Revoke Robo-dialer Collections Calls With A Cease & Desist Letter
In a recent case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit regarding the scope of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), the court ruled that you have the right to revoke robo-dialer collections calls (often referred to as robo-dialed) made to your cell phone. If you continue to receive these calls, voice messages or text messages after revoking your consent, you can be awarded from $500 to as much as $1500 per call or text message.
Previous lower court decisions had permitted robo-dialed calls to cell phones by debt collectors who had obtained consent and severely limited the consumer’s ability to revoke robo-dialer collections calls for these cell phone calls once given on a loan application or verbally over the phone. Now with a simple letter to your creditor or collection agency, you can revoke your prior expressed consent for these annoying calls at any time.
In 1991, Congress passed the TCPA to protect consumers from a deluge of round-the-clock, intrusive and annoying telemarketing and debt collection calls made by robo-dialing machines (automated telephone dialing systems – ATDS). This law allowed consumers to receive actual and statutory damages when a court found telemarketers and debt collectors were in violation of the act. The flood of these nuisance calls receded and for over twenty years the TCPA has remained one of the most popular consumer laws of all time.
How To Revoke Robo-Dialer Collections Calls From Debt Collectors
In 2007, Ashley Gager applied for a line of credit from Dell Financial Services, LLC to purchase computer equipment. She gave her cell phone number as her contact number on the loan application and was approved. Later when she fell behind on her payments, Dell began calling her cell phone using a robo-dialer phone system to leave artificial or pre-recorded voice messages about her debt. In 2010, Gager wrote a letter to Dell listing the phone number and asking Dell to stop calling her.
After Dell received the letter revoking consent to call Gager's cell phone, they continued to call about 40 times in the next three weeks using its Automated Telephone Dialing System (ATDS). Gager then filed suit against Dell for violation of the TCPA. Unless an exception under the TCPA is proved, the creditor might owe the consumer $500 in statutory damages for each call, or approximately $20,000 in the Gager case.
The TCPA's application to debt collection calls to cell phones is of increasing importance. More and more consumers are giving their cell phone number on credit applications — often times because the application requests both a landline and cell number or sometimes the consumer only has a cell phone. Typically this is sufficient to prove consumer consent to automated and auto-dialed debt collection calls to their cell phone.
The TCPA also prohibits most live calls to a cell phone, because sellers, telemarketers and collectors typically use an auto-dialer system to make the live call. Manually dialed live calls to a cell phone are not prohibited, unless the number is on the national do-not-call list (DNC). There is an exception to the TCPA prohibition if the consumer has consented with a signed writing to receive such calls — hence the significance of a signed credit application.
In August of 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia ruled unanimously on appeal in Gager v. Dell Financial Services that the TCPA also protects consumers from robo-dialed calls from debt creditors who have not obtained your prior expressed consent. The Court further held that consumers have the right to revoke robo-dialer collections calls at any time. The ruling overturned a lower court’s ruling in Gager V. Dell Financial Services that said Dell was not in violation of the TCPA and that consumers did not have the right to revoke consent to be contacted on their cell phones once it had been given verbally or on a loan application.
The recent ruling by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals found that consumers do have the right to revoke consent allowing the creditor and its debt collectors to place robo-dialed collections calls to cell phones. Once consent has been revoked and it becomes the responsibility of the callers for determining (refered to as scrubbing the telephone number) if the phone number they are robo-dialing is a cell phone. These calls do not have to be answered to qualify as a violation of the TCPA and the use of skip tracing or caller ID by the collectors to obtain a cell phone number is also prohibited.
Gager did not decide on whether the credit application was sufficient to prove consumer consent for auto-dialed collection calls to a cell phone. Rather, in Gager, the consumer revoked consent to be robo-dialed, and the Third Circuit ruled on whether such consent can be revoked after given and whether revocation must occur within a certain time period. In a decision of first impression by a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Third Circuit found that the consumer could revoke consent to robo-dialer collections calls and that no time limitation applied to issuing that revocation. The court relied in part on the TCPA's remedial nature that is intended to protect consumers. Since the consent had been revoked, the creditor could not continue making automatic or auto-dialed calls, and each such call is a TCPA violation.
There is a simple method to determine if a debt collection call is being robo-dialed. When you receive a robo-dialed call, you will notice a few seconds of silence, then some clicking sounds followed by a pre-recorded or artificial voice message or immediate transfer to a live person. Using this computerized process, debt collectors are able to make millions of calls each day. But once you revoke consent with a letter to your creditors asking that they cease calling your phone number, violations will cost them $500 minimum per call. If the court decides that the creditor or collector willfully or knowingly violated the TCPA after you asked them to stop calling, the damages can be tripled.
If you are being harassed by collections calls or telemarketer calls to your cell phone, know your rights and take action today. Contact Rex Anderson a local attorney in Davison, Michigan who has the expertise and experience to enforce the TCPA and get collection agencies and tele-marketers to pay for their TCPA violations. Visit rexandersonpc.com or call (810) 653-3300.
To learn more about the TCPA, you can read the recent Third Circuit ruling on TCPA violations.
Find out how to document evidence of TCPA violations and revoke robo-dialer collections calls here.