Copyright: gvn / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: gvn / 123RF Stock Photo

We recently wrote about the revisions the FCC is making to its “Do Not Call” Rules. Helpfully, a recent opinion from the US District Court for the Southern District of New York has come along to remind us that violating the Do Not Call rules can carry serious penalties.

The case, King v. Time Warner Cable, involved a reassigned telephone number. Time Warner’s computerized, robocall system called Ms. King 163 times in less than one year about overdue bills. The problem? Ms. King was not the customer against whom Time Warner was trying to collect.

The Judge in the case found several facts egregious, in particular that the robocalls to Ms. King continued after she had complained to Time Warner–explaining it had the wrong person–and after she filed suit against Time Warner for violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The Judge completely rejected Time Warner’s defense that it had a privilege to call the number because it believed the number belonged to a customer who had consented to the calls when that customer agreed to the cable company’s terms of service.

Instead, the Judge ruled that any reasonable business would have tried to find the correct number for its customer, especially after the complaints from Ms. King. As such he awarded her treble statutory damages of $1,500 per call, almost $230,000 in total.

Putting aside the fact that this decision will likely fuel late night television humor about the cable television industry, it reminds us the TCPA has teeth, even before the revisions proposed by the FCC kick in. Moreover, given the potential for stiff penalties combined with the fact that the new rules apply to robotexting in addition to robocalling, it means that anyone using such tools for any purpose, including promotions, needs to be hyper-vigilant that the rules are followed. And it is just good business. As we noted previously, few things seem to get under consumers’ skin more than unwanted calls or texts.