A proposed class action lawsuit claims National University Systems, Inc. (NUS), a private nonprofit network of online and brick-and-mortar colleges, and two school affiliates were behind countless unsolicited robocalls made to potential students in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
According to the complaint, NUS uses third-party lead generators to run telemarketing campaigns designed to persuade potential students into enrolling with affiliated universities like co-defendants Northcentral University, Inc. (NCU) and John F. Kennedy University (JFKU). The calls made by these third parties were allegedly placed using predictive dialer technology capable of simultaneously dialing multiple numbers, transferring answered calls to a live operator, and automatically disconnecting unanswered ones. The suit further explains that these calls were frequently made without the consent of the recipient.
With regard to the lead plaintiff, the case claims the man received several autodialed marketing calls from the defendants in 2019 encouraging him to enroll in NCU or JFKU. The plaintiff claims he informed the defendants during the first call that he was not interested in continuing his education and later requested not to be contacted anymore. The defendants, however, did not oblige, the complaint says.
The plaintiff eventually grew frustrated with the phone calls and decided to play along to discover their source, the lawsuit explains. When the plaintiff answered one of these calls and expressed interest in a psychology major, the complaint continues, he was connected with a screener for the defendants. During the call, the case claims, the plaintiff received a pre-recorded voicemail from a number identified as belonging to NCU even though he “did not provide the third-party agent or Defendants directly with any consent for them to call him using an autodialer or prerecorded message.”
The case includes one rather shocking interaction between the plaintiff and an agent of the defendants:
“In one specific instance, [the lead plaintiff] answered the autodialed call to his cell phone and when he was asked about furthering his education replied, ‘Didn’t I tell you I was on the DNC [National Do-Not-Call Registry]?’ The agent replied, ‘F*ck you’ and hung up.”
Under the TCPA, the use of ATDS technology and pre-recorded messages in marketing calls is forbidden without the express written consent of the called party, the case explains. Furthermore, the complaint states that the statute also forbids calling numbers on the DNC without express written consent. The lawsuit claims the plaintiff never consented to receive autodialed calls or pre-recorded messages and that the defendants’ calls were therefore illegal under the TCPA.
The suit seeks to represent everyone in the U.S. who the defendants, or their agents, called using the same dialing system used to contact the plaintiff and/or a pre-recorded voice within four years of the filing of the complaint.