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Missouri Lawsuit is Cautionary Tale on Do-Not-Call, TCPA

May 02, 2016
By Paula Bernier - Executive Editor, TMC

There’s a lot of legal action these days related to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which was created and signed into law in the 1990s in an effort to prevent people from getting calls and other communications that they have to pay for, but don’t want to receive. Cable TV company Charter Communications and the state of Missouri in the past couple of years have been party to a lawsuit involving discussion of both do-not-call laws and alleged TCPA violations.

It all started when Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster in October of 2015 filed a federal lawsuit against Charter after that state received 350 complaints from consumers about Charter telemarketing calls. In the complaint he suggested that Charter Communications (News - Alert) had violated federal and state do-not-call laws, as well as TCPA telemarketing laws.

Charter Communications in January 2016 filed a motion to dismiss three counts of the complaint, saying the state didn’t cite specific examples of people on the do-not-call lists and didn’t say calls were made to cellular phones in violation of the TCPA.

A U.S. District judge on April 21 agreed with the state on the federal and state no-call claims. The judge, Ronnie L. White, commented “identification of each specific telephone number call is not required at this stage of the litigation.”

The state was, however, required to plead that calls were made to cell phones with an automatic telephone dialing system to prove they were in violation of the TCPA, he added. Although the count was dismissed, Missouri has the option to amend and resubmit its complaint.

Businesses in recent years have been highly critical of TCPA rules and how they are interpreted, and some have argued that ambiguity on that front has opened the door for lawyers and their clients to take advantage of that and win large settlements. Under TCPA rules, if a company calls or texts the wrong party because the telephone number has been reassigned without the knowledge of the caller, for example, that can result in damages of $500 to $1,500 per unsolicited call, text, or fax. Damages can add up quickly at that rate, and litigation related to the TCPA has soared in recent years.


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