Robocalling – those automated outbound calls with a recorded voice on the other end – is hardly a favorite technology of consumers. For starters, the technology is often abused by fraudsters from “card services” or nameless home security companies, placing outbound calls to mobile phones (which is against the law) and individuals without their prior consent (which is also against the law).
For this reason, our mental idea of illegal robocallers has been small, fly-by-night companies hoping to cash in quick and then disappear. A recent settlement between a plaintiff and financial giant Bank of America proves otherwise. The $32 million payout is believed to be a record.
Bank of America was charged with making harassing debt collection calls to customers' cell phones, a practice that is illegal under the terms of 1991’s Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which dictates that a commercial entity must have the customer’s permission before placing such calls. Bank of America chose to settle rather than proceed in court, though it denies any wrongdoing, both in its live voice calls and its automated outbound calls.
Image via Shutterstock
The plaintiffs, one of whom was identified as Sandra Ramirez of California, are said to be pleased by the outcome. Ramirez told Reuters (News - Alert) that she asked the bank's debt collection agents to stop calling her cell phone, but was told it was impossible for them to remove her number from the computer system. Ramirez said she got 54 calls from Bank of America to her cell phone, many of them using robocalling technology.
Debt collection calls "can be particularly harassing and traumatic," said Jonathan Selbin, a partner at law firm Lieff Cabraser, who represents the plaintiffs. "There are legal ways for banks and other companies to collect on those debts. The core relief in the settlement is that they're changing their practices. We've talked to lots of class members about this, and people say, 'I just want the phone calls to stop.'”
Bank of America’s robocalling woes are not over, however. Reuters reports that the financial conglomerate still faces a proposed class action in Florida that accuses the company of making repeated robocalls to mortgage borrowers who had asked not to be called. Bank of America has denied the charges.