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Robocall Lawsuits Spike, Business Calling for Relaxation of Rules

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Washington, DCAs the American Chamber of Commerce and other business interests lobby for an update and relaxation of guidelines governing robocalls and telemarketing, the Attorney General for the State of Indiana has launched a nuisance call lawsuit against a medical supplies company.

Am-Med Diabetic Supplies Inc., which also does business as Beyond Medical USA, has been accused of making in excess of 55,000 illegal robocalls to Hoosiers with an offer of diabetic supplies. It has also been alleged in the nuisance call lawsuit that upwards of 25,000 calls were made to numbers currently registered on the state’s “Do Not Call” list, and that the automated calls also failed to properly identify the caller, or the sponsoring company.

The nuisance call lawsuit was filed in Marion County Court by the Office of the Attorney General for the State of Indiana.

“Hoosiers are beyond frustrated that they continue to be harassed by unwanted calls, and it’s only getting worse as automated robocalls can be made easier and faster, at a rate of thousands of calls per minute,” said Attorney General Greg Zoeller, in a statement released from his office. “Though many scam callers are overseas and can easily evade detection, I am focused on stopping Do Not Call violators that blatantly disregard our laws and add to this annoyance and intrusion.”

According to the statement, the Attorney General’s office received six complaints about unwanted calls from the company. Upon investigation, it was determined that thousands of calls went out - almost half to numbers that were properly registered on the “Do Not Call” list maintained by the state of Indiana.

Telemarketers are not supposed to place any call to any number listed as not wishing to receive calls.

Current rules, guidelines and laws within the auspices of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) put the consumer in the driver’s seat. Telemarketers and debt collectors are not allowed to place any call to any number unless permission has been established, with few exceptions. A debt collector making harassing calls to consumers is mandated by law to stop if a debtor asks them to. And telemarketers are mandated to adhere to “Do Not Call” lists maintained by the Federal Trade Commission (the FTC’s National Do Not Call Registry) and similar lists maintained by various individual states, such as Indiana.

The problem is that the guidelines are being ignored. Hence, a spike in Robocall lawsuits by consumers and state Attorneys General.

And yet, according to NBC News (5/23/16), businesses are in the midst of seeking support from Congress to relax robocall laws and weaken the penalties for illegal telemarketing.

NBC summarizes federal regulations defining robocalls as unsolicited, prerecorded telemarketing calls to residential landline phones, and all autodialed or prerecorded calls or text messages to wireless numbers. Rules differ for landlines and mobile phones. A business must have the consumer’s written permission to make a telemarketing robocall to a consumer’s phone. Robocalls are allowed to a landline phone without such prior consent, provided the caller is not trying to sell a product or service.

Legitimate companies playing by the rules appear to be outnumbered by scammers that ignore all guidelines geared toward curbing illegal robocalls.

Combined, it’s a huge problem for consumers. NBC notes that in the first four months of 2016, the FTC logged more than 1.6 million complaints about illegal telemarketing calls. The vast majority of those complaints - 1.1 million or 64 percent - were about automated telemarketing or debt collector harassment calls.

NBC notes an estimate by Consumer Reports that upwards of 35 percent of all telephone calls placed in the United States are automated robocalls.

Illegal robocalls are such a daunting problem that consumers deciding to nuisance call sue represent the second most-filed type of lawsuit in federal courts, according to Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) in comments to a federal Commerce Committee hearing in mid-May. The chairman of the Commerce Committee went on to say that no fewer than 3,710 TCPA lawsuits were filed last year, a 45 percent increase from 2014.

And yet, the US Chamber of Commerce is lobbying Congress to change the rules. The national business association is of the view that current regulations, ignored or not, favor the consumer and create a hardship for legitimate business. Part of the Chamber’s argument includes an observation that the TCPA has not been updated since it was enacted in 1991 when cell phones were few and texting did not exist. Current estimates are that 90 percent of Americans now have mobile phones. Nearly half of those have cut the cord with their landline carrier, with their mobile phone now the only form of communication.

Business groups want, among other things: a cap on damage awards in telemarketer lawsuits, a statute of limitations, and an exemption from legal action for a company acting in good faith or that called a reassigned mobile number that had belonged to a previous customer.

Consumers fed up with illegal robocalls are saying fat chance to that…

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READER COMMENTS

Posted by

on
We are constantly bothered by a company advertising Diabetes Supplies and another one advertising solar panels. No matter how many my husband tells this person he is not interest in either product and that he going to call the BBB, they continue to call.

Posted by

on
Nothing stops Rachel from Card Services or "John Smith" Gupta from Microsoft Support.

Posted by

on
I received so many robo calls from Level 3 communication in Joplin, MO that I had blocked almost 30 phone numbers, and finally bought and installed auto blocking software, and changing my number. This was a verizon Retention scam call that they know about, but refuse to do anything about. I can tell these people that I won't buy anything from a Robo call, I won't vote for anything or anyone from a Robo Call, and I won't donate to any Charity Group that calls me on my phone no matter how much I agree with the cause. It's gotten so bad on these calls that they do themselves more harm, than good.

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