State Farm Sued for Making Unsolicited Calls
We all know that jingle, “Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm is There.” In fact, if you say it aloud, State Farm suggests you can magically get a hot tub or the girl next door in apartment 4E to appear. Well a Texas woman is suing State Farm Fire and Casualty Co with a class action lawsuit. She claims the company won’t go away.
Patricia Settle of Arlington, Texas claims she was “called dozens of times” on her cell phone even though she is not a customer of State Farm and has her phone number listed on the national Do Not Call Registry. Each time she answered, she was “greeted” with an artificial, pre-recorded voice. In common parlance, she was the victim of robodialing.
Robodialing and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act
In 1991, Congress enacted the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) to regulate the explosive growth of the telemarketing industry. In doing so, Congress recognized that “[u]nrestricted telemarketing…can be an intrusive invasion of privacy…”
The TCPA prohibits several types of telemarketing (phone solicitations) and the use of automated telephone equipment. The law limits the use of automatic dialing systems, artificial or prerecorded voice messages, SMS text messages, and fax machines. It also specifies technical requirements for auto-dialers, caller ID (anti-spoofing requirements) and voice messaging systems.
In 2013, the law was amended to include a prohibition of prerecorded solicitations without the prior consent of the called party.
Without prior written consent, the current rules:
- Prohibit solicitors from calling residences before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. local time.
- Require solicitors provide their name, the name of the person or entity on whose behalf the call is being made, and a telephone number or address at which that person or entity may be contacted.
- Prohibit solicitations to residences that use an artificial voice or a recording.
- Prohibit any call or text made using automated telephone equipment or an artificial or prerecorded voice to a wireless device or telephone.
- Prohibit any call made using automated telephone equipment or an artificial or prerecorded voice to an emergency line (“911”), a hospital emergency number, a physician’s office, or a hospital/health care facility.
- Prohibit autodialed calls that engage two or more lines of a multi-line business.
- Prohibit unsolicited advertising faxes.
- Prohibit certain calls to people whose names appear on the Do-Not-Call Registry
Patricia Settle claims that State Farm in an effort to generate new clients, “recruited, or employed call centers which began making telephone calls, en masse, to consumers across the country. On information and belief, [State Farm] purchase[s] leads from multiple lead generators that obtain consumer contact and demographic information from a number of sources.”
She also says that in their “overzealous attempt to market its services, it placed phone calls to consumers, using an artificial or pre-recorded voice, who never provided consent to call and to consumers having no relationship with [State Farm]. Worse yet, [the company] placed repeated and unwanted calls to consumers whose phone numbers are listed on the National Do Not Call Registry. [State Farm] knowingly made these telemarketing calls without the prior express written consent of the call recipients, and knowingly continue to call them after requests to stop.”
The case was just filed so no word yet from State Farm.
Lately, a few courts have been questioning these suits. Not because they don’t have sympathy for the call recipients. They do!
The FCC’s definition of an autodialer has been called into question by two different federal appeals courts. The law was passed in 1991, phone technology has changed dramatically, Congress and the FCC have not kept up.
Unfortunately, the call recipient usually doesn’t have a clue what type hardware is being used in making the calls.
Although Do Not Call list calls can still be easily prosecuted, some of the other annoying telemarketing calls have become more difficult, depending on where you live.
We are presently looking for both recipients of unwanted telemarketing calls as well as whistleblowers within call centers that have information about illegal telemarketing practices.
Can I Sue a Telemarketer?
“Can I sue a telemarketer?” That is a question we often hear. The answer is Yes! The Telephone Consumer Protection Act allows private lawsuits against telemarketers.
The TCPA has powerful remedies for victims of unwanted telemarketing calls. If a company violates the law, you may be able to seek compensation for each violation. Damages are set by statute at $500 per illegal robocall. If the call was made “willfully”, the damagers are $1,500 per call.
Who Can Be Sued for Annoying Telemarketing Calls?
There are very few exceptions to the TCPA. Unfortunately, non-profits are excluded. The law doesn’t stop them from soliciting for donations. Emergency notifications are also exempt.
If the call is made to a residential landline, there are even more exceptions including calls made for noncommercial purposes and purely informational calls.
So, who are the common defendants in TCPA consumer lawsuits?
- Sweepstakes companies
- Cruise and travel companies
- Health clubs and gyms
- For profit educational institutions
- Student loan companies
- Credit card companies
- Check cashing companies
- Mortgage companies
- Debt collectors
54 percent of TCPA lawsuits involve financial and collections activities.
If you’ve been receiving unwelcome calls on your cell or home phone, visit our TCPA claim center page. Have immediate questions or a simply need a free case evaluation? Visit us online, by email or by phone 202-800-9791. Cases accepted nationwide.
As noted above, we also hope to hear from whistleblowers. Specifically, we are looking to have off the record conversations from call center workers, supervisors and companies that contract with third party call centers.
Why? You can help us protect us consumers. No one likes getting unwanted calls! Even the people that make them.
State Farm Commercial (hot tub and girl from 4B)