telemarketing calls? Are you the intended recipient of the calls or is the caller looking for someone else?
The Seventh Circuit (covering Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana), in Soppet v. Enhanced Recovery Co., LLC, 679 F.3d 637 (7th Cir. 2012), described the typical facts of a “wrong caller” case:
Customer incurs a debt and does not pay. Creditor hires Bill Collector to dun Customer for the money. Bill Collector puts a machine on the job and repeatedly calls Cell Number, at which Customer had agreed to receive phone calls by giving his number to Creditor. The machine, called a predictive dialer, works autonomously until a human voice comes on the line. If that happens, an employee in Bill Collector’s call center will join the call. But Customer no longer subscribes to Cell Number, which has been reassigned to Bystander. A human being who called Cell Number would realize that Customer was no longer the subscriber. But predictive dialers lack human intelligence and, like the buckets enchanted by the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, continue until stopped by their true master. Meanwhile Bystander is out of pocket the cost of the airtime minutes and has had to listen to a lot of useless voicemail. (We use Bill Collector as the caller, but this simplified description could as easily use an advertiser that relies for consent on earlier transactions with Customer, or a box that Consumer checked on a vendor’s web site.)
In this litigation, Teresa Soppet and Loidy Tang play the roles of Bystander; AT&T plays Creditor; Enhanced Recovery Co. plays the role of Bill Collector. Neither Soppet nor Tang ever consented to receive automated or recorded calls from Enhanced Recovery—but the two Customers did agree to receive calls at the numbers later assigned to Soppet and Tang. Enhanced Recovery called Soppet’s number 18 times and Tang’s 29 times. By the time it started calling, at least three years had passed since the two Customers furnished the Cell Numbers to AT&T as a way to contact them. Soppet and Tang sued under § 227(b)(3), which authorizes an award of actual damages, or $500 per violation, whichever is greater. These amounts are trebled for wilful violations.
If you are receiving calls to your cell phone in violation of the TCPA, call or email Stanek Law Office for a free consultation.