Robert T. Healey, Esq.

Debt Collector Robocalls To The Wrong Cell Phone Number – A New Case from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals

Recently, I wrote an article which discussed the issue of debt collector liability for auto-dialed or robo-calls from an automatic or predictive dialer pursuant to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).  You can review this article here:

http://healeylawllc.com/what-you-should-know-about-unwanted-robo-calls-to-your-cell-phone/

After publishing that article, I received many inquiries, and some of them set forth the following scenario:  an individual signs a new cell phone contract and receives a new cell phone number.  Shortly thereafter, that same individual begins to receive autodialed or robo-calls from debt collectors all day every day directed to someone of whom the new cell phone subscriber has never heard and whose identity the new subscriber does not know.  It is likely that this unknown person used to have a cell phone contract for that same phone number and gave consent to his or her creditors express to contact him or her on that cell phone number.  The question in those circumstances becomes does the prior consent of the old subscriber protect that debt collector from liability for making robo-calls to the new subscriber without the new subscriber’s consent.  The debt collectors argue that in these circumstances the “called party” should be identified as the party it was intending to call and not the party it actually called.

Recently, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit was confronted with this issue, and, in my view, made the correct ruling.  It stated that for purposes of the TCPA, the “called party” is the party who was actually called and not the party which the debt collector intended to call.  See more discussion about this case here:

http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2012/05/11/the-daily-writing-sample-predictive-dialers-and-enchanted-buckets/

You can also read the opinion here:

http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?q=soppet+and+enhanced+recovery+company+7th+Circuit&hl=en&as_sdt=2,26&case=16092022347995701653&scilh=0

The important thing to remember for you is that if you have a new cell phone number and you are repeatedly receiving calls from debt collectors or telemarketers which are intended for someone else, you might have a valid claim for damages pursuant to the Telephone Protection Act TCPA).  Remember that the TCPA imposes a penalty of $500 per attempted call and up to $1,500.00 per call if the attempted calls were knowing or willful.  If you think this is happening to you, a family member or friend, you should contact a consumer advocate in your area.

Bob Healey is a licensed attorney and principal with Healey Law, LLC, a full-service St. Louis law firm, specializing in handling cases for accident and injury victims, injured workers, and consumers who have been abused or mistreated by debt collectors, banks, mortgage companies and credit reporting agencies. With 4 convenient locations in Chesterfield, Downtown St. Louis, North County (Bridgeton near DePaul Hospital) and South County (on Tesson Ferry across from St. Anthony’s Hospital) the attorneys at Healey Law, LLC have over 25 years of experience representing clients in the State and Federal Courts in both Missouri and Illinois.  For more information visit:  http://www.healeylawllc.com