A woman who received 153 robocalls from Time Warner Cable regarding the outstanding bill of another customer was awarded $229,500 in New York District Court. In King v Time Warner Cable, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 14-02018, the court awarded triple damages of $1,500 per call under the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991. Judge Alvin Hellerstein reasoned that Time Warner Cable didn't take the plaintiff nor the lawsuit very seriously.
Time Warner Cable Robocalls Plaintiff 153 Times
Aracelli King of Irving, Texas received 79 "robocalls" to her cell phone during 2013 and 2014 from New York based Time Warner Cable seeking "Luiz Perez." Ms. Perez apparently had held that phone number prior to Ms. King and had cable TV service with the company. Ms. King explain in a seven minute call with a Time Warner supervisor that she was not Luiz Perez and that the company should stop calling her. But what made this case unique is that after Ms. King became outraged and had an attorney file a federal lawsuit in New York, the company called her number an additional 74 times. Time Warner argued that it wasn't liable to King under the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act because it wasn't soliciting King - it meant to call Luiz Perez. In addition, the company claimed they were unaware that King had requested to be on the TWC "do not call" list - which the court did not accept.
Interactive Voice Response Systems: Telemarketing & Collections Robocalls
Also known as an "interactive voice response" system (or "IVR"), robocalls are automated telephone calls aimed at reaching a live person who takes note of the call and, by interacting with the automated instructions, will eventually bring a live operator onto the call. Robocalls are frequently used in collections in an attempt to reach debtors who, after acknowledging that they are the person identified on a call, will bring a live operator in for conversation on paying the debt.
Judge Hellerstein scolded Time Warner in his opinion that "Defendant harassed plaintiff with robo-calls until she had to resort to a lawsuit to make the calls stop, and even then TWC could not be bothered to update the information in its IVR system." He found that the violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act were egregious and that Time Warner Cable clearly didn't take the issue seriously. Time Warner is supposedly reviewing its options regarding an appeal for a monetary damages award which it believes are excessive.
Many consumer protection laws provide token amounts of recovery, usually nowhere near a quarter million dollars. In many instances, consumer advocates argue that the relatively small amounts for damages - such as $500 per call - make it extremely unlikely that victims would pursue a remedy in court. Telemarketing and collections companies may robocall at will since the likelihood of being sued would be small and, at worst, result in damages that could be small enough to be considered a cost of doing business.
- Legal Practice:
- Consumer - Consumer Protection
- US Federal