Suing Telemarketers And Winning

from the it-is-possible dept

While we've noted the fact that many telemarketers are clearly ignoring things like the Do Not Call list, it appears that more and more people are figuring out that they can fight back on their own. Consumerist has the story of one woman who followed the suggestions at the Kill the Calls website and was able to successfully sue a telemarketer in small claims court... and win. It does sound like a fair amount of work, but for those who have the time and the anger at receiving too many intrusive telemarketing calls, apparently it can work -- even if the company in question sends its chief legal counsel across the country to defend its practices.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Tony, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 10:08am

    If only

    If only more people would actually do this. It's just like the companies that send junk faxes - they KNOW they're breaking the law, but they don't care, because they ALSO know that very few, if any, people will sue them.

    However, if they started getting dozens of lawsuits every month, it might make an impact.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    PRMan, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 10:44am

    You can also report them at donotcall.gov

    I worked for a mortgage company that, when I offered, told me they "didn't care about it".

    After a couple months and $88,000 in fines, they suddenly cared a lot.

    If donotcall.gov gets a lot of complaints, they will fine the company $11,000 per violation.

    It does work, and it only takes a few seconds. Just make sure you get the actual company name and address.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    Steve R. (profile), Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 10:45am

    Theft of Your Assets

    When a telemarketer calls, they are costing you money and time. They should be obligated to pay you for listening to their unsolicited crap. In a sense, you could claim that they are "stealing" from you. But, this is the US - a country of by and for the corporations.

    I wonder what would happen if you were to barge into one of their call centers to make your own personal long distance calls. I bet they wouldn't let you. Yet they they feel they have a right to invade our space and use our equipment for their own benefit!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    TW Burger, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 11:04am

    Canada's Do Not Call List

    Canada (finally) gets a do not call list on September 30, 2008. URL: http://www.lnnte-dncl.gc.ca/index-eng.html#

    Having once been a in a job that often was involved with the civil court system I can tell you that the most costly part of the process is time. The paper work is reasonably simple (but needs to be very precise, so get a court clerk's help) and filing fees are not too bad.

    I believe the small claims limit is between $5,000 and $25,000 depending on the area. So a person willing to put some work into suing telemarketers that ignore the DNCL could make a few dollars.

    Here is a guide to BC small claims:

    http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/courts/civil/smallclaims/

    There is a catch or two in teaching these guys a lesson:

    The telemarketers can simply claim they made a mistake and missed your number on the DNCL. You will have to prove that they were aware of your number being on the DNCL and blatantly disregarded the law and did it several times.

    Fair compensation is another issue. A couple of minutes out of your day is not worth several thousand dollars. You will have to prove (not absolutely, as in criminal law, but reasonably) that interruptions to your privacy are adverse to your long term well being and the harassment causes you emotional injury. Even so, the amount awarded would not be worth your time and effort, except for the large amount of moral satisfaction. Punitive and exemplary damages are where the big dollars are included in judgments handed down by the court. You will have to prove that the telemarketer knew what they were doing was illegal, caused you suffering, and did it repeatedly after fair warning not to do so. Punitive and exemplary damages have to be asked for in your claim, but the judge may see this as gold-digging unless you can prove that punishment is needed to stop the telemarketer's behavior.

    Lawyers are another problem. They will have a lawyer, you will probably not. A half decent lawyer will have no problem making you look ridiculous, and if you lose you may have to pay his fee and all of the court costs. Sit through a few days in court to see how things work and get your own advise from a lawyer that handles contract law and injury litigation.

    It may be possible to use contract law to stop a telemarketer. Send a double registered letter to the telemarketing firm (you get a receipt stating that they received the letter) stating that they contacted you despite your listing on the DNCL and if you are called again they will do so having agreed to give you $10,000 in compensation for your time for each call made. The letter should also state that no responding to this offer will be seen as acceptance of the contract. I remember that someone did this a few years ago and it did work.

    This is beyond the average person's time and ability (or motivation, telemarketers love apathy) so it may be possible that some people could make a decent living compiling evidence and doing the work for people wanting the telemarketers to stop, at least until the court costs and fines make the telemarketers obey the law.

    However, I believe telemarketers will simply go offshore and harass us from Asia, Central America, or eastern Europe.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Stephanie B., Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 11:11am

    Stop signing up!

