In some cases consumers have reported receiving dozens, even hundreds of calls on the same day.
One of the best-known telephone spam cases involved Papa John’s Pizza. After calling in an order with the high-profile pizza service, customers were inundated with unwanted text messages, sometimes in the middle of the night, soliciting more orders. The company settled consumer class-action suits for “spamming” for $16.5 million in 2013. It admitted no liability and blamed the problem on the company it had outsourced.
Attorney John Bickford, from the R. Rex Parris Law Firm in Lancaster, California, is currently working on behalf of consumers overwhelmed with cell phone calls and text messages from two different time share companies - Great Destinations and Global Exchange Vacation Club.
“The law says the consumers must give express consent to receiving telemarketing calls or texts on their cell phones,” says Bickford. “Telemarketing companies collect a database of cell phone numbers often gathered though ‘preprinted forms.’”
Sometimes the cell phone numbers get into databases when consumers believe that the information is necessary for an online transaction to be completed.
“Giving your cell phone number is never a necessary part of any transaction,” says Bickford. “Telling a consumer otherwise is illegal.
“Most of us are familiar with the sound of an automated dialing system. The call comes in, you answer and there’s a pause or click sound. The telemarketer now knows someone has answered, your number comes up on his screen and he starts trying to sell you something.
“If the calls are coming from an automated dialing system and the company cannot prove that you gave them express consent, or they obtained consent using a preprinted form or some other illegal method, the consumer has a cause to join a class-action suit,” says Bickford.
The reason the calls keep coming in such large volumes to an individual’s phone is because of the incentive offered to the telemarketer.
“They are often paid by the number of people they actually get to show up at a time share event,” says Bickford, “so they have a reason to call you over and over and over.”
The TCPA takes telemarketing abuse very seriously and mandates fines of $500 per illegal call.
An automatic dialer can make 8,000 calls a day, and over the course of a year, if even half those numbers are cell phone calls, the fines could add up to as much as $750 million.
“When these cases are certified by the courts as a class action, the defendants usually settle with the plaintiffs pretty quickly,” says Bickford. “The fines are just so huge they have no choice but to settle.”
That explains why Papa John’s paid $16.5 million for its “spamming activities.”
So if you’re getting unwanted texts or calls from a telemarketer and you don’t remember giving them permission to call you over and over again - you’ve a got case.