attorney general

State Attorneys General Urge Telecom Companies to Offer Call Blocking Technology

State Attorneys General Urge Telecom Companies to Offer Call Blocking Technology

The Ohio Attorney General along with forty-four other state Attorneys General, wrote a letter to five telecom companies urging them to make call blocking technology available to consumers. The Ohio Attorney General’s office claimed consumers called their office over 1,400 times to complain about “Do Not Call” violations in 2014 alone, prompting the organization to reach out to AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and Century Link. Telemarketing and robocalling are a thorn in the side of consumers that has existed for decades, and there have been several attempts by Congress to address this issue for consumers, such as the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

This is not the first time that state Attorneys General have urged telecom companies to offer call blocking technology to consumers. Many of these companies maintained that such technology could potentially violate existing regulations put in place by the FCC. In an attempt to correct this last September, thirty-nine Attorneys General asked the FCC to adopt a clarification to the rules in question. In June 2015, the FCC obliged and noted that call blocking technology is completely legal for these providers to offer.

Dozens of third party apps are already on android and apple devices that offer such a service, which companies such as Verizon have already cited as a reason that no action needs to be taken. However, these apps are not sufficiently popular to stem the massive tide of complaints that consumer protection agencies like the Ohio Attorney General’s office receive on a regular basis. The FCC and Attorneys General encouraged these telecom companies to either work with these third party developers or offer their own call blocking services.

However, companies such as Verizon are concerned that offering such call blocking technology could exacerbate an already present problem known as spoofing. Telemarketing companies, in an attempt to circumvent some of the more popular call blocking technologies that already exist, falsify their caller ID information in order to trick the system into letting a call through. Verizon claims that they get thousands of complaints every year from individuals who had their numbers used in such a manner.

Doucet & Associates has many attorneys who are well versed in consumer law. Most consumers are unaware that there are several protections in the law that can offer them a defense against these annoying and unwarranted phone calls. Laws such as TCPA actually make unwanted telemarketing and robocalls illegal, and the Do Not Call list is much more than just a myth. If your cell phone number has illegally fallen into the hands of telemarketers and you constantly receive these calls, call Doucet & Associates at (614) 944-5219 and find out how we can help you take your number back.

 

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Ohio Attorney General Special Counsel Now Subject to FDCPA: Gillie v. Law Office of Eric A Jones, LLC

Ohio Attorney General Special Counsel Now Subject to FDCPA: Gillie v. Law Office of Eric A Jones, LLC

In May, the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals determined in Gillie v. Law Office of Eric A. Jones, LLC, No. 14-3836, that attorneys working as contracted debt collectors for the Ohio Attorney General are subject to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The Attorney General’s office, which is responsible for collecting debts owed to the State, often contracts attorneys to act as debt collectors under the title of “special counsel.” Along with this special counsel title came the letterhead of the Ohio Attorney General’s office, which was used when collecting consumer debt on behalf of the State. It is now likely a deceptive act under the FDCPA to use that letterhead, and thus a violation of federal law.

The FDCPA was passed in 1977 to protect consumers from abusive debt collection practices. Congress found that debt collection agencies often operated with the mentality that debt was to be collected at any cost, creating incentives to mislead, or sometimes bully consumers into paying their debts. However, in passing the act, Congress made exemptions for employees and officers of the State when collecting debts owed to the government. Whether or not Ohio Attorney General special counsel was protected under these exemptions was a fundamental issue that the Sixth Circuit Court had to decide.

The plaintiffs, Pamela Gillie and Hazel Meadows, filed a lawsuit against several law firms acting as special counsel for the Ohio Attorney General. They argued that the use of the Attorney General’s letterhead was intentionally misleading, and therefore a violation of the FDCPA. After a lower district court ruled in favor of the defendants, the decision was appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court. The court determined that whether or not the special counsel debt collection letters were misleading was a matter best left for a jury, but held the FDCPA did apply to special counsel acting for the Ohio Attorney General when collecting medical debts for the State.

The Sixth Circuit Court determined that special counsel was in no way considered to either be employees or officers of the State of Ohio, despite their use of the Attorney General letterhead. Because of their nature as contractors for the State, the court determined that any special counsel attempting to collect consumer debt for the Ohio Attorney General was subject to the FDCPA. In this case, special counsel was acting to collect past due OSU medical debts.

The Sixth Circuit Court determined that special counsel is subject to the FDCPA when attempting to collect consumer debts for the State, due to the nature of their relationship with the Ohio Attorney General. Because they were contracted by the Attorney General, and not hired or appointed, they are not protected under the exemptions they claimed. This firm believes that the letters will likely be determined to violate the law, and that the consumer/debtors will recover under the FDCPA. If you think that you may have been affected by this practice, then please call Doucet & Associates at (614) 944-5219.

 

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