Kohl’s is a formidable retailer with beginnings as a grocery store in 1927, before morphing into a department store. The Kohl’s we know today was founded in 1962 and is the second-largest retailer in the US when measured by retail sales volume, and the largest in terms of storefronts. As of the third quarter of last year, Kohl’s boasts 1,155 locations with its headquarters in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.
A favored ploy for retailers to both market their products, and to chase customers for payment, is the use of automated dialers that do not require paid staff. While technology affords business operators the capacity to contact clients inexpensively and efficiently, a related increase in nuisance calls paved the way for the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which was enacted in 1991.
The federal TCPA was brought in expressly to address automated telemarketing calls to land lines. The advent of the mobile phone industry resulted in comparable amendments to the Act to encompass mobile and cell phones – devices that often carry usage caps eaten up by nuisance telemarketing calls. Due to the migration of cell phone numbers to different users over time, the TCPA includes one free call in the event a retailer may have had prior permission to call the number from a previous owner, but no longer may have permission from a subsequent owner of that number.
One free pass. That’s it. Beyond that, retailers and marketers require the express permission from the consumer to place calls to their cell phone.
That’s not what happened in Ankcorn’s case, or so it is alleged.
Ankcorn alleges his privacy protection was violated under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act when Kohl’s allegedly placed at least 105 calls to his mobile phone between July, and October 2014. As part of his allegations, Ankcorn asserts that not only were the calls automated, but also that a disembodied, or artificial voice was used in an attempt to collect a loan to which the plaintiff had no association.
Ankcorn asserts that when he attempted to contact a live operator in order to expressly direct Kohl’s to cease all calls to his cell phone, the call was disconnected. When he was successful at reaching a live operator and made his wishes known, Ankcorn alleges the individuals on the other end of the line refused to identify themselves to the plaintiff.
Not only does Ankcorn assert that he never issued his express consent to Kohl’s to contact him by cell phone, he also claims that he never once listed his cell phone number on any documents, or revealed his mobile phone number in any transaction he may have made in concert with the retailer.
In seeking class certification, Ankcorn is hoping to represent all Class participants who may have received similar calls from Kohl’s in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act within the last four years. Observers conversant with such matters estimate Class participants in the Ankcorn’s TCPA violations lawsuit could number in the tens of thousands.
The Kohl’s TCPA violations lawsuit is Ankcorn v. Kohl’s Corp., Case No. 1:15-cv-01303, in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.