NO JUNK PHONE CALLS
Privacy Times, September 9, 1999
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."