Robocalls became a terrible epidemic in the United States. Some experts suggest that robocalls are estimated to take half of Americans household phone calls, and the latter gets worse over time. The prevalence of robocallers have affected the daily lives of Americans as many of these autodialed calls are being sent more than ten times a day in some cases.
A growing clamor to heighten the regulation with regards to robocalls has been echoed in different platforms. Citizens, including celebrities and experts, have been moving to pressure the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) but the current environment has seen the change very slow.
However, a glimmer of hope glances as a court in Tennessee ordered a company to pay a woman nearly half a million dollars for illegally hounding her with hundreds of robocalls, sometimes more than ten times per day, even after she asked them to stop contacting her.
The company, furniture chain Conn’s, was ordered by the court to compensate Tenessee’s Veronica Davis for the robocall spams. According to court documents, the furniture store started contacting the victim in September 2015 after Davis purchased furniture from its Memphis branch that she was to pay off in monthly installments.
The contract between Conn’s and Davis stipulated that the payment for the furniture is due every fifth day of the month. Furthermore, as per the agreement and a representative from the company, there is a 10-day grace period during which payments would not be considered late.
But the company doesn’t have it. Conn’s have started to spam Davis between the day her payment was due and the end of the extension using an automatic telephone dialing systems (ATDS), despite the contract’s clause stipulating a grace period.
The court document reveals that Davis explicitly contacted the company to stop contacting her in March 2017, but the company still called her 306 additional times after she asked them not to. Furthermore, the company sometimes contact her up to a dozen times a day, her attorney Frank Kerney said in an interview.
According to Kerney and another lawyer Joshua Kersey who also represent Davis, the continuing to call her using an ATDS amidst the revocation of her consent is a violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The legislation cited in the case intends to restrict robocalls and telemarketing.
Michael Russell, the arbiter of the case, awarded a hefty amount of $459,000 which should be paid to her within 30 days from March 25. The award amounted to the maximum $1,500 per call to Davis’ phone after she revoked her consent to be contacted. While the company filed for a motion to vacate the award in the Southern District of Texas, Davis’ lawyer Kerney said he feels “very confident” that the motion will be dismissed.
Kerney noted that if the company only used human representatives instead of the ATDS in contacting Davis, Conn’s would not have violated the TCPA.
“If they had just picked up a desktop phone and called her by dialing her ten-digit telephone number, that wouldn’t have been a violation of the law,” Kerney said. “If a person says ‘don’t call me,’ you better stop calling them.”
Meanwhile, an unrelated report reveals that despite the fact that the FCC had fined robocallers for more than $200 million, the agency was only able to collect around $6,000 out of it. Similarly, the FTC only had an 8% collection rate from fines issued to robocallers.
According to the report, only $6,790 of the total 200-million worth of fines was collected by the agency. On their defense, FCC said that the agency lacks the authority to enforce the forfeiture orders it issued and has passed all unpaid penalties for the Justice Department to act upon. It was also revealed that the FCC only punished small time robocallers and spoofers, which means that they are at times unable to pay the full penalties.
No comment from the Justice Department has since been made.
Read More: FCC ONLY COLLECTED $6790 OUT OF $208.4 MILLION IN FINES IT ISSUED AGAINST ROBOCALLERS SINCE 2015
Ajit Pai, the head of the FCC, has also been questioned and slammed in different platforms for his inaction regarding the robocall epidemic. Pai is reportedly supportive of regulations that would loosen up the control over auto dialing that will give robocallers more leeway in continuing their operations.
Only recently, three major telecom providers have announced the rolling out of robocall blocking features in their services as part of their vow to fight robocalls in America.