When it comes to obeying the rules set down by the 22-year-old Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), many companies appear to be having trouble translating its somewhat outdated dictates to more modern technologies such as text messaging and mobile phones.
The law recently cost Capital One (News - Alert) Financial Corp. and three collection agencies a great deal of money: the organizations recently agreed to pay $75.5 million, one of the largest settlement amounts in history, to settle a consolidated class action lawsuit filed when the companies used automated dialing technology to call customers’ cellphones without consent. This is a direct violation of the TCPA. The settlement was based on two separate cases that were consolidated by the U.S. Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. The settlement still needs to be formally approved, and is expected to be finalized in December of this year.
Capital One is on the hook for the lion’s share of the settlement, $73 million. The other three companies are liable for approximately $2.5 million. The settlement is on behalf of all U.S. residents who received a non-emergency telephone call from Capital One’s dialer(s) to a cell phone using an automatic telephone dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice (i.e., a “robocall”) for the purpose of collecting on a credit card debt from January 18, 2008 through June 30, 2014.
Despite the huge bill, Capital One may have gotten off easy. The TCPA provides for fines for unsolicited telephone calls, texts or faxes for $500 per violation and $1,500 for willful violations. Given the number of automated dialed robocalls made to cell phones, the fee could have been much steeper. In the settlement papers, officials noted that the settlement fund “does not constitute the full measure of statutory damages potentially available to the class.”
According to Margaret Dale of Proskauer Rose LLP, writing for the Association for Corporate Counsel (ACC), if the settlement is approved, up to 30 percent of the settlement amount (about $22.5 million) will be awarded to the consumers’ attorneys, and each of the five lead plaintiffs each will receive no more than $5,000.
The settlement also mandated core changes in Capital One’s business practices. For its part, Capital One has said that it has “developed and implemented significant enhancements to its calling systems designed to prevent the calling of a cellular telephone with an autodialer unless the recipient of the call has provided express consent.”
Edited by Rory J. Thompson