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No “Silent Night” Thanks to Robocalling Debt Collectors

Robocalling Debt Collectors

By Gregory H. Lercher

This Holiday Season, bankers and debt collectors are lobbying the FCC to loosen protections to allow more unfettered robocalling. Business groups, such as the American Collectors Association, The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Consumer Bankers Association, have hired lobbyists to redefine the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”). The TCPA, which was signed into law in 1991, protects consumers by limiting how and when businesses can use telemarketing and various types of robocalls and robotexts.

Specifically, industry lobbyists are telling the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) to limit the term “called party” under the TCPA to only those consumers who were the “intended recipients” of the call. Essentially, this allows businesses to undermine the purpose of the TCPA by permitting otherwise illegal calling practices simply because the robocaller “thought” it was calling someone it had permission to call. Essentially, companies that use robocalling want to be excused from violating the law if they can claim they had their head in the snow while they were placing the call that broke that law.

This proposed change, which would be harmful to consumers, should be rejected for several reasons:

  • First, Congress clearly intended for this statute to protect consumers from the detrimental impact of non-consensual auto-dialed and prerecorded voice calls to their cell phones. Even a cursory review of the TCPA’s language establishes that “called party” refers to the actual called party, not the person the caller intended to call.
  • Second, “wrong number” calls to reassigned numbers are largely the result of inadequate calling practices and a widespread culture of industry indifference. These companies take the position that they should be able to call consumers using an autodialer or with artificial/prerecorded voice technology, whether consumers actually want the calls or not. Even worse, many times these companies know that they are making illegal calls but argue that manual dialing is less efficient and costs more.
  • Third, the FCC has no authority to “clarify” the definition of a “called party” or exempt other illegal calls under 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1)(A). The statute expressly delineates the FCC’s exemption powers and only exempts cell phone calls that are not charged to the called party.
  • Fourth, courts have overwhelmingly rejected the “intended recipient” argument. For example, see Soppet v. Enhanced Recovery Co., 679 F.3d 637, 640 (7th Cir. 2012) (holding that the phrase “intended recipient” does not appear anywhere in § 227, so what justification could there be for equating ‘called party’ with ‘intended recipient of the call’?”).
  • Finally, companies have the means and ability to follow the law; that some make the strategic business decision to violate the TCPA is not a reason to change it. 

The FCC is currently considering these arguments that affect you and other consumers. Here’s who you can contact to protect your privacy and stop the noise:

Let the FCC know your experience with robocalls and how wrong party robocalls are a constant source of frustration in addition to one of the FCC’s most complained about consumer issues. As a result, the TCPA should be strengthened, not weakened. You can contact the FCC by e-mailing each of the Commissioners at the following links. You can send the same e-mail to each of the five commissioners because they all have different staff.

You can also contact your Congressperson and contact your state’s Attorney General and tell them not to let the FCC and private industry take away your right to peace and privacy on your cell phone. There is nothing forcing companies to use autodialers, robocalls, or prerecorded voice technology. Requiring companies that choose to use these technologies to take steps to ensure that the people they call actually consented to being called is not an unreasonable request, and in fact, has been the law for more than two decades.

Source: NACA/NCLC Comments filed with the FCC on the pending FCC petitions on November 17, 2014. 

LeavenLaw is an AV-rated law firm that helps consumers with problems associated with debt.  If you have received debt collection calls from a bank or debt collector, there is a chance that your rights may have been violated.  If you have repeatedly received debt collection calls to your cell phone, or have received unwanted texts or telemarketing calls, please do not hesitate to contact the consumer protection lawyers at LeavenLaw to discuss your case at a free initial consultation.  www.LeavenLaw.com  1-855-Leaven-Law

LeavenLaw Welcomes New Shareholder: Andrew Meyer

Andrew MeyerWebb’s City.  Green Benches.  Green Devils.  Some things are quintessential St. Petersburg.  It is with great pleasure that LeavenLaw and its shareholders welcome back to St. Pete one of its own to practice law.  Consumer class-action lawyer, Andrew Meyer, has joined LeavenLaw as a shareholder and will chair the firms Class Action and Appellate divisions.  