    I'm a telemarketer,and I know a quick way to stop getting calls in the future.

    Stop signing up for cash or cars or vacations or whatnot. Most agencies get your number from YOU, you sign up at the mall, or fair, or any kind of booth.

    When you sign up to win something, READ THE SMALL PRINT! It tells you that once you sign, the Do Not Call list is NOT being applied to you at this point.

    You waive your right to the DNC list, so stop signing up or stop being stupid. Be smart and maybe I won't have to call more idiots!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 11:19am

    On the phone RIGHT NOW

    I've been getting calls from 202-338-2547, which claims to be a number from Washington D.C.

    I'm on hold waiting to talk to a rep just to see if there is anything I/they can do. This is complete bullshit. There are laws in the US regarding the use of telemarketing. If you search that # on Google, you'll see hundreds of complaints. You can even listen to the whole recorded message, try to talk to the guy on the other end, and it still won't help. He won't give a valid company name, number, or address. Thats even IF you don't get hung up on when you try to talk to him.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 11:21am

    Re: Stop signing uo

    I have NEVER used this number, ANYWHERE! My friends and family have it. I get calls about getting a new warrenty for my vehicle, even tho my vehicle is older then my phone, and i haven't had either for that long. This jackass is a criminal

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 11:24am

    Re: Stop signing up!

    Good advice, thanks. I had forgotten that if you sign up for a contest or free offer and the form says you agree to them using your information then the do not call list is no longer in effect.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 12:13pm

    What we need is to add to the DNC idea: Any company that makes a large number of outbound calls should not be allowed to block/fake their caller ID. Require all telemarketing companies to get a license. Have the fee for the license pay for an automated system, where a person can report abuse simply by dialing 1-800-spam right after they get an unwanted call. If a company doesn't have a license THE TELEPHONE COMPANIES SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO CONNECT THEM. Licenses are revoked if too many people report abuse, and then require large sums of money and waiting periods before they are granted again.

    It seems to me that the phone companies are intentionally avoiding solving this problem. They make a nice sum of money from telemarketing companies. I'm not saying that they should be held accountable for every bad thing that goes on their network, but I think the law should be such that there is an incentive for them to rid their networks of this kind of behavior, rather than encourage it.

    The problem is the telephone companies are the middle-man in a transaction, charging both sides. If the telemarketing firms were paying for the phone at my house, then they could reasonably be expected to be able to use it as a marketing media. TV is free for me and as such, has the right to put on ads. Advertising firms pay the complete cost of the "connection" to the TV.

    The phone at my house that I'm paying for should not be considered a legal venue for someone to advertise on without my permission. The phone company should not permit this, or should not be charging me for the phone in my house. If I own it, then it should not be used by a business without my permission, if I don't own it, then I shouldn't pay for it.

    I think the previous legislation in the US wasn't intended to curb telemarketing, only to take the focus off of the methods that could truly stop it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    here in florida, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 12:51pm

    bust them regularly

    The State of Florida has had its own DNC list (Dept of Agriculture, Division of Consumer Affairs, No Sales Solicitations Calls List) for a long time. it costs you five bucks to get on it, and you have to fill out a form to renew each year. The State LOVES to prosecute telemarketers. It's easy money for them. It is a ten thousand dollar fine per offense. They even proscute out of state. By the way, in Florida all Telemarketers (even out of state but calling into the state) must have a special Florida Telemarketers license and must pay to receive the quarterly updated DNC list.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Paul, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 1:02pm

    DNC List Becoming Irrelevant

    VOIP, IVR and international outsourcing make it possible for scumbags to inundate us with calls that can't be prosecuted. Sure, US-based businesses will remain at risk if they ignore the list, but foreign ones will just serve as agents while the US ones plead ignorance of agent tactics, then switch to the same foreign agent under a different name.

    The volume will eventually mean that the Feds give up fighting it, since the vast majority will be beyond their jurisdiction anyway.

    Telcos could help, but they've always sold out their customers for termination fees.

    The answer is IP telephony and CPE smart enough filter/greylist the junk. Until then we're just hosed.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Paul, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 1:08pm

    On Second Thought

    Services like GrandCentral and Ring Central could create practical filters for us, forcing users to answer challenge questions (automatically validated) before connecting calls to our land lines or cell phones.

