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How To Sue the Auto Dialers

CmdrTaco posted more than 7 years ago | from the phone-wreckers dept.

402

Bennett Haselton writes " Every year just before election day, I usually get a few phone calls from machines that dial numbers and play a pre-recorded message telling people to vote a certain way. I find these annoying even if I support the side I'm being asked to vote for, and most people don't realize that in most cases you can sue the organizations for making these calls, even if they are non-profits. So, you can make some money while advancing a good cause (i.e. stopping the bozos from doing it again). Here's how to file your case in Small Claims court, how to possibly negotiate an out-of-court settlement in advance, how to argue the case in court, and how to collect afterwards." His essay follows...

Do you HAVE what it TAKES?

Before proceeding, decide if you think the stress is worth it. You're almost certainly stepping outside your comfort zone here.

Small Claims can be frustrating because the rules and procedures vary so much from one judge to the next, and judges differ wildly in how they interpret the laws. Their own biases come into play as well: they usually deal with cases involving people who have actually lost money or have been wronged in a serious way, and they may resent someone coming to court just to sue over a phone call.

In one particular case that provides a good example of what I'm talking about, I sued a spammer who came to court and claimed he never sent the mails and didn't even know how. When the judge stopped berating me long enough for me to continue, I then produced a tape recording of a conversation between me and the spammer, in which I had pretended to be an interested customer, and he offered to send 5 million e-mails for me for $500, and explained how they were routed through China to hide the origin. The judge got extremely flustered for a minute and then started to accuse me of "entrapment" (even though the recorded phone call took place after I had received the original spam), and she never commented on the fact that the defendant had just been caught lying under oath. I hadn't really expected him to go to jail for that, but I thought I would at least win the case; I didn't.

If you go to Small Claims court you have to be prepared to deal with that kind of Twilight Zone / Franz Kafka stuff. But the worst that can happen is that you'll lose.

How the law applies to non-profits

To clarify something important: In general, you can sue non-profits for $500 for calling your number and playing a pre-recorded message, unless in the recorded message they (a) identify themselves at the beginning of the message; and (b) give their return phone number (other than the number of the machine making the call) somewhere in the message. Most pre-recorded messages from non-profits do not meet these requirements, particularly the second one.

The federal law which states this is divided into two parts. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act, section (b)(1)(B), states:

"It shall be unlawful for any person within the United States, or any person outside the United States if the recipient is within the United States... to initiate any telephone call to any residential telephone line using an artificial or prerecorded voice to deliver a message without the prior express consent of the called party, unless the call is initiated for emergency purposes or is exempted by rule or order by the Commission under paragraph (2)(B)".
and part (b)(3)(A) states:
A person or entity may, if otherwise permitted by the laws or rules of court of a State, bring in an appropriate court of that State... an action to recover for actual monetary loss from such a violation, or to receive $500 in damages for each such violation, whichever is greater.

Now, part (2)(B) says that the FCC is authorized to make federal rules and may grant certain exemptions to non-profits. The actual rules that the FCC came up with are in the Code of Federal Regulations as 47 CFR 64.1200. The complete text of 47 CFR 64.1200 is here, but the relevant sections that apply are:

  • (a) No person may: [...]

    • (2) Initiate any telephone call to any residential telephone line using an artificial or prerecorded voice to deliver a message without the prior express consent of the called party, unless the call is initiated for emergency purposes or is exempted by Sec. 64.1200(c) of this section.
  • (c) The term telephone call in Sec. 64.1200(a)(2) of this section shall not include a call or message by, or on behalf of, a caller: [...]

    • (4) Which is a tax-exempt nonprofit organization.
  • (d) All artificial or prerecorded telephone messages delivered by an automatic telephone dialing system shall:

    • (1) At the beginning of the message, state clearly the identity of the business, individual, or other entity initiating the call, and
    • (2) During or after the message, state clearly the telephone number (other than that of the autodialer or prerecorded message player which placed the call) or address of such business, other entity, or individual.

The wording is important. Section (a) prohibits parties from making phone calls using a pre-recorded voice. Section (c) says that non-profits are exempt from the blanket ban in part (a). But then section (d) says that "All artificial or prerecorded telephone messages" must include a return phone number -- in other words, even if a party is allowed to make pre-recorded calls at all, they still have to conform to the restrictions in part (d).

I think this clearly applies to non-profits as well, for two reasons:

  • First of all, part (c) does not say that non-profits are exempt from the entire law, it only says that they are exempt from the blanket ban in part (a) -- it does not say anywhere that they are exempt from part (d).
  • Second, there's a simpler way of looking at it: if part (d) doesn't apply to non-profits and other parties that are exempt from the complete ban on pre-recorded calls, then who does it apply to? It doesn't apply to commercial companies, because under part (a), commercial companies can't make unsolicited pre-recorded calls at all, so it would make no sense to have a separate section requiring them to include a phone number.

What to do if you get a pre-recorded call

You probably don't need to keep a portable tape recorder by the phone just to record the call and prove that you received it. If you show up in court and claim that you received the pre-recorded phone call, it's unlikely that the non-profit's representatives, if they show up, will lie through their teeth and claim that it never happened. If they lose in court, all they lose is $500, but if they get caught lying under oath, they could in theory be convicted of a felony. (Although to tell the truth, sometimes the enforcement of perjury laws in Small Claims court is pretty lax.) The important things to note about the phone call are:

  • Does the organization making the call identify themselves at the beginning of the message?
  • Did they give their return phone number anywhere in the message?
If the answer to either of those questions is no, it's suing time!

Finding the right party to sue

Even if the pre-recorded message gives the name of the organization, that may not be the actual party that used the machine to make the call. For example I got a call with a message identifying the caller as "Bob Thurston, Washington State Patrol Troopers Association president", but when I found his number and called him, he said the calls were actually being made by a group called Taxpayers for R-51. If I'm doing legwork to find out who made the call, sometimes I say that I'm interested in running my own campaign using a machine to dial numbers and play a message, and I want to find out how they did it. It's not illegal to lie.

Once you're reasonably sure you know the name of the organization that did it, you need to find the address where you can serve the papers on them. There are two broad approaches to this:

  • Go to the Secretary of State's website for the state in which the organization is located, go to "Corporations" search, and search on the organization's name. If they are listed as a corporation in the state, there should be an address given for their "Registered Agent" as well. You're done; that's the address you need.
  • If that doesn't work, unfortunately the remaining methods are a lot less precise. Your best recourse is to try and find the group using Google, and see if you can locate their street address.
What you don't want is P.O. Box or a rented mailbox, since you won't be able to serve papers on them there. If you get an address like "1234 100th Ave #542", that's ambiguous -- it could be an actual office building located at "1234 100th Ave" where they're in suite 542, or it could be a rented mailbox company like Mail Boxes Etc. where they rent box number 542. Usually what I do is Google the first part of the address, "1234 100th Ave", along with the city name -- that way you'll find other entities that share addresses at the same location. If it's an actual office building, usually you'll find companies that rent the other office suites, and you can just call them up and ask them, "Hey, is that an actual office building at 1234 100th Ave?" On the other hand, if 1234 100th Ave is a mailbox rental company, usually you'll find pages where people list their addresses as "1234 100th Ave, box 234" or "1234 100th Ave, PMB 341" (short for Postal Mail Box).

If you found the entity's address through their listing on the Secretary of State website, you're in luck, since companies are not supposed to list a P.O. Box or rented mailbox as their registered agent's address. But if you found the address through Google, it may not be a real street address. If it isn't, this is often where I hit a dead end, and with "only" $500 at stake I usually don't have the time to keep looking.

But if you think you've got their real address, keep going!

