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Watch out Predictive Dialer Users! Consumers Can Now Seek Legal Action in Federal Court against Telemarketers

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January 31, 2012

Watch out Predictive Dialer Users! Consumers Can Now Seek Legal Action in Federal Court against Telemarketers

By Jamie Epstein, TMCnet Web Editor

Chances are, at one time or another, you have probably gone to check your voicemail hoping that grandma was on her way for a visit, only to end up listening to a prerecorded message that you have won a cruise, or the lottery or your credit card is unsecure, messages which, in many cases are, left by a predictive dialer.

Although predictive dialers are great for getting a word out about a particular promotion or event, essentially harassing people with unwarranted calls could now result in a court case. This is due to the fact that The Supreme Court has decided that consumers can fight back against telemarketing companies by leveraging the federal court system.

An example of a scenario in which predictive dialers were used in the wrong way is shown in a piece featured by, where Marcus Mims of Ft. Lauderlade, Fla. filed a lawsuit in federal district court against Arrow Financial Services, stating that the company had kept calling him to inform him about student loan payments and even left voicemails. Mims believed that Arrow “willfully or knowingly” violated the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) by using the predictive dialer system and a prerecorded voice. After several courts threw out the case, Mims decided to not give up, proceeding to the Supreme Court.

Mims’ efforts paid off the long run, as the Supreme Court agreed that suits under the TCPA could now be tried in the federal system. What happened to Mims case? He will be refiling his case in federal district court, seeking damages.

Matthew P. McCue, a Massachusetts lawyer specializing in consumer law, commented that consumers who want to take telemarketers to court need to first act as a law enforcement official themselves.

McCue said in a statement, “If you’re getting a robocall to your cell phone, it’s actionable,” he says. “Home security, mortgages, cruises, travel, credit relief, taxes, credit counseling – it’s illegal. One of the things the industry does is, they anticipate 99 percent of the people who get the calls won’t want the calls, and give as little information as possible. And they’ll ‘spoof’ the caller ID, so the people behind the call are very difficult to identify. So you have to figure out who the caller is, by pressing  one (when they prompt you to). And you basically ask questions to find out who’s behind it. Unfortunately you have to feign interest in the product to investigate an illegal call.”

However, although debt collectors are allowed by law to contact landlines there are some key points they must adhere to including: not being allowed to call the house before 8 am or after 9 pm, can’t use prerecorded voices or automatic dialing to call a cell phone or any phone that results in a charge and no one can call you if you’ve put your number on the National Do Not Call list.

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Jamie Epstein is a TMCnet Web Editor. Previously she interned at News 12 Long Island as a reporter's assistant. After working as an administrative assistant for a year, she joined TMC (News - Alert) as a Web editor for TMCnet. Jamie grew up on the North Shore of Long Island and holds a bachelor's degree in mass communication with a concentration in broadcasting from Five Towns College. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves

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