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PLEASE, NO JUNK PHONE CALLS

From Privacy Times, September 9, 1999

AT&T LOSES ITS FIRST JUNK PHONE
LAW CASE -- AND IT'S A JURY TRIAL

On August 12, South Carolina privacy advocate Rob Biggerstaff achieved two "firsts" in one case. He won the first court decision against AT&T under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which also happened to be the first jury trial under the law.

The South Carolina County Court jury returned the verdict in less than 20 minutes, after a trial that lasted much of the afternoon. It awarded Biggerstaff $700. To date, cases under the TCPA, also known as the "Junk Phone Call Law," have been taken to small claims courts.

AT&T offered to settle the case. "But I wanted to put this case before a jury to see what they would say -- and they said plenty," he said. "There were even two women on the jury who used to be telemarketers."

Under the law, if a consumer asks a telemarketer to stop calling, the telemarketer must respect that request for 10 years, or pay the consumer $500 in damages for each violation of that request. The same law also prohibits unsolicited advertisements sent to fax machines, and prerecorded telemarketing solicitation.

Biggerstaff sued AT&T for four calls -- one that he received personally, and three others that were recorded by his answering machine. The jury awarded $500 for the "live" call, and $200 for two of the three calls received by the answering machine.

"This is a great day for consumers," Biggerstaff said, vowing to continue his "crusade" against illegal telemarketing. "If enough people decided to stand up for their rights, illegal telemarketers will eventually become extinct."

 
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