It has been easier for smaller collection agencies who are clients of the Bedard Law Group to abandon using automated dialing technology than for larger agencies, John Bedard said during a webinar hosted by AccountsRecovery.net — and sponsored by WebRecon.
“There have been a lot of clients that did not change their behavior, and that’s been a surprise,” Bedard said during the webinar. “Because not a week goes by that you don’t see a big [TCPA] settlement announcements.”
Bedard spoke alongside Tom Good, the managing attorney of the law firm of Barron & Newburger, Joann Needleman, the consumer finance practice leader at the law firm of Clark Hill, and Lewis Wiener, the head of the TCPA practice at the law firm of Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan. The topic for the webinar was to discuss the impact of the July 2015 declaratory order issued by the Federal Communications Commission that amended the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The objective of the discussion was to analyze what had changed in the industry — and what had not changed — since the order was issued.
When it comes to dealing with the TCPA and trying to contact individuals via their mobile phones, Wiener had a very apt analogy.
“You’re swimming in shark-infested waters,” Wiener said during the webinar. “The advice we give is to take as few laps as possible.”
While the panel was mostly surprised that automated dialing technology had not been completely abandoned in the wake of the FCC’s order, which prohibits companies from contacting individuals via their mobile phones using automated dialers, unless the company has expressed permission to do so, they did caution companies that having clear processes for knowing how phone numbers were obtained, and having clear processes when consent is revoked remains vitally important. Under the order, companies must stop contacting individuals when consent is revoked.
“Revocation is the most important thing to remember,” Needleman said during the webinar. “It needs to be enhanced.”
Regardless of the processes put in place, companies still run the risk of being sued, Good said.
“There is no silver bullet that protects someone from all the TCPA risk,” Good said. “Companies have to recognize the level of risk; there is no foolproof methodology.”
Wiener said the types of individuals who end up filing lawsuits against companies alleging TCPA violations can be broken down into three categories. The first two categories are professional plaintiffs and set-up cases – people who make their living by suing other companies or who are coaxed by plaintiffs’ attorneys to file lawsuits against companies. But it’s the third category — the people who get fed up because someone will not stop calling — that’s the group that companies have to worry about. Because that’s the group that can most easily be fixed, Wiener said.
Wiener recounted one case where a company kept calling a number looking for an individual, but the number had been re-assigned. When the individual who had the number now kept telling the company to stop calling, the representative said that only the customer could change the number on the account.
The settlements referenced by Bedard are forcing agencies to stay on their toes. Signing up for newsletters and alerts from publishers — like AccountsRecovery.net — and law firms can help companies stay informed about the latest changes that could affect how calls are made.
Companies should also not be waiting for ACA International’s lawsuit against the FCC to be resolved before making changes to their operations, Good said.
“It would be great if the ACA suit ends in our favor, but you can’t wait for the ruling,” Good said. “If the ACA wins, it’s easy to adjust. But if you wait and the case doesn’t get resolved positively, you’re facing another year of liability.”
To download a copy of the webinar, please click here.