A proposed class action lawsuit filed in Texas claims that Fred Haas Motors, Ltd. violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) by leaving telemarketing voicemails with potential customers via “ringless” technology.
Ringless technology is used to deliver prerecorded marketing messages directly to voicemail en masse without giving the called party an opportunity to speak to the caller or hang up like a traditional phone call would. According to the complaint, Fred Haas Motors used this technology to leave messages encouraging consumers to buy vehicles from its dealership.
The case explains that ringless voicemails are left using internet-to-phone connections and leave recipients with no ability to block them. Despite protest from “unscrupulous companies” who use ringless voicemails to skirt the TCPA, the case contends that this technology is covered by the TCPA since it is roughly equivalent to internet-to-phone text messaging that the statute regulates. From the complaint:
“From the recipient’s perspective, Internet-to-phone text messaging is functionally equivalent to phone-to-phone text messaging, which the Commission has already confirmed falls within the TCPA’s protection. And the potential harm is identical to consumers; unwanted text messages pose the same cost and annoyance to customers, regardless of whether they originate from a phone or the Internet.”
The suit further explains that the TCPA forbids both automated calls that are made without the called party’s express written consent and calls to numbers on the national Do-Not-Call Registry without express written consent. The lead plaintiff in the case claims his number has been listed with the national Do-Not-Call registry since 2009, yet he received a ringless voicemail from the defendant in April 2019 encouraging him to purchase a new car. The plaintiff claims he never consented to receive voicemails from the defendant, and since the message provided no opt-out instructions, he received the same voicemail three additional times.
The suit seeks to represent a class covering everyone who was sent a prerecorded message by the defendant without express written consent within the last four years and a separate class for everyone whose number was listed on the DNC but received two or more voicemails within a 12-month span.