Unsolicited Phone Calls and Messages Continued in 2014
In an effort to curb unscrupulous solicitors and telemarketers, the federal government passed the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) in 1991. The TCPA allows a member of the public to file a lawsuit and collect damages for receiving unsolicited phone calls, faxes, text messages, pre-recorded calls or autodialed calls.
The TCPA imposes severe monetary penalties on companies if they violate the provisions of the Act. Courts will award a minimum of $1500 for every intentional violation and $500 for every unintentional violation. Class action lawsuits involving TCPA violations can result in multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements.
TCPA Lawsuits Continue in 2014
Despite the passing of the TCPA over two decades ago, unsolicited messages to both land lines and cell phones have persisted. In response, the Federal Trade Commission (FCC) narrowed two of the main provisions of the TCPA in 2012, providing additional protections for consumers concerning unwanted autodialed and/or robocalls.
Originally, consent to receive automated messages from telemarketers or solicitors was implied by the mere fact that a person’s phone number can be found by conducting a public record search. Also, consent was implied if the telemarketer or solicitor could prove that they had an established business relationship with the consumer (e.g., a prior sale or purchase). Solicitors can no longer use these arguments to escape liability and there must be express, written consent if the calls are autodialed or contain prerecorded messages.
These changes, which actually went into effect in 2013, opened the door for private actions, often in the form of class action lawsuits. The most notable class action TCPA lawsuits of 2014 include the following:
- In Re: Capital One Telephone Consumer Protection Act Litigation – In August of 2014, Capital One Financial Corp. and three collection agencies entered into an agreement to pay $75.5 million to end a class action alleging that the companies used an automated dialer to call customers’ cell phones without consent. This case is distinguishable from other TCPA lawsuits because it involved informational telephone calls, which are not specifically subject to the TCPA consent requirement placed into effect in 2013.
- Lillian Franklin v. Wells Fargo & Co. – Wells Fargo allegedly used an auto dialer to contact debtor customers and leave prerecorded messages without their expressed consent. To avoid higher penalties, especially if the conduct were proven to be willful, Wells Fargo settled for $14.5 million.
- Robert Zani v. Rite Aid Corp. – Rite Aid Corporation allegedly made unauthorized calls using autodialing systems to market and sell its products and services. The plaintiff also alleges that Rite Aid made the calls in a non-emergency situation and failed to provide an opt-out procedure to stop the calls, both violations under the TCPA.
- Plaintiff v. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc. – Kaiser allegedly made pre-recorded phone calls to resell insurance coverage, without express, written consent. In addition to attorney’s fees, the company has agreed to settle for $5.35 million.
If you have received an unsolicited phone call or text message for which you never gave your consent, you can contact a TCPA lawyer at Audet & Partners, LLP for a free, confidential case evaluation. Please contact us either by completing the online inquiry form on the right side of this page, or by calling (800) 965-1461.