A court ruling in Philadelphia on Thursday states that consumers may withdraw their consent to have robocallers contact them by cell phone. The ruling, which follows the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), directly applies to collection firms that use automated phone calls to inform customers of their outstanding accounts.

"Because the TCPA is a remedial statute, it should be construed to benefit consumers," the three-judge panel for the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled. "TCPA provides consumers with the right to revoke their prior express consent to be contacted on cellular phones by autodialing systems."

Under the ruling, if consumers state in writing that they want robocalls to stop, collection agencies must comply.
The case in question involved a consumer who complained that Dell called her more than 40 times in less than three weeks in 2007, despite the fact she sent a letter asking for the calls to stop. Ashley Gager had used her cell phone number instead of her home phone number when applying for a Dell credit line.

She bought several thousand dollars in merchandise and later defaulted. Dell began leaving her automated messages, messages that did not stop even after Gager sent a letter asking them to do so in December 2010.

Court rulings on the TCPA and robocalls to cell phones continue to perplex the accounts receivables management industry.

A court in 2012 supported a Declaratory Ruling by the Federal Communication Commission stating that a consumer may fully revoke prior express consent by