    Then we would tell everyone to call our virtual numbers, and have our real phones ONLY accept calls from the virtual number services.

    It's complicated, but a business opportunity for the virtual number providers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    claire rand, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 1:22pm

    'withheld numbers'

    simple solution, remove the ability to withhold a number, it need not be connected to the phone calling you, but must be registered as the contact number for the person or organisation listed as the contract holder for the line used.

    for preference adapt the system to also transmit a name and contact address, say ala sms 128 character limit with required fields for each call... any phone that can show the number sees it, anything more advanced can grab the contact address.

    for individuals as well as companies, everyone gets to see who is calling them, yes including companies when you call them, fairs fair.

    *no* exceptions, even over country borders, this will virtually kill phone marketing stone dead, and make phones useful again.

    companies can use their customer service line number as the return call number, or a different one for different departments so you can call back on the *right* number.

    places like the police (in the uk, who hide their number) can use a helpdesk number etc.

    want to withhold the details for 'legal reasons' get a court order, which will change the number to something like a legal reference number, ditto the address, but *always leaves the name in place*.

    call boxes? you get the number and address of the call number, the name will state the box operator and the fact its a call box.

    there is no reason to be able to hide the number calling you, you should always be able to see who is calling.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    NEIL, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 3:43pm

    telemarketers are like spam. the best solution id to hang up the phone permenantly delete the email and never ever buy their stuff. even if its a good deal go find it some where else some where that doesnt use these methods.

    the power to change the world is in your hands

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Rose M. Welch, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 6:06pm

    Re: Stop signing up!

    Or when your cable company sells your information, like mine did with absolutely no mention to me whatsoever.

    Asshat.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Sir Arthur, Sep 4th, 2008 @ 6:43am

    SpamAlot

    Spamming a cell phone == theft in the US

    But apparently they do not care. Are they are based outside the juristiction?
    Cell providers do not care because they make $$.
    A war on spam will not work.

    Maybe I'll just pitch the damn phone, it is of no use to me anymore. Is this illegal ?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    AC@India, Sep 4th, 2008 @ 11:10pm

    Re: Re: Stop signing up!

    Stephanie, I'm with Rose on this one. More often than not it is your cable company or your mobile service provider that itself sells number lists in bulk to 3rd party jerks who are then free to use it themselves, as well as make a further killing reselling the same info.

    Here in India we got our very own DNC Registry up and running recently after a long, long wait, but fat lot of good that's done. The reasons are the same as what my American amigos have outlined above. Apathy on part of those at the receiving end, as well as the laws being stacked against an individual (vs. Big Biz) in such a way that the time and money wasted is just not worth it. The authorities here are equally apathetic, and the DNC is just a half-a$$ed response to people's complaints over the years, with seemingly no legal enforceability either.

    Point is, the telemarketers couldn't give a damn about our privacy, and we're too timid/tired to complain and pursue the matter. End result? Things continue in the same vein or get worse, what with new avenues popping up daily for them to irritate us further. GPS? Geo-location? Surfing habits minutely tracked? How long before it all ties in and we're bombarded 24/7 with targeted ads everywhere? The future is frightening, unless we think of something now!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Tricia P, Sep 10th, 2008 @ 8:46am

    Re: Stop signing up!

    I also am a telemarketer and concur with the comment. There is a magical trick to everyones problem and its called "Caller ID". Maybe you should get one and not answer if the call is unknown.

    FYI: The DNC does NOT apply to a company you do business with.(Example: Banks-Phone Company Etc) You have to ask to be put on their DNC list. It could take up to 30 days so be patient.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Chris, Sep 21st, 2008 @ 12:37pm

    Re: Stop signing up!

    Oh, what a innocent, yet dumb individual you are. Have you ever had utilities put in your name? How about a car loan, checking account? Maybe you even rented an apartment, or applied for a home loan?

    As you are a telemarketer, I will try to simplify this for you....your information is everywhere. If you have a cell phone or home phone, there are over a hundred websites I could farm your number from.

    Individuals such as yourself find it funny to call poeple and experience them getting upset. You will make notes in the account and set it up for a repeated call back. When the person gets angry and wants to be put on the do not call list, you simply hang up on them and schedule a new call back.