Filing in Small Claims

At this point you might be tempted to contact the organization first and negotiate a legal settlement as an alternative to suing them. What I've found however is that for cases this small, organizations usually won't take the threat of a lawsuit seriously until you actually serve them with legal papers, so I wouldn't bother negotiating until you've done that. (Also, if you try to negotiate in advance, this has the added disadvantage that once they know you're going to sue them, if they're a really underhanded bunch of people, they might try to make it harder for you to serve the papers on them.) If you think it's rude to just sue someone out of the blue -- well, shit, they called your house using a machine, didn't they?

So, in Washington at least, you can get a blank Notice of Small Claim form just by sending a self-address stamped envelope (should probably include about $1 worth of postage on the envelope since the forms can be heavy) to the local District Court and requesting the form. Then you can even file the case by filling out the form and mailing it back with a check for the Small Claims filing fee ($25 in Washington), plus another self-addressed stamped envelope. They'll mail you back the forms to be served. You never even have to go to the courthouse.

However, I'd recommend sitting in on part of a Small Claims calendar at the local courthouse to see how it usually works, and to make sure you wouldn't be nervous going through with it if the other side doesn't settle. Then while you're there, you can get the Small Claims form and file the case.

They will give you one copy of the Small Claims form for your records, and one copy that has to be served on the other party within a certain time frame (in Washington, 10 days before the court date). The clock is ticking, so now you have to serve the papers on the other party.

Serving the papers

Before having the Small Claims papers delivered to the defendant, you may want to attach a letter explaining that you're suing them for a phone call received on such-and-such a date. I tend to go that route, since I have nothing to hide anyway, and in any case the more you communicate, the more chance of getting a settlement. So, throw that in with the papers and then get ready to serve the papers on the defendant.

When you filled out the Small Claims form, it probably came with a pamphlet describing how to serve the papers on the other party. I'm describing the rules for Washington State; the rules in other states are similar.

There are two ways to serve the defendant: hiring a process server, or serving the defendant by mail.

  • Hiring a process server. This is the preferred method if you don't mind spending about $40. (If you win, the cost of service of process is added to the amount of the judgment, so you'll get it back if the defendant pays the judgment.) Using the online yellow pages, just search in and around the city where the defendant lives, for (a) private process servers, and (b) the sheriff's department. I've called process servers and sheriffs in many different cities, and they charge amounts ranging from $10 to up to $150 for substantially the same service, and I've never figured out why. Sometimes the sheriff is the cheapest, and sometimes it's one of the private process servers. But whoever you use, make sure to find out what they require you to send them. They always require a letter of instruction tell them where to serve the papers on the defendant. In addition, be sure to ask them:

    • can they serve papers on behalf of a private individual, or will they only do it on behalf of law firms?
    • do they require a money order or can they take a plain old check?
  • Serving the defendant by mail. Go to the post office and have the papers mailed to the defendant by certified mail with a return receipt. Here, you have to make a choice. IF you think the organization will actually show up in court (usually, if they're a well-established group and they don't want to be hit with a deluge of lawsuits because one person sued them and won), then certified-return-receipt is all you need. But if you think they might NOT show up and you want to have airtight evidence that you served the papers on them properly, you need to also send by restricted delivery to a person (i.e. a real human, not a company and not the organization itself) who is an officer of the organization. If you have their registered agent's name and address, that's the person to send to by restricted delivery.

    If you send by restricted delivery, it goes out with a little green card attached to it, and if the postal worker is doing their job, they should deliver the envelope only to the person listed as the recipient, and require them to sign the card and write their name legibly above their signature. Then, the green card gets mailed back to you. However, very often I'd find that the cards would come back with illegible signatures and no names or the wrong names. If you use this method, try writing on the envelope: "Attention USPS! This envelope MUST be delivered to the person named as the recipient, they MUST sign for it and their name must be printed LEGIBLY above their signature." I never got around to trying this, since by that time I'd given up on serving papers by mail, and always used process servers.

    Basically, the trade-off is that the stricter you want to be about how the papers are served by mail, the greater the chance that it won't work (e.g. if the mailman can't find the person), but the more solid your proof of service will be if they don't show up in court.

If you serve the defendant using a process server, you'll get back an affidavit of service in the mail. If you serve them by mail, you'll get a return receipt that (if the judge accepts it) will constitute your proof of service.

Negotiate with the defendant

Once you get your proof of service back in the mail, now the defendant knows they're being sued, so you can try to negotiate a settlement. This depends on your style, and theirs.

One thing to keep in mind: Don't worry if they threaten to tell the judge that you filed a lawsuit and then tried to "blackmail" or "extort" money from them or "shake them down". Judges encourage parties to settle lawsuits out of court. Unless the judge thinks your lawsuit is bogus to begin with, they're not likely to be swayed by the defendant claiming you tried to negotiate a settlement.

But assuming your efforts to shake down, extort, blackmail etc. the defendant were unsuccessful and they don't want to settle, the next step is your day in court.

Preparing for court

Make sure you bring all of the following:

  • Your proof of service (see previous steps)
  • A copy of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act with parts (b)(1)(B) and (b)(3)(A) circled.
  • A copy of 47 CFR 64.1200 printed out from this link, which shows the text of the law with proper indentation and formatting and makes it easy to read. Circle parts (a), (c), and (d).
  • A copy of 47 CFR 64.1200 printed out from the official government site. Just to prove that the stuff you printed out in the previous step wasn't something that someone made up and posted to the Web as a prank. However the way they have it laid out is harder to read.
  • A transcript of the phone call that you're suing over, if it was left as a voice mail, or if you managed to grab a recording of it with a handheld tape recorder when you first got the call.

In court

Before the judge appears, a mediator may ask if you want your case to be handled by mediation. If the other party is present, I'd recommend trying this option. The thing to remember about mediation is that if you and the other party can't reach an agreement, you can always go back before the judge. You're not giving up your day in court by agreeing to mediation.

If you can't reach an agreement, or the other party doesn't want mediation, or the other party isn't there, then when the judge calls you to present your case, show the judge your proof of service, your record of when you received the phone call, and the laws that make it illegal and specify $500 in damages.

What happens next varies wildly, depending on the judge. Some of them are polite and some of them yell at almost everybody. Some of them hate junk calls as much as you do, and some of them hate amateur wannabe lawyers clogging the court's time because they saw one episode of Law & Order and thought they could do it themselves. The future at this point is a fog that I can't predict, so I'm not going to try.

All that I can shout blindly into the fog is that judges do appreciate it if you stick to the law, and not try to make any emotional speeches about why you think the issue is so important. (All that happened to you anyway was that you got a phone call, which means you're not going to win the sympathy game anyway, so don't play!)

You're out of the fog? You won? Great, keep reading!

After you win

If the defendant doesn't pay after 30 days, call a local collection agency and ask them what you have to do for them to try to collect the judgment. Collection agencies normally don't charge any money up front, and only take a percentage of what they're able to collect. Unfortunately it can be as high as 40 or 50 percent. The upside though is that they don't get paid if they can't collect, so you know they're going to try.

From that point onward, the collection agency will be able to give you better advice than I can, so my narrative thread ends here, hopefully with you holding a judgment in your hands.

If enough people do this, maybe the problem will go away. Then again maybe all that will happen is that more non-profits will start putting the name of their organization and their phone number in the pre-recorded calls that they make, which means that you can't sue them. Then your only recourse is to call them up and chew them out, so make it good!

cancel ×

402 comments

Frost? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16673911)

Pist!

Why don't I ever get these calls? (2, Interesting)

dada21 (163177) | more than 7 years ago | (#16673913)

I'm all cell phone now, so I can understand why _NOW_ I don't get any of these calls. But for years we had a landline -- the same number for years, too. We never got any solicitations, unwanted spam phone calls, attempts to switch long distance service, or recorded announcements. Ever!

