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Companies Settle Lawsuit over Misleading Telemarketing Tactics

By Steve Anderson October 17, 2016

Most of us are tired of telemarketers by now, particularly those who hide behind the cloak of legal exemption. Recently, a cruise line and a set of other firms tried to use those legal exemptions to their own benefit, and wound up on the bad end of a class action lawsuit, which the companies agreed to settle before it even hits trial.

The companies—including Caribbean Cruise Line, the Berkley Group, Vacation Ownership Marketing Tours and others—offered a settlement of up to $76 million, with up to $24 million going to plaintiff attorneys, to settle the litigation. The settlement offer was recently put before a federal judge in Chicago, and preliminary approval was subsequently granted. That kicked off a 45-day period that allowed the potential plaintiffs of the class action suit to instead claim a share of the settlement fund. Should the settlement go through accordingly, it would shut down a consolidated legal action that was pending since clear back in 2012.

Impact of the case was surprisingly far-reaching; reports suggested just short of a million mobile and landline numbers were hit by calls from the Economic Strategy Group, offering users a “free cruise” to the Bahamas in return for political survey work. Following the call, a further connection was offered to Caribbean Cruise Line, and though the cruise was free, the taxes and fees connected with it were not. Similar offers were posed from a Berkley facility's timeshare offer; those who took a tour were offered a different package.

In turn, the defendants argued that, since the calls were from not-for-profit survey companies, the calls were exempt from the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). When summary judgment went to the plaintiffs back in April, however, it became fairly clear the defendants wouldn't get far with that reasoning.

While there are exemptions built into the TCPA for things like political surveys—who need the ability to access the electorate to generate factual news about the political state—as well as not-for-profit agencies soliciting money, it should be a matter of good practice for such agencies to take the federal do-not-call list as seriously as for-profit entities are required to by the same law. Think about it: if people don't want to be called by businesses who will at least offer a good or service in exchange for the money those callers ask for, how far will the not-for-profit solicitor get? Most won't just change their mind because there's a “good cause” on line one.

The TCPA, and by extension the do-not-call list, is there for a good reason; these people aren't interested in being called. It doesn't matter who's on the other end. Those people don't want to hear it. So regardless of the TCPA's exemptions, everyone should take the lists seriously just to have the best chance of a worthwhile result, and to stay out of a suit like the one recently described.




Edited by Alicia Young

Contributing Writer

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