Select Resources Group has become the latest in a long line of companies to face legal action over alleged Telephone Consumer Protection Act violations. The TCPA governs how and when companies can contact consumers via telephones, cell phones and e-mail, and imposes fines for every infraction. The Act requires that companies have explicit permission from a consumer before they can send unsolicited messages, and forbids the use of auto dialers.
Companies have been less than proactive in ensuring they stay on the right side of the law.
Select Resources, a debt collection company, is facing a lawsuit over one California resident’s claims that he was contacted in July by an automated system. The plaintiff, Nabil Abouriche, says he never gave his number to the company and never gave permission for them to contact him. According to the complaint, no business relationship has ever existed between Abouriche and Select Resources.
The calls also violated privacy and increased the cost of his phone bill, the complaint says. As such, the suit is seeking statutory damages for negligent violations of the TCPA of $500 per message and knowing or willful violations of the TCPA of $1500 per message.
The size of the potential class membership is not currently known, though the complaint notes that the plaintiff believes the numbers of consumers who have received automatic messages from Select Recourses could be in the hundreds of thousands. The suit also claims that without a class action lawsuit, violations by Social Resources could continue unabated.
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act was first passed in 1991 and has since faced substantial revision to bring it in line with modern technology. Text messages, e-mails and phone calls are all tightly controlled, and the Federal Communications Commission, which oversees TCPA enforcement, will begin imposing far stricter controls in October 2013. The largest change comes with the FCC’s definition of ‘consent.’ While the current rules have generally seen a consumer’s business relationship with a company as grounds for communication, the new interpretation will require written and explicit opt-ins from individuals before companies can send them marketing materials. It’s a big swing in consumers’ favor, and will more than likely lead to an increase in TCPA lawsuits. The updated guidelines were published in June 2012, giving companies more than a year to adjust their policies. However, as Select Resources’ case shows, companies have been less than proactive in ensuring they stay on the right side of the law.
The case is Abouriche v. Select Resource Group LLC, case number: 3:13-cv-02056, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.