That phone number was listed on the web, in the phone book, in my e-mail sig, pretty much all over the place. I used it on applications for frequent shopper cards, etc.

I've always been confused why some people get harassed, and others don't. I don't use credit cards or banks or stock investment companies -- is it the financial industry that sells that information the most often? Anyone work for a company that mines phone numbers?

Re:Why don't I ever get these calls? (2, Insightful)

diersing (679767) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674035)

Its hard to admit to ourselves sometimes so it can help is a stranger does it...

You're not important. Its not, never has been and never will be, about you.

Re:Why don't I ever get these calls? (3, Funny)

Gospodin (547743) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674145)

Try using deodorant.

Re:Why don't I ever get these calls? (4, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674199)

I understand how you feel. If you'd like, I can call you and attempt to sell you a wide variety of services, including obvious scams, for a small fee. For just a little extra, I can call you during the dinner hour.

Hurry, this offer won't last.

I'll cal you... (0, Redundant)

joshsnow (551754) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674441)

...I can claim to be calling from Nigeria if you wish!

Re:Why don't I ever get these calls? (3, Funny)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674469)

Anyone work for a company that mines phone numbers?

Believe it or not, there is a company out there that will supply all numbers, names and addresses for every listed phone in a given dialing area; to anyone.

KFG

Re:Why don't I ever get these calls? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16674519)

I'm glad someone posted up this spammer-sue-howto. Even if nobody does it, I hope it has some telephone spammers shaking in their booties enough to turn off their machine. Make sure you are listed in the Do Not Call registry as well as this would give you some additional firepower in court. Make sure to wait for your number to be in the system for about thirty days or whatever the legal requirement is for them to update their list.

Re:Why don't I ever get these calls? (1)

sckeener (137243) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674549)

I've always been confused why some people get harassed, and others don't.

I guess you don't live in a battle state.

Seriously I haven't had any political phone calls, but I live in Texas....

Re:Why don't I ever get these calls? (1)

FatAlb3rt (533682) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674551)

I get some autodialers on my cell phone - number comes across too. It's some pre-recorded guy that pauses and says in a hesitant voice "Hi, I'm [insert some jackass name]..." and then I tune him out - I think he's pitching credit card debt consolidation. I get this every few weeks, but I've gotten it a couple times in the last week.

I need to sue this guy. Or punch him in the face.

Re:Why don't I ever get these calls? (1)

soft_guy (534437) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674611)

How do you get around using banks? Do you work? Does your employer pay you in cash? Do they pay you in gold dust? For most people, we have a checking account because we need to deposit our paychecks. Most banks won't cash your check if you don't have an account. Check cashing places are rip offs because they charge a percentage of the check just to cash it.

Is this guy for real? (0, Troll)

Salvance (1014001) | more than 7 years ago | (#16673941)

Wow, this guy has far too much time on his hands. I can understand the desire to sue annoying telemarketers and politicians of an opposing part, but your own candidate or ... nonprofit organizations? "Sorry Mr. Smith, we can't provide your insulin shots this month because we've been sued while looking for contributions." This seems a little sick.

His essay reads like a scam or an advertisement. Starting out with "Do you HAVE what it TAKES?" makes me think this guy wants something in return, or makes a TON of money from his lawsuits and just wants to exclaim to the world he's hot stuff. This is probably the type of guy who posts his telephone number all over the web then sues the people who innevitably call him.

My suggestion is that if you dislike telemarketing calls so much, get listed on the National do-not-call registry. Not perfect, but a lot better than getting wrapped up in petty lawsuits against NPOs.

Re:Is this guy for real? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16673981)

He's just being a patriot. Suing - it's the American way.

Re:Is this guy for real? (1, Insightful)

Reapman (740286) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674011)

Well.. if there's one thing we need in North America, it's more lawsuits!!

The idea of a "how to sue" guide is personally rather sickning, unless your helping someone fight a big evil corporation dumping sewage into your water supply or something like that. Just because they call you? Sorry, no thanks. Annoying yes. Worth suing? No. No. And more NO.

Re:Is this guy for real? (1, Interesting)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674235)

Wow, that post is an excellent example of what's wrong with the world today. Everything is evil if and only if a big corporation does it.

-Pollution is evil if corporations do it, but if you're burning wood in your fireplace, and impacting my life much more, that's okay.
-If you kill someone wtih your car, you're on the hook for, what, $200,000? If a UPS driver does it, bump that up to a million.
-If a doctor botches an operation and kills someone, yep, $200,000. But if he has a big evil insurance corporation backing him, meh, they can afford a million or so, right?
-If the Graemen Bank empowers people through microloans, that's SO GREAT. But if a regular for-profit bank did it, that would be evil.
-If you want to hire someone to fix your toilet, you pay whatever they agree to. But if you're a corporation that wants to hire someoen to regularly fix toilets, well, that's just evil. You're going to have to pay his medical and dental, pay minimum wage, contribute to his social security account, be on the hook for discriminatory lawsuits, etc.

And now:

-If a corporation annoys you to no end with autodialing, SHUT EM DOWN. But if it's "just" a non-profit organization doing the exact same thing, nah, let it slip.

I'm serious -- can someone explain this to me?

Sad time to not have mod points (1)

JazzLad (935151) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674415)

Props to you, you say well what I think.

-
Don't bother modding me down, mod parent up.

Re:Is this guy for real? (1)

stevesliva (648202) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674675)

I'm serious -- can someone explain this to me?
Juries cannot be expected to spend the defendant's money in a rational way; there is no benefit for thrift. Politicians cannot be expected to spend corporations' money in a rational way, unless incentives are provided--and they often are.

Yes, let's just ignore the legal system! (1)

karmaflux (148909) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674385)

I completely agree. I can't believe the sheer audacity of this jerk! The last thing America needs is its citizens attempting to enforce national laws!

wait...

Re:Is this guy for real? (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674629)

It seems to me that the Congress & Senate knew exactly what they were doing when they passed that law.

But, since you find this sickening: how many auto-dialed & pre-recorded phone calls, from one company, would it take for you to change your opinion? 10? 20? 50?

What about one auto-dialed & pre-recorded phone call from 10 companies? Or 20? or 50?

Would you tolerate the annoyance because it isn't a "big evil corporation dumping sewage into your water supply"?

If you really find Bennett Haselton's behavior offensive, try to get the law changed, because he isn't doing anything wrong.

Re:Is this guy for real? (1)

chasisaac (893152) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674631)

This is a small claims lawsuit. It this took up a real court's time. I would be ticked. Plus there is always the chance to be on Judge Judy or the People's Court and make more money. Of course is this really worth the effort?

Re:Is this guy for real? (2, Insightful)

American AC in Paris (230456) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674637)

The idea of a "how to sue" guide is personally rather sickning, unless your helping someone fight a big evil corporation dumping sewage into your water supply or something like that. Just because they call you? Sorry, no thanks. Annoying yes. Worth suing? No. No. And more NO.

...what if the autodialer is somebody hawking usurious home loans?
What if the autodialer is performing push-polls which disseminate lies about an opposition candidate, e.g. "Jon Doe supports legislation designed to help terrorists attack America"?
What if the autodialer is a scam artist?

Autodialers are attractive to fraudsters, con artists, dirty politicians, loan sharks--in general, scumbags with few qualms about bilking the general public for their own personal gain. They're the spammers of the phone world; some of it is legit, more of it is hazy, a lot of it is flat-out illegal, and all of it is a nuisance. Is it not worth our time and energy to try to keep these people from being public nuisance? Can you think of a better venue for stopping these scumbags than a court of law?

Re:Is this guy for real? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16674021)

Unfortunately, my understanding is that the "Do-Not-Call" Registry does not apply to charitable organizations or political calling (for 1st amendment reasons).

