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Receiving Unwanted Calls? Federal Law Allows You to Sue Telemarketers

I’m sure we all agree receiving calls from telemarketers, debt collectors, and even worse, scammers is annoying.  I bet you receive calls even though you have signed up for the Kentucky and national “do-not-call” lists.  Earlier this year scammers were calling asking “can you hear me?” and when the person on the receiving end of the phone call said “yes” their voice was recorded and used for unauthorized charges.  Of course, this type of call is not legitimate and illegal, but even legitimate calls may be in violation of the law. 

Many of the calls you receive, even if from legitimate debt collectors, may be in violation of federal law, and consumers can sue the companies for money damages.  Just last week a North Carolina Judge ordered Dish Network to pay $61 million in damages after its marketers made calls to consumers on the company’s own “do-not-call” list.  The Judge’s order tripled the jury’s $20.5 million verdict, as federal law allows for treble (triple) damages.  The Judge ruled Dish knowingly and willfully violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) because it failed to oversee or monitor the callers and ensure compliance with federal law. 

Debt collectors, even if you do owe a debt, are also subject to the TCPA, as well as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).  Debt collectors cannot call before 8am or after 9pm and must always state to you they are a debt collector.  They cannot harass, threaten, or deceive you.  Under the FDCPA the debt collector may be liable in the amount of $1,000 for each violation. 

Companies can be liable to consumers in the amount of $500 for each unintentional violation of the TCPA and up to $1,500 for each intentional violation.  Each call made to any individual is considered a separate violation.  Generally, both TCPA and FDCPA lawsuits are brought as class actions, with hundreds or thousands of consumers suing the same company for its violations.  

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