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Predictive Dialers Must Comply with DNC

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June 25, 2012

Predictive Dialers Must Comply with DNC

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor

Companies that use predictive dialers can be held liable for inadvertently contacting someone on a Do Not Call (DNC) list. An Illinois court ruled recently that debt collectors that call a number assigned to a debtor that has been reassigned to another party can be in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. 

The act, according to this Court House News report, has not been very popular with companies using predictive dialer technology because they say the penalties are too harsh and allow for multiple class action lawsuits and unreasonable awards to the victims.

The court ruled that an “automated call to a landline phone can be an annoyance. An automated call to a cell phone adds expense to annoyance.” What usually occurs is the debtor has consented to allowing the company to call him or her, but then changes that number. The predictive dialer has no way of knowing the person has changed the number or that the phone company has reassigned the number to a person who has not given consent.

As the predictive dialer does not have the same reasoning as live agent would have, the call might be placed time and time again. In the case of the Illinois suit, two people were contacted 18 and 29 times and sought $500 per call made. 

The argument on the side of the company using the predictive dialer was that they were only trying to contact the intended recipient. The court rejected that argument. Furthermore, the court ruled that no one entity has property rights to a phone number, therefore, the defense’s argument that the new owner of the line would have to revoke consent, is invalid.

Companies using predictive dialer technology are facing a growing problem in customers moving from landline phones to mobile phones. The fear is that these cases will continue to crop up as numbers are reassigned and the dialer cannot possibly know that a new party is taking on the number in its data banks.

The court has suggested a way around the problem by having employees make sure the number is still listed for the intended person, which would allow them to update the predictive dialer program. Using the reverse lookup sites available on the Internet can do this. 

Predictive dialer technology continues to improve, but it cannot make the same judgments that humans make, nor can it, in its current state, verify numbers and match them to the names of their owners.

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Edited by Jamie Epstein

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