If you feel like you received more robocalls than usual, it’s not your imagination. In February of this year, Americans received more than 4.6 billion robocalls, a 15% increase from January, according to YouMail researchers. And by the end of 2021, the total may be 51 billion robocalls. But with the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Do Not Call Registry in effect since 2003, how do unsolicited calls keep coming through? Could the Facebook lawsuit be amping them up to be bigger and badder? Possibly.
It was no April Fool’s Day joke when the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that Facebook cannot be sued for repeatedly texting customers with security alerts. Why? CNN reports that it’s because Facebook’s texts didn’t come from an autodialer.
In 2015, Noah Duguid of Montana initiated a lawsuit against Facebook to get them to stop texting his cell phone with alerts about an unauthorized person accessing his Facebook account. He didn’t even have a Facebook account to break into nor had he given the social media company his cell number.
Using the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 as a resource, his legal team talked about the legality of the “automatic telephone dialing system” that works by using a random or sequential number generator to call people. The problem with this comparison is that Facebook did not use a number generating system to call Duguid.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor explained in the Supreme Court’s decision that because of this, Facebook did not break the law. In an emailed statement, a Facebook spokesperson wrote, “As the court recognized, the law’s provisions were never intended to prohibit companies from sending targeted security notifications.” It went on to explain that “the court’s decision will allow companies to continue working to keep the accounts of their users safe.”
In Duguid’s case, even after following instructions to make the alerts stop, he continued receiving texts. It took this lawsuit to get the texts to stop. But because it took this much effort to cease communication, the National Consumer Law Center is worried that telemarketers and other like-minded solicitors will just copy the format of Facebook’s “security” texts to get around calling people who they previously may have not called.
Could unsolicited calls lead to money in your pocket?
While paying legal fees can be draining, especially for low-income consumers, and the process is lengthy, there is an upside. The more complaints against a company, the healthier the opportunity for the FTC to file action in federal court against the company.
According to the Associated Press, the Do Not Call List reports have resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in civil penalties and settlements over the years. While the money is largely sent to the U.S. treasury, fraud cases can result in the victims recouping their funds.
Companies that illegally call numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry or place an illegal robocall can be fined up to $42,530 per call. In a KHOU report, two women were fed up and fought back. One received $1,500 for using a federal law to get money back for harassing calls. The other made more than $10,000.
While there is a for-profit Robo Call Cash Kit to show people how to earn income from unwanted calls, callers can just take a few steps to figure out how to do it themselves without the kit. First, talk to the solicitor long enough to get the company name, website and mailing address. Then, send a demand letter to the company informing them of their option to settle the dispute without the company’s illegal habits becoming public record. According to Doc Compton, the owner of the kit, “the more calls you’re getting, the more opportunity there is for you to get PAID!”
But with the Supreme Court results of this Facebook case, only time will tell how creative solicitors will get with adding “security” calls to their lineup as opposed to the more common random number generator.