Last election cycle my state was a battleground and my answering machine was buried in messages. Since I am a lawyer and am in court just about every day anyway, I may give this a try.

Re:Is this guy for real? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16674031)

I am on the do not call list and it isn't doing a damn thing for me these days. Apparently Rhode Island is a key state for senate and it shows because I get inundated with phone calls telling me who I should be voting for.

Re:Is this guy for real? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16674033)

Unfortunately the do not call lists do not apply to non-profit or political calls. I have been bombarded on my cell phone these past two weeks and there is not much I can do. I don't have the patience for what he describes but it appears it's the only thing I can do short of changing my number.

Re:Is this guy for real? (1)

JMan1865 (223387) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674041)

Please remember - most political groups are EXEMPT from the DNC registry - the DNC list is for business only.

Re:Is this guy for real? (1)

Salvance (1014001) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674243)

Yes, they're exempt, but MOST of them use and honor the DNC registry (or utilize lists that have already been scrubbed of individuals on the registry).

Re:Is this guy for real? (1)

JMan1865 (223387) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674443)

True - and those that don't - deserve anything listed above in the original essay. Follow the rules, and you can't be sued. Don't follow the rules, and you should be surprised when someone eventually calls you on it.

Re:Is this guy for real? (1)

eck011219 (851729) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674053)

The Do Not Call List doesn't apply to most telemarketers. Churches, Nonprofits, political organizations, brotherhoods of benevolent amputee police orphans, and so on are all able to continue calling. They are obliged to take you off their list if you ask, but that rarely happens. And for the political stuff, it's so time-sensitive, that the two weeks it takes to scratch your name off a list is typically longer than the time left to the election. The only people who can't call you, as near as I can tell, are the timeshare folks and Sony. And I get enough faxes from the timeshare folks that they don't need to call me.

Still, I agree -- I wish I had the kind of time and energy to devote to negotiating settlements out of small claims court cases. I don't generally have time to talk to these chuckleheads in the first place, let alone stick it to them. I guess I don't have what it takes.

Re:Is this guy for real? (2, Informative)

syphax (189065) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674067)

From the FAQ [donotcall.gov] :

Q: If I register my number on the National Do Not Call Registry, will it stop all telemarketing calls?

A: No. Placing your number on the National Do Not Call Registry will stop most, but not all, telemarketing calls. You may still receive calls from political organizations, charities, telephone surveyors or companies with which you have an existing business relationship.

So you are still wide open for push-polls, etc. That's the whole point.

Taking these guys to court does require a lot of time and effort, but as far as I know it's the only recourse we have. That said, caller ID works pretty well as a spam filter for me...

Apply anti-spam rules ... (1)

Richard W.M. Jones (591125) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674509)

What's needed is some sort of captcha for telephone calls.

Answering machine: To connect to Mr Jones, please press keys one, six, three and nine now.

Auto-dialer: [Launches into pre-recorded message]

[Ten seconds later, answering machine hangs up]

Rich.

Re:Is this guy for real? (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674075)

Yeah, he does have too much time on his hands. But he's doing something he (and I) care about. I simply don't have the time/patience/money to be bothered. But I'm glad he does it. The very fact that he does it, and has just made it public how, servers my purposes. Fewer companies will be willing to get sued like this once a few people start. And it'll stop.

I'm on the Do Not Call list and it works GREAT. We cancelled our landline anyhow, and it's just the cellphone... But after a month of being on the DNC list, the calls were very very few and far between. And months later we got NONE. I get none on my cellphone. (I signed up as soon as I got the number.)

But for those who think they are exempt (politicians, non-profits) this makes me happy. Especially since it's going to do it's work without my lifting a finger.

Re:Is this guy for real? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16674127)

He's doing us all a favor by discouraging one of the most annoying forms of telemarketing. I think he deserves every penny.

Not all non-profits are so angelic, and those that telemarket are probably spending a large percentage of their donations on doing just that (which in my mind makes it a scam, even if the only people benefitting are the underpaid phone operators).

Re:Is this guy for real? (1)

w33t (978574) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674177)

Personally I think it's great that someone is intepreting the law and creating a clear cut course of action for the rest of us.

Law is such an esoteric and secrative thing. Even consulting with a lawer costs upwards of hundreds of dollars.

Legal wrangling is a boring, tedious and stressful endevour. We should thank and praise anyone who discloses their knowledge so freely as this.

I have great respect for the legal hobbyists here on slasdot. In fact, this is really the only place where I have ever seen legal discussion and disclosure offered in such a free manner.

Of course, word to the wise, remember that most of these guys are not lawyers (some use a clever acronym to indicate this). Take everything with a grain of salt - nonetheless, be happy and thankful that you have any meal to salt at all.

Re:Is this guy for real? (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674219)

Wow, this guy has far too much time on his hands. I can understand the desire to sue annoying telemarketers and politicians of an opposing part, but your own candidate or ... nonprofit organizations? "Sorry Mr. Smith, we can't provide your insulin shots this month because we've been sued while looking for contributions." This seems a little sick.

Independent of whether more suits are a good thing, it's more like:

"we'll have to spend some of the 10 cents on the dollar we get from telemarketing companies if we get sued; let's follow (or change) the law so we are covered."

My guess is once a big non-profit gets hit a few times they'll go the "pay our lobbyists with the money we could spend on insulin shots to change a law we don't like since we are doing good and the evil citizens are attacking us - the good guys - you are in favor of sus spending money on helping the children instead of fighting lawsuits, aren't you Mr or Ms Congressperson?"

Re:Is this guy for real? (1)

tinkerghost (944862) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674465)

Wow, this guy has far too much time on his hands. I can understand the desire to sue annoying telemarketers and politicians of an opposing part, but your own candidate or ... nonprofit organizations?
Read the essay again, you only get to sue non-profits if they don't
  1. Identify who they are at the beginning of the call
  2. give a return phone number
That's not a real high hurdle to avoid being sued. "Hello, this is Non-Profit-From-Hell. We would just like a moment of your time ... Thank you, for further information, please call 1-888-3825-033." That's it. Insert whatever else you want for '...' and you can't be sued.

On the other hand, I've had problems with a credit card company where they called 6 times a day & never left a company name .... it's nice to know I can sue them for every call .... 6/day X 6days a week = $3600/wk = 14.4K/mth ---- I can stop working & just let them keep calling.

Re:Is this guy for real? (1)

Tweekster (949766) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674257)

Well a nonprofit organization shouldnt be wasting money breaking the law.

Re:Is this guy for real? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16674269)

My goodness, yes! How dare he sue organizations that break the law!

If the nonprofit wants to avoid getting sued maybe they should stop cold-calling people.

Re:Is this guy for real? (1)

MrTester (860336) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674383)

Im guessing that the people who "Dont get this" dont live in swing states.

I am getting sick and tired of getting home from work and having my answering filled up with 5 or 6 candidates recorded messages. Thats not everyday, but it happened 4 or 5 times last month. I have at least 1 every damned day.

Between that and the CONTINUOUS negative political advertisements I cant stand it. There are literally 2 minute advertisement blocks that are nothing but one political add after another. "I hate candidate A" and "I love candidate A" adds back to back.

I find myself asking "Is Democracy worth this? Whats a little Fascisim if it brings peace and quiet?" Before anyone gets irate, thats a joke.

Utah is nice and quiet ... (1)

JazzLad (935151) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674615)

... 'course, 20-30% of the vote doesn't count. If only we had a Democracy. Unfortunately, a Republic isn't the same thing.

On a side note (please don't flame, only an observation), I find it interesting that we are trying to spread a form of govt. we don't use ... why don't we want to make the rest of the world Republics?