    I would give anything for you to call me and do this. I paid for my last car with a jackass like you. Nice, quick settlement on a small claims court case I filed for someone doing just what I explained.

    You see, you can maitain that caucky little attitude you have for only so long, until either someone comes to your place of business and kicks your ass, or they decide to record the phone calls, produce the phone records and then sue you.

    Did you know that when the company that violates the do not call list is sued, that the rep making the call is fair game to be sued as well.

    Please, oh please, call me. I would be happy to take your $6 hour paycheck for the next 3 years in a lawsuit. Happy calling loser.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Chris, Sep 21st, 2008 @ 12:59pm

    Re: Re: Stop signing up!

    Hey dumbass telemarketers....uh, some people have private numbers that come up unknown. Also....a law was passed for telemarketing companies in the US causing them to not have blocked numbers. Most legal telemarketers don't come up unknown.

    Telling us that we should just not answer the phone if we don't recognize the number, after we have gotten off the couch, or stepped away from the dinner table to look at the caller ID, is arrogant. Tell ya what, instead of playing telephone tough guy, when you call someone, give them your home number, and address. That way, if we would like, we can fly out and kick our ass or call and harass you. Either way, you would have to man up for what you do, rahter than hide like a coward. Fuckin pussies.

    Oh, what a innocent, yet dumb individual you are. Have you ever had utilities put in your name? How about a car loan, checking account? Maybe you even rented an apartment, or applied for a home loan?

    As you are a telemarketer, I will try to simplify this for you....your information is everywhere. If you have a cell phone or home phone, there are over a hundred websites I could farm your number from.

    Individuals such as yourself find it funny to call poeple and experience them getting upset. You will make notes in the account and set it up for a repeated call back. When the person gets angry and wants to be put on the do not call list, you simply hang up on them and schedule a new call back.

    I would give anything for you to call me and do this. I paid for my last car with a jackass like you. Nice, quick settlement on a small claims court case I filed for someone doing just what I explained.

    You see, you can maitain that caucky little attitude you have for only so long, until either someone comes to your place of business and kicks your ass, or they decide to record the phone calls, produce the phone records and then sue you.

    Did you know that when the company that violates the do not call list is sued, that the rep making the call is fair game to be sued as well.

    Please, oh please, call me. I would be happy to take your $6 hour paycheck for the next 3 years in a lawsuit. Happy calling loser.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Stephen, Dec 3rd, 2008 @ 5:43pm

    Re: Re: Stop signing up!

    You realize that you're not so intelligent yourself in this matter? Are you sure you sued a telemarketer? If you say you are on the do not call list, regardless of the truth, the telemarketer on the phone with you has to immediately remove you from the entire list, or at least place you in the dncl in the database software. If they simply call you back again, after you say those magic words, then they are liable for a law suit, otherwise, there's nothing you can do.

    Honestly, a lot of the time a person gets a telemarketing call, it's actually something somewhat useful, direct tv, for example. There's really nothing wrong with someone trying to sell you direct tv. Not too long ago, you'd have to simply answer your door and deal with the person, in person. Now-a-days, you have a choice to answer the phone, hang up right away, listen to what the person has to offer and see if it's something you need, or simply tell them you are on the ndcl.

    From a perspective of someone who has received telemarketing calls, and someone who has made them. Honestly, telling a person, "No I'm not interested, and probably never will be," isn't really that hard to do! I also don't give them shit, if you haven't been in a telemarketing position, then you should not assume that they enjoy bothering you, I, and everyone else because to tell you the truth, it sucks getting hung up on as if you're the devil. Honestly, if you sit on your ass watching tv, you constantly have to deal with commercials, CONSTANTLY, and you can't even hang them up, so really, stop complaining and acting like there is an army of telemarketers after you. If you aren't interested in what a company has to offer, then just say so and move on with your life. Don't get pissed at them because you live paycheck to paycheck and hold onto your money as if it's blood or oxygen.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Richadr H., Feb 18th, 2009 @ 9:59am

    Re: Stop signing up!

    It's not the fact that you people call at all hours of the day, it's the fact that when we say stop calling, you refuse. That is where the problem lies.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This