St. Petersburg’s Own

Andy grew up in the northeast part of St. Petersburg, graduating from St. Petersburg High School’s International Baccalaureate program.  After graduation, Andy attended The University of Florida, where he received his Bachelor and Juris Doctorate degrees.  Heavily involved in UF’s Student Government, Andy met LeavenLaw managing shareholder, Ian Leavengood, at the University of Florida, where both were honored as UF Hall of Fame inductees and tapped as members of Florida’s oldest leadership honorary, Florida Blue Key. 

Experience

After graduating law school, Andy has spent a career litigating civil matters.  Prior to joining LeavenLaw, Andy has had a varied work experience.  Whether as an associate at Carlton Fields, a law clerk for Judge Altenbernd at the Second District Court of Appeal, or a class-action attorney at James Hoyer or Morgan & Morgan, Andy has spent his legal career analyzing, managing and litigating complex civil litigation matters. 

What it means for you at LeavenLaw

As consumer advocates, the attorneys at LeavenLaw have spent almost four decades helping Florida’s consumers dealing with problems associated with credit, debt and deceptive and unfair trade practices.  Andy’s experience in building a national class-action practice at Morgan & Morgan is a perfect fit and welcomed advocacy for LeavenLaw’s clients . . . all provided at no additional out-of-pocket cost.

As a class-action litigator, Andy has built an impressive resume.  Included in his achievements are being appointed as lead counsel in dozens of class actions and being named co-lead counsel in a national, multi-district litigation (MDL) panel focused on violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).  Other significant class-action cases Andy has litigated: 

  • DeHoyos v. Allstate Insurance Company, Civil Action No. 5:01-1010 (Western District of Texas)
  • Healey v. Allianz Life Insurance Company, Civil Action No. 2:05-8908 (Central District of California)
  • Hill v. Countrywide, Case No. A-0178441 (Texas 58th District Court, Jefferson County)
  • In re Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation, Misc. No. 08-ML-0511-PLF (District Court for the District of Columbia)
  • In Re: Apple iPhone 3G and 3GS “MMS” Marketing and Sales Practices Litigation, MDL No. 2116 (Eastern District of Louisiana); Steering Committee  

Going Forward

Andy Meyer and Ian Leavengood have already worked together on class-action cases while Andy was at Morgan & Morgan.  In Lieber v. Bank of America, N.A., Andy and Ian argued that Bank of America violated the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA) when it sent a form debt collection letter to individual in the State of Florida who was faced with losing their homes in a potential foreclosure.  The Lieber case has been resolved on a class action basis.  http://www.lieberboaclasssettlement.com/  It was the re-connection and results that they achieved together in several consumer class actions that, in part, convinced Andy to return home and join LeavenLaw. 

Currently, LeavenLaw has identified over 40 consumer class-action cases to litigate on behalf of Florida’s consumers, ranging from unlawful debt collection to unfair credit reporting to data breach and invasions of privacy.  LeavenLaw takes these cases on a contingency basis, meaning if LeavenLaw does not prevail on behalf of its clients and the classes they seek to represent, LeavenLaw is not paid.  If you have been treated unfairly and think that others have been potentially victimized as well, please do not hesitate to contact LeavenLaw to discuss your case.  

LeavenLaw is a civil litigation firm that represents consumers in matters related to unfair debt collection, credit reporting, bankruptcy, collection defense, mortgage foreclosure, and short sales as well personal injury and criminal defense.  If you have been injured, victimized or unfairly treated or deceived, please feel free to contact LeavenLaw to consider your case at a free initial consultation.  www.LeavenLaw.com  1-855-Leaven-Law (855-532-8365).