-
I used to have a witty sig ...

Re:Is this guy for real? (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674401)

Wow, this guy has far too much time on his hands. I can understand the desire to sue annoying telemarketers and politicians of an opposing part, but your own candidate or ... nonprofit organizations? "Sorry Mr. Smith, we can't provide your insulin shots this month because we've been sued while looking for contributions." This seems a little sick.

First, it's a lot crappier and less prinicpled to sue your own candidate but not others. Do it for all or none. Second, nonprofit doesn't mean charity necessarily. There are a lot of nonprofits out there that make a ton of money, with the stipulation that they spend it all (ie, funnel it all to a for-profit sister entity). Third, laws apply to everyone, and if the charity wants my time on the phone, the least they can do is provide a human of their own. This guy's mainly suing the clowns with the pre-recorded messages, as it's completely legal for charities to call you with a live voice, and the DNC list doesn't block that.

Re:Is this guy for real? (1)

Knetzar (698216) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674467)

Look, if a group is doing something illegal, then why not sue them? I'm against law suits for things that are silly (not protecting people from their own stupidity), but when there is a clear law saying that they can't do something, and they do it anyway, we need to stop them. Otherwise the laws are pointless. How would you recommend fixing it? How would you stop calls from coming in if you got called every few minutes by computers?

Re:Is this guy for real? (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674505)

The Do Not Call list doesn't cover these types of pre-recorded telemarketing calls (not least because, as the article points out, they're illegal anyway.) We receive them at home, I've even had a few to my cellphone. I'm on the Do Not Call list. I'm not even a US citizen so telling me who to vote for is doubly annoying.

And if they flout the DNC list, then, well, what's the point of being on it if you're not going to enforce it. You appear to be saying "You should put yourself on various lists you're on anyway, and then ignore it when people call." What a great idea! Render the list entirely useless!

I'm fully in favour of suing in these instances. We're not talking about bankrupting judgements of the "six-digit lawyers fees alone" variety, we're talking about small claims court, being used to enforce a law that is perfectly legitimate, whose flouters are being deliberately anti-social and committing offenses against you, the suer.

What's the problem with that?

Re:Is this guy for real? (1)

DoomfrogBW (1010579) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674689)

Unfortunately, the only way to get people off your back is to sue nowadays. Simply asking them to stop does not work especially in civil situations. He does encourage trying to negotiate with them. Remember, you are the victim receiving the unwanted phone call solicitation not the solicitors.

Yes but... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16673965)

Happy Dude promised me that if I sent $1 to some address on Evergreen Terrace I would have eternal happiness. Why would I want to sue eternal happiness?

Re:Yes but... (1)

DaveM753 (844913) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674225)

Sorry Dude.

Wait a Second... (1)

rudeboy1 (516023) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674025)

Given the numerous threads/posts here about how litigation-happy this country is, what is a story like this doing on the front page? I mean, while I can see this is a clear shot at some free money, it's sort of exactly the problem we all have been complaining about when stories break about SCO, Jack Thompson, and recently SGI.

I'm interested to see how the Slashdot majority weighs in on this, (note I said majority, not vocal minority of asshats). It seems like we might set an example and find other means of stopping these calls that doesn't involve litigation, so to not add further weight to the argument that the US law system is upside down. What do you think?

Re:Wait a Second... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16674181)

They are breaking the law. Suing them is enforcing the law. You're not asking for some novel interpretation of the law here. What's wrong with it?

Re:Wait a Second... (1)

syphax (189065) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674249)

while I can see this is a clear shot at some free money

Given the time involved, this doesn't sound like free money to me. For me, in terms of opportunity cost, this would be a serious money loser.

I think most of us would agree that the U.S. has more than its fair share of lawsuits. That doesn't mean they are all frivolous, though. And in this case, I would argue the goal is clearly not financial gain (how much money per hour would this net you?), but to punish organizations violate break a law (that would otherwise not be punished). Is that so terrible? And we're talking about small-claims court. He's not exactly delaying the Enron trials.

Re:Wait a Second... (1)

tinkerghost (944862) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674599)

Given the time involved, this doesn't sound like free money to me. For me, in terms of opportunity cost, this would be a serious money loser.
Hmm,
  • 1-2 hrs to find agent
  • 2 hrs to order & fill out paperwork
  • 8 hrs in court
$500/12=$41.66/hr -- that's a lot better than what I make now. If they make multiple calls you can hit them all at the same time - so it goes up fast. I know that when I get a call for red cross blood drives or a political spam, 3 minutes later my wife gets one.

Re:Wait a Second... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16674693)

But this is a cool law:
"It shall be unlawful for any person within the United States, or any person outside the United States if the recipient is within the United States... to [blah]"
It let's you sue people in other countries for stuff that may not be illegal there.

Boggling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16674039)

Sorry OP, but your desire to sue everyone just boggles me -- most boggling is the fact that you seem to be surprised that judges berate you when you sue people over phone calls.

You need to take a cue from your Canadian neighbours. When someone phones you with an autodialer, you hang up and move on with your day. You don't harbor resentment and anger about it, and you don't bring them to court -- you just let it drop. And you know what will happen? Your blood pressure will decrease. You'll become happier. And you will stop perpetuating this kind of lawyer-centric society.

Re:Boggling (1)

qwijibo (101731) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674449)

I'm glad there are people with enough free time to do this. My time is worth too much to me to bother. I have video games at home I haven't played enough. =)

However, I know that many companies will blatantly violate any law that is inconvenient if the cost of dealing with people like him is less than the perceived profit of recorded calls as a marketing channel. When no one does anything, it's practically like the law doesn't exist. If the law didn't exist, every company would use recordings - they're cheaper than telemarketers we know how common telemarketers are.

You're my hero (1)

QuasiEvil (74356) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674051)

I've been getting about two of these suckers a day on my answering machine. I never actually listen, but just delete. Now that I know it's a potential profit center, they might be worth listening all the way through to see if they qualify for further action. Thanks for the info on how to finally discourage these bastards.

Wow... (4, Funny)

JoeLinux (20366) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674057)

Money, and from the telemarket community. We could set up a fund dedicated to calling the owners of these telemarketing companies during dinnertime.

"Mr Johnson?"

"This is he."

"Yes, we'd like to offer you $100 for buying our aluminum siding within the next 48 hours..."

"I'm sorry, but I'm not interested"

"Would you like to refinance your house? rates have never been lower..."

"Uhhh...no thanks.."

"Could you take the time for a quick 3 minute survey?"

"Well, I don't think I should..."

"Ok, first question: Are telemarketing companies the scum of the EARTH, or simply localized scum within their communities?"

"Now, I don't think..."

"Congratulations sir, you've won an absolutely free vacation in Hawaii!"

"But I already have a...."

"All you need to do is sell 50 of these hats that have 'I'm with stupid' stitched into the cap. Unfortunately, the printer messed up, so they just say, 'I'm stupid'. We'll send these out to you right away"

"Would you just leave me alo..."

"Sir, the Democrats and Republicans could take this election if we aren't careful. Evidently, they've got the asshat telemarketing vote all cinched up. We would strongly encourage you to get on a rainbow wig, go out on state street and encourage people to vote Independent. Our motto this year is 'No, really, it's not a wasted vote'"

"AAAAUUUUUGGGGHHHH!!!"

"Sucks to be you sir" *click*

Re:Wow... (1)

radarjd (931774) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674613)

We could set up a fund dedicated to calling the owners of these telemarketing companies during dinnertime

Actually, if I could make a slight modification -- call the spouses of the owners of these telemarketing companies.

