Robocalls are generally prohibited by federal law unless recipients have consented to calls by providing businesses with their phone numbers as contact information. Recently, companies including T-Mobile, Hilton Worldwide, State Farm Bank and DirecTV faced lawsuits after allegedly violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Under this federal law, telemarketers and debt collectors must follow strict rules when placing robocalls, and for each TCPA violation, recipients may be able to receive compensation of up to $1,500.
Robocalls are any phone calls made using automatic dialers (systems that store and dial phone numbers using a number generator) or that contain pre-recorded messages/artificial voices. While automatic dialing systems typically place recorded messages, they can also make calls in which a live person comes on the line to speak. These calls are illegal if the company did not receive express consent from the called party. Recipients may be able to tell that calls have been made by an autodialer if they notice an immediate hang-up or period of “dead air” before the caller begins speaking.
You may be able to take file a lawsuit against any of the following companies if they have made unwanted calls to your cell phone:
Attorneys are investigating a number of companies for TCPA violations including, but not limited to, the following:
Before using an autodialer to call cell phones, the TCPA requires companies to:
If you tell a company that it has the wrong number (i.e., they are dialing an old customer's number) or you ask them to stop calling, you may have ground to file a lawsuit seeking $500 to $1,500 per call if they continue to contact you.
While debt collection companies are not required to abide by some of the laws listed above, they are required to receive express written consent from consumers regarding robocalls. In addition, debt collectors must comply with do-not-call requests, even if the recipient owes money to the company. You may be able to file a claim against the debt collection company if you asked them to stop calling and the company did not listen (even if you owe money), or if you were contacted in regard to someone else's debt.
In the lawsuit of Osorio v. State Farm Bank, the insurer is being accused of violating the TCPA after its debt-collection department allegedly placed hundreds of unwanted calls on a consumer’s cell phone. According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff’s housemate, Clara Betancourt, signed up for insurance with State Farm and provided the company with the plaintiff’s cell phone number as her emergency contact. When Betancourt fell behind on her payments, though, a debt collector sought her payment by contacting the plaintiff. Despite his requests that the collector stop calling, the company allegedly placed 327 unwanted calls to his cell phone.
State Farm has argued that Betancourt consented to receiving calls on the plaintiff’s cell phone when she provided the company with his phone number as her emergency contact, and this part of the case is still pending in court; however, a panel of judges reviewing the lawsuit recently ruled that State Farm should not have continued calling the plaintiff – despite the fact that Betancourt was indebted to the company – because he could not have consented to the calls and specifically asked the collector to stop calling.