With the help of automated dialers, companies can now reach many customers all at once, via their telephones, to inform them of new products or services. These phone calls are often unwanted though, and even more so when the customers are the ones footing the bill. When everyone was using landlines, the person or company making the phone call was the one who paid for it, so although promotional calls were annoying, they never cost the customers anything. Now they can cost money and also invade privacy and waste time.
When cell phones became more common, customers were made to pay for the calls they received as well as the calls they made. This meant that some customers actually had to pay for the unwanted phone calls they got from various companies trying to sell their wares. In order to protect customers from this situation and to end the annoyance and invasion of privacy injuries if the practice could be deterred, legislators developed the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) which made it illegal for companies to contact customers via their cell phones in a non-emergency situation, unless the customers provided their express permission for the company to do so.
Because customers lose so little money on promotional phone calls and the annoyance and inconvenience damages are difficult to measure, it is rarely worthwhile for a customer to file a lawsuit as an individual under the TCPA. If they receive multiple phone calls from the same company, it can add up, but it is unlikely that it will amount to anything significant. This is where the value of class action lawsuits comes in. In a class action, an individual can file a lawsuit on behalf of herself and all others who are similarly situated. With enough people with the same complaint, a class action can compile claims that, together, are sufficiently large to warrant bringing the matter to the attention of the courts.
Because the purpose of using autodialing systems is to reach many customers at one time, it is rare to find a lawsuit filing claims under the TCPA that does not have a class with hundreds, if not thousands, of potential class members. For example, a recent lawsuit filed against Rite Aid Corp., alleging the company made illegal use of autodialing systems to contact customers on their cell phones, has filed for class action status. According to the complaint, which was filed by Robert Zani, a former customer of Rite Aid, the company allegedly used autodialing systems to call his cell phone in a non-emergency situation. He recently moved to have the lawsuit certified for class action status because he alleges Rite Aid made similar unsolicited calls to thousands of customers’ cell phones all across the country. Rite-Aid denies the allegations.
Under the TCPA, consumers filing a complaint against a company for violation of the federal Act can sue for statutory, as well as injunctive relief. This means they can file a claim for a specified amount under the Act. It also means they can ask the court to file an injunction against Rite Aid, which would prohibit it from contacting customers using an autodialing system in the future. Zani’s lawsuit is seeking both statutory claims and injunctive relief.
The class Zani is seeking to have certified would represent all customers who received pre-recorded marketing calls on their cell phones from Rite Aid within four years before the filing of the complaint. Within that class, Zani is also asking the court to certify a subclass of customers who received messages from Rite Aid regarding the flu shots it was offering. Zani alleges he received both types of automated phone calls on his cell phone, making him a suitable candidate to represent the entire class of plaintiffs in court.
Zani says he tried to resolve the issue with Rite Aid before filing the lawsuit. To start with, he alleges Rite Aid should have provided customers with the ability to opt out of the phone call through either a voice command or the key pad, but the pharmacy company allegedly failed to do so. He also says he complained to his local Rite Aid about the calls, but he was allegedly told by an employee of the company that there was nothing that could be done to prevent them.
Although the purpose of these marketing calls is to reach potential and existing customers to sell products and services, in this case, the phone calls had the opposite effect. Zani said the marketing phone calls he received from Rite Aid prompted him to switch to a different pharmacy.
Do you have a new cell phone number? Are you getting unsolicited marketing texts or unwanted collection or marketing calls for strangers? Unless you gave express permission, these texts and/or calls may give rise to violations ofe the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 and you may be entitled to relief of $500-$1500 per text message or telephone call. This is true even if the previous owner of the cell telephone number gave permission. What should you do? You should save copies of all the offending texts and voicemails, document the identity of the sender (i.e. which vendor, collection agency, etc.) and contact the attorneys at Nationwide Consumer Rights for a free evaluation of your potential claims. You can call us at our toll free number 630-333-0333 or contact us online. One of our Chicago and Schaumburg area TCPA lawyers can help protect your privacy rights.