Don't count your chickens.... (1)

anachattak (650234) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674069)

Two big words of warning: 1) This law is probably unconstitutional where political speech is concerned. Political speech is more protected than mere commercial speech, so while it may be able to stop sales call harrassment, it won't stop solicitations for political organizations. Also, it won't stop calls from companies with whom you have a pre-existing business relationship (i.e. your phone company), unless you specifically tell them (preferably in writing) that you do not want to be solicited in the future. 2) I've tried using this law to chase junk faxers and it is an enormous waste of time. You can catch the small-timer local advertisers (by suing them personally and joining the junk faxer, if you can find them), but the penny-stock faxes will keep coming through. Usually they're out of state and domesticating a local judgment to their home state and executing on it is near impossible. Not to discourage anyone, but this will not bring down the big junk fax/phone spammers (and depending on what you make an hour, may not be worth the time you invest in it).

Re:Don't count your chickens.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16674297)

Exactly.

Most cities/towns have an ordinance against placing "bandit" signs on public property. Political signs are usually exempt from these rules. Same may apply to telephone solicitations.

Equality be damned.

Re:Don't count your chickens.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16674301)

Ummm. No.

You have a right to speak but not a right to be heard.

Do you have a right to be free from police interference if you want to bust down my door and tell me how to vote?

Obviously not. Same applies here. The difference is, that lawmakers aren't going to shoot themselves in the foot. They put exceptions for political campaigns in telemarketing laws.

Re:Don't count your chickens.... (1)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674317)

Even free speech doesn't provide the rights to a venue - unsolicited calls, especially auto-dialed recorded calls, are subject to restrictions. It doesn't restrict political speech, it doesn't even say a politician CAN'T use an auto-dialer to send prerecorded messages - the law just says there are certain ways this must be done.

Re:Don't count your chickens.... (1)

tinkerghost (944862) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674699)

No, free speech doesn't remove telecommunications restrictions. You can't say fuck or show nipples on broadcast TV just because it's part of a political ad. Nor can you send faxes to fax machines. Spam is somehow fair game though... they don't have to include an opt out for future messages.
Hmm, "Vote the strict FSM ticket this year... for a preview of life under the FSM party, here's a tour of the afterlife's stripper factory..."

The Court System (1)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674077)

Anyone who's had dealing with the court system here in the U.S. would know that you want no part of it.

You: Hi, I'm here to file my small claims court grievance towards this political party.

Claims Court Window: Hmm, you need to take this form across the street, 3rd floor, room 314.

You: Oh. But you're the Small Claims Court window...what's in 314?

CCW: That's the filing window. Once your claim is filed, then any future dealings with the court will begin here.

You: Ah. Makes sense. Thanks. ...

You (at window 314): Hi, I'm here to file for Small Claims Court.

314: Small claims? How'd you get here? This is the window for filing for divorce court.

You: But the woman in the Small Claim Courts window said 314 was where I file.

314: Lemme see that. No...go talk to her again. She should be able to help you. Next!

And around and around it goes. If you ever do file, expect to wait 6 months, then be asked to come in at 8 in the morning so you can sit outside the courtroom until your case is called at 11 so the judge can set a date for your next hearing in 2 months. That's it.

But hey...it might be worth the money!

Re:The Court System (1)

planetmn (724378) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674377)

Actually, at least the one time I sued somebody in small claims court it was rather straightforward and the court employees were very helpful.

I was 18, when down to the court, paid the fee (maybe $35) and the clerk told me what forms to fill out. She also told me the options for serving the papers. In addition, she pointed me to the computers where I could search for other cases to help research my claim.

I served the papers, and a court date was set. I was told to arrive at a specific time (I believe noon). There were quite a few of us. The judge first handled the cases where one side did not show, and then moved on to the cases that would be argued. I was maybe halfway down the list, and it was about 1pm when we started. We argued our sides of the case for about 25 minutes or so, the judge said he would rule in a few weeks. A week later (which included Thanksgiving), I received a notice from the court that the judge had ruled in my favor, what the judgement was, and when it was due by. The day after it was due (it was unpaid at the time), I went back to the court, filed the paperwork which would allow me to request that the Sherriff collect the judgement. (I received the check before I actually requested the collection).

All in all, it was rather painless, at least as painless as I think it could be.

Just my experience. From it I wouldn't deter people from persuing valid cases (though I personally don't feel this one is valid).

-dave

Re:The Court System (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16674591)

And when you finally get before the judge they are a total fucking idiot.
My most recent one was when I disputed a speeding ticket. I knew I wasn't speeding because I had just turned on to the street before I passed the cop, I saw him as I passed and looked at my odometer. The cop followed me for about a half mile, I watched my speed the entire time - I even set my cruise control right at the speed limit. He gave me a ticket for going 15 over the limit in a school zone. So I finally get my day in court and the cop doesn't show up. So it's just me, the judge, and a handful of other people waiting their turns. I explain what happened to the judge, show him maps which prove I was not in a school zone and could not have accelerated to the speed claimed by the cop because I had just pulled on to the road when I passed him. The judge said to me "well, the police report says you were speeding in a school zone and the laser detector says you were going 15 over the limit so you have to pay the fine and you can't go to traffic school because you were in a school zone". It was like he just decided I was a liar and ignored everything I said because the police report must be true. I have no faith at all in the US justice system anymore, it's full of idiots and authoritarians.

Get a book about small claims procedures (3, Insightful)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674113)

It may have advice such as

"Be brief". Judges have more caseload than they want. What happens when you ask for the time of a busy person and drone on and on and on and on and on and on?

"Be gone". If the other party doesn't show up, you have a default judgment. If you stick around to observe the spectacle of justice and the other party shows up late, the judge might feel entitled to restart proceedings.

Ummmm... no (1)

supabeast! (84658) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674153)

IANAL, but I still think that I'm qualified to point out that filing a lawsuit based on an essay posted to Slashdot is a really stupid thing to do.

It ain't rocket science.... (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674695)


IANAL, but I still think that I'm qualified to point out that filing a lawsuit based on an essay posted to Slashdot is a really stupid thing to do.

Where does this attitude come from? Slashdot has a definite DIY community to it. Maybe your first lawsuit isn't going to suceed or make much money. But then again your first attempt at making pottery, or programming probbably won't be very good either. Of course you aren't qualified to file a lawsuit based on one essay. But that doesn't mean there's not something to be gained from starting the process.

Really, what are the risks involved here? You lose? All you've lost is some time. If you aren't prepared to lose that, then don't do it. The gains are feeling that you've accomplished some minor dig against a scumbag telemarketer, and maybe a little money.

It's not like you're building a bridge which could collapse and kill people, putting together a rocket that could explode, or duplicating the efforts of the MythBusters. Why not Try This At Home?

Wow... (0, Troll)

dema (103780) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674197)

That was a lot of research and writing for a stupid knee jerk reaction to a rather simple and short-lived annoyance.

If people start suing en mass (1)

Ibn al-Hazardous (83553) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674205)

...they will just outsource the calling to Indian callcenters.

Imagine that!

Re:If people start suing en mass (1)

Tweekster (949766) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674311)

What difference does that make?

absolutely none, if i pay you to break the law, i am just as guilty as if i broke the law.

Is it worth it? (1)

warrior_s (881715) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674211)

If its just for money its not worth it.. assume you make $20/hr and if you spend 30Hrs of you time on this shit, you are loosing $600. If its not for money, still those companies are not going to stop making calls just because some jack-ass tried to get $500 from them.

Re:Is it worth it? (1)

Gemini_25_RB (997440) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674379)

I really don't get the math here. 20 * 30 = 600, agreed. But are you "loosing" 600 if you regain 500? I'd say its more like: You are losing ((hourly wage)(time spent not working) - 500).

Re:Is it worth it? (0)

zmod3m (996289) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674457)

Your analysis while good, fails to take into account that the Auto-Dialer company is also going to lose money on time/lawyer fees. So if enough people sue them, they can lose a rather hefty chunk of change.

Re:Is it worth it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16674461)

Bennett Haselton seems to take on everyone that he can in his spare time. Spammers, Autodialers, Fax Spammers. It helps that he's in Washington (State) which has a mandatory $500 award per spam received. So its not like its out of the ordinary for him to go down there.

He does seem to be fighting for some causes though. He does appear to have a David complex and is always looking for a Goliath to beat down.

Three comments (4, Insightful)

linuxwrangler (582055) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674223)

1. Do more research. There is much more to the law than the OP mentions including....wait for it....exemptions for political calls. Imagine that. And for pre-existing relationships, research surveys (provided they are real surveys, not disguised sales calls), etc. There is also a mishmash of state laws to consider - many of which have not been well tested in the courts.

2. If you have the time and inclination and are willing to do the additional research, go for it. You are doing the rest of us a favor.

3. If you would rather have some fun instead (only for live person calls), use the anti-telemarketer script found here: http://www.xs4all.nl/~egbg/counterscript.html [xs4all.nl]

I vote partially based on these calls (1)

jridley (9305) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674265)

I keep track of these calls. If they're about issues I have a position on, I ignore them. But if they're on issues I'm undecided on, I generally vote against the people who are annoying me with recorded announcements.

Last election I had a tough time because on a few proposals, both sides were bugging me about equally. So I voted against the side whose recording pissed me off the most.

I used to do this for elected positions as well, but this year my strategy is simpler; I wouldn't vote for a republican to be a damn dog-catcher. I'll vote Martian Invaders party if I have to in order to vote against a republican.

Did he read the whole thing? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16674273)

It looks like he might not have read all of Sec 64.1200:

64.1200(3) The term telephone solicitation means the initiation of a telephone call or message for the purpose of encouraging the purchase or rental of, or investment in, property, goods, or services, which is transmitted to any person, but such term does not include a call or message:

* (i) To any person with that person's prior express invitation or permission;
* (ii) To any person with whom the caller has an established business relationship; or
* (iii) By or on behalf of a tax-exempt nonprofit organization.

Candid Redorder (1)

Ray Radlein (711289) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674315)

I sued a spammer who came to court and claimed he never sent the mails and didn't even know how. When the judge stopped berating me long enough for me to continue, I then produced a tape recording of a conversation between me and the spammer, in which I had pretended to be an interested customer, and he offered to send 5 million e-mails for me for $500, and explained how they were routed through China to hide the origin. The judge got extremely flustered for a minute and then started to accuse me of "entrapment" (even though the recorded phone call took place after I had received the original spam), and she never commented on the fact that the defendant had just been caught lying under oath. I hadn't really expected him to go to jail for that, but I thought I would at least win the case; I didn't.
Unless I'm very much mistaken, what you did is illegal in many jurisdictions (hopefully not yours, of course!), and inadmissable in others, unless you notified the spammer in advance that you were recording the conversation. People interested in doing this should probably make sure for themselves before doing so.

Re:Candid Redorder (1)

gpeters (7094) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674455)

I think the nature of your mistake is that you didn't read his account of the matter. The spammer consented to the audio recording in this case.

Re:Candid Redorder (1)

taustin (171655) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674531)

Particularly since, in some states, recording a conversation (on the phone or otherwise) without permission from all parties is a felony.

Sue The Planet! (1)

Ellidi T (941495) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674325)

Suing every living thing is a pecculiar way of life. I guess it doesn't exist in many other countries than the US. Am I wrong?
What drives people to want to sue everything and everyone? Paranoia? Desperation? Routine? Feeling inferior? Just what is it?

suing collection agencies? (1)

Gospodin (547743) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674399)

What I'd like to know is this: Can I sue collection agencies who call my house looking for the wrong person? They either leave me a message or, worse, ask me to hold to speak to a representative, but when I try holding and telling them I'm not their man, typically after about 10 minutes of holding the call drops. Then the next day I get another message from the same people. Very frustrating!

A couple of times I have actually managed to get to a person and tried to explain that I'm not the one. They're very unwilling to listen to this: "What is your social security number?" "I don't give out my social security number to strangers. Who is this and what is it in reference to?" "We can't give out that information?" "This is a collection agency, right? I have no debts in default, so I'm sure I'm not the person you want." "If you give us your social security number, we can check to see if it matches the one we're looking for." "Sorry, I won't unless you tell me exactly who you are. Or you could give ME the social YOU are looking for and I'll tell you if it matches mine." (repeat a few more times) "Look, what type of account is it that's in default?" "Ummm.... it's a Citibank Visa." "Well, there you go. I've never even owned a Citibank Visa. Bye." (click).

As fun as this sort of conversation can be, it's not worth the messages and the holds/dropped calls.

Huh? (1)

linuxg0d (913436) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674417)

Wow! Typically an American standpoint. It costs more than 500$ to sue someone in Canada, and frankly, there are way bigger fish to fry than some auto-dialer company. Frankly, I'm not sure why this was even Slashdotted. :( What content is there in this that is even remotely interesting?

Sue non-profit organizations for profit (1)

Dragged Down by the (1004490) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674425)

What a friggin' lawsuit happy country you guys live in ...

Re:Sue non-profit organizations for profit (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674657)

It's not just non-profits that we sue. We sue for-profit companies who produce products which are known to be harmful to us, even after being told for three decades that what they produce is harmful, yet still continued to buy and use the product, and win [yahoo.com] .


Then of course there are the 'stupid lawsuits'. The ones where people are too stupid to not suffer harm yet somehow think it's someone elses fault. Like this one [cnn.com] .

But hey, that's what one gets when you have schools, and parents, more interested in what religious study to shove down peoples throats rather than teaching students to be critical thinkers.

This would be great . . . except. (1)

chasisaac (893152) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674463)

All the local ya-hoos (this is a reference to Guliver's Travels, not a website, for those of you who do not read) have started having live people call me, daily. these live people screech through their memorized speeches quickly. They then hang up. I feel like that I have a drive-by phone call. The real problem with these calls. Is I am to darn polite to tell them off. As soon as I wait for them to breathe they hang up.

Much ado about very little (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16674475)

"It shall be unlawful for any person within the United States, or any person outside the United States if the recipient is within the United States... to initiate any telephone call to any residential telephone line using an artificial or prerecorded voice to deliver a message without the prior express consent of the called party, unless the call is initiated for emergency purposes or is exempted by rule or order by the Commission under paragraph (2)(B)".


There's the rub!

I once made phone calls for a city council candidate for extra credit work. While there is certainly the possibility of less than scrupulous groups being different, in this and other experiences, every person on that list opted-in in some way. Somewhere in your life, you signed up with a non-profit group that was affiliated with a certain party and shared their phone list, or you entered a drawing, or you submitted an opinion on some current news event. It may be sneaky, but I can't see how it's not currently legal.

Your best course of action with phone is this: if you receive a single message, delete it. If you receive enough messages that it bothers you, return a call, tell them to remove your data from their system, including all of their call lists. If you have caller ID, screen your calls. If you answer the phone and it's a call you do not want to receive again, tell them that.

Phone calls cost more than spam. If you tell them that you will never offer them any gain from calling you, 99% of the time they won't call you. It's after you've done this and still are getting harrassed that you can try to get your $500 cash.

The fact that the article mentions several times that judges are often unsympathetic to awarding money based on a single phone call should make you stop and think.

If enough people do this, maybe the problem will go away. Then again maybe all that will happen is that more non-profits will start putting the name of their organization and their phone number in the pre-recorded calls that they make, which means that you can't sue them. Then your only recourse is to call them up and chew them out, so make it good!


The fact that the article's author prefers $500 lawsuits over organizations following the existing law should also be a red flag.

Taking legal action should be to appropriately fix something that went wrong, not a means of profit. If consumers abuse the system for $500 profit after receiving a single phonecall, why should companies not find similar ways to profit from legal action against consumers?

Hate to burst your bubble... (1)

djones101 (1021277) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674483)

But you're wrong.

(a)(2) "Initiate any telephone call to any residential telephone line using an artificial or prerecorded voice to deliver a message without the prior express consent of the called party, unless the call is initiated for emergency purposes or is exempted by Sec. 64.1200(c) of this section."

"The term telephone call in Sec. 64.1200(a)(2) of this section shall not include a call or message by, or on behalf of, a caller: [...]
* (4) Which is a tax-exempt nonprofit organization."

Did you just glance over the word not and pretend it wasn't there? Or did you just not read close enough?

By FCC regulation, calls from non-profits, as well as political advertisements, are exempt from laws governing unsolicited communications. I spent the better part of 2 years working with autodialers, configuring them for sending out pre-recorded messages to the homes of those who were eating a nice, quiet dinner. During my brief time doing that sort of work at that organization (I have since found employment elsewhere that doesn't make me feel like Satan at the end of the day), I became well versed in the nuances of the law regarding solicited and unsolicited telephone calls. I can assure you, if you get phone calls from George Bush advertising your local Republican candidate as the best person for the job, the ONLY recourse you have is to hang up the phone and pray for November to be over.

Re:Hate to burst your bubble... (1)

hacker (14635) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674593)

By FCC regulation, calls from non-profits, as well as political advertisements, are exempt from laws governing unsolicited communications.

Unless, as I've stated in my previous reply, you specifically ask that they stop calling you... and they continue to call.

No, I don't have what it takes. (1)

Ocular Magic (948250) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674491)

It seems to me this person has more time than most. Wanting to sue someone for being annoying is just sad. It's an ad, hang up the phone! What did that take, 5 seconds, now move on with your life. I could understand if your phone was ringing off the hook and you were forced to unplug it due to the volume of calls. But this doesn't seem like the problem the person is having. How about using caller ID? If you don't know the number, don't answer the phone. If it's extremely important, the person would/should leave a message and if you recognize the voice, pick it up. If you're thinking that you shouldn't HAVE to do that, no, you shouldn't, but life has it's annoyances and ads on the phone are just one tiny fraction of what you're going to run up against. Are you going to track down and sue that kid that crank called you at 2am? This person probably would.

Hi, this is George W Bush... (1)

tulmad (25666) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674493)

I got a recorded call from GWB the other day telling me how I should vote Republican this election season to protect our homeland from "terrists". I had a good hearty laugh through most of the call before I hung up on it.

Idiots. (1)

Carik (205890) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674497)

Just what we need. More idiots suing people for... not much.

If you don't want to listen to these, hang up on them. If you don't feel like picking up, don't. The world won't end because you didn't answer the phone. Yes, I get these sometimes, and used to get them constantly. I just started hanging up on the machines, and telling the people "Please put me on your do not call list. If you wish to contact me in the future, please send me something by mail." None of them ever send me anything in the mail, and they stop calling me.

Sure, these calls are anoying, but they're hardly worth a lawsuit.

How ironic... I just received another this morning (1)

hacker (14635) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674553)

We've been on the Do Not Call list for about 3 years (or however long its been in service). We receive 5-8 calls a week from telemarketers on our home telephone as well as our mobile numbers (all numbers areon the Do Not Call list).

I've called every single candidate and their respective parties and asked that I be removed from their automated call list.

The NRCC is the worst offender here, and the only one who has consistently ignored my requests that they stop calling us..

  1. I can't hang up on them. They tie/lock up the line. I've hung up, waited 30 seconds, picked up, they're still talking. Hung up again, waited 2 minutes, picked up and they're still talking. Their automated calls last about 8 minutes long.
  2. They completely fill our answering machine, so REAL phone calls can't be left.
  3. They call us at all hours of the day and night. 7am, 10pm, it doesn't matter. I have a young daughter and my wfie has elderly parents. When we receive a call at 10pm, 11pm at night, we automatically think someone is hurt or in the hospital. Damn the NRCC for adding this stress to our lives!
  4. They ignore our requests to remove us from their list, multiple times (3 requests this week alone!)
  5. Since they block their incoming number, I can't trace them (but law enforcement can)

So now, I've decided to file police reports against the calls, after using *57 to track and trace them. Since they block their numbers, they are violating the law, and law enforcement will take care of it.

Also, I've openly let them know that for every call I receive after I've asked them not to call, I will convince another person NOT to vote for their candidate (so far, that's about 12 calls or 12 people who will not vote for their candidates in the last two weeks).

If they can't listen to their constituents, why should I vote for them?

And so I won't.

Do you HAVE what it TAKES? (1)

trudyscousin (258684) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674581)

Lately, I've been coming home to find my answering machine's memory completely filled with pre-recorded campaign messages. Yes, it's annoying.

That notwithstanding, a $500 small claims award (assuming that's how much I'd have for my trouble) is a little more than what I earn in a day, and I'd rather spend my day at work than go through all that described in the article.

So no, I don't have what it takes. I don't have the time.

Ever think of just hanging up? (0, Troll)

Reidsb (944156) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674603)

I don't think the best attitude in life to take is to sue anything and anyone that pisses you off.

You got a phone call, it took, what, 10 seconds of your life? Deal with it.

If you wanna sue, get a lawyer (1)

ubuwalker31 (1009137) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674619)

Going through a small claims process to collect $500 is a hit or miss proposition for a pro se litigant. If you go to a lawyer, I am sure that he will find a way to recover triple that amount through a settlement. The lawyer can organize a number of plaintiffs and perhaps even a class action. The lawyer will front all of the fees, usually.

Just like how you shouldn't self-medicate yourself, you shouldn't represent yourself in court. Your just asking for trouble, and stress, and a huge headache.

Can I use this to sue a for-profit org? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16674647)

I get this same damn company calling me all the time. It's a pre-recorded message saying something about a "business opportunity" and they leave their phone number. They don't identify themselves or give any information at all other than to call them. These assholes call 2 or 3 times a day and since there is not a person on the line I can't tell them to stop calling.

After some tracking of their phone number I found out they are a collection agency. Since I have never once in my life had any outstanding debt I doubt they are calling me on purpose. Probably some deadbeat gave a "fake" phone number that happens to be the same as me, or maybe the last owner of the number.

Can I sue these guys and make some cash? They have been calling for years and I have reported them to the do-not-call list many times to no effect.

Bias in small claims court judges (3, Interesting)

stinerman (812158) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674649)

I can attest to the outright activism in at least my local (Dayton, OH) area judges.

It is Ohio law that any security deposit should be returned to a tenant 30 days after the tenant moves out, assuming the tenant left a forwarding address for the deposit. If the landlord fails to do this, the tenant can get double the money they were supposed to recieve. Two lawyers both said that while my landlord was in violation of the statute (it took her 37 days to return my deposit), I'd be hard pressed to find any judge that would find in my favor. The law is in plain black and white, but apparently no judge in the area will "enforce" it.

Activist judges, indeed.

Serious question (1)

WedgeTalon (823522) | more than 7 years ago | (#16674679)

I have a serious question. What if the beginning of the call is cut off on my voice mail? 99.999% of the time, they will start leaving the message while my outgoing greeting is still playing. Any idea on if this would invalidate my claim against them (or make it better)?

tape call? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16674725)

The judge allowed the taped call to be played? That makes me doubt that this is a true story. Unless you informed the guy he was being taped that is inadmissible evidence. And if you did inform him that he was being taped and he told his story anyway, that is an unbelieveble idiot.
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