Lawsuit Accuses Comcast Of Making 9 Months Of Robocalls To Collect On Paid Bill

A Philadelphia woman is suing Comcast, alleging that the hometown cable company not only spent nine months hassling her with debt collection calls but that the bill in question had already been paid.

According to the suit [PDF] filed earlier this month in a federal court, Comcast began calling the woman’s cellphone number starting in Sept. 2014. She claims the calls were made by an automated dialing system that greeted her with the pre-recorded “We’re calling from Comcast…” message before transferring to a live caller.

The plaintiff alleges that on the first call, she told the Comcast rep that the supposed $527 debt had already been paid four years earlier and asked that she no longer be contacted on her cellphone number.

She says that even though the rep acknowledged her request, Comcast continued to make these auto-dialed calls, up to twice a day, through mid-June 2015.

The lawsuit contends that because she had not given express prior consent for Comcast to contact her on her cellphone — and had explicitly made this known to a Comcast employee — and because these automated calls were not of an emergency nature, that the nation’s largest cable provider was acting in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act [TCPA], which regulates when and how autodialed, pre-recorded calls can be made to consumers.

Violations of the TCPA can result in fines of $500 for each offending call, but if it’s shown that the caller knowingly violated the law, the penalty can be tripled. Thus, the plaintiff in this case is seeking damages of $1,500 per call.

A court in Texas recently hit Time Warner Cable with that $1,500/call penalty after finding that the cable company illegally made more than 150 robocalls to a wrong person. TWC’s total bill for that goof was $229,500.

A rep for Comcast tells Consumerist that the company is not commenting on the lawsuit at this time.

Businesses, especially the banking industry, that make a lot of robocalls have been pushing for rule changes that would allow them to avoid penalties for so-called “wrong number” robocalls. That’s when the robocaller autodials a number it believes it has permission to call, but which now belongs to someone else.

“As reassigned number litigation escalates, unreasonably affected parties and overburdened courts now need guidance to identify which party can properly provide prior express consent,” wrote the Consumer Bankers Association in a 2014 petition to the FCC.

But a response from consumer advocates, including our colleagues at Consumers Union, countered that “Companies take for granted that they should be able to call consumers using an autodialer or artificial/prerecorded voice technology, whether their customers or other consumers actually want the calls or not.”

[via Ars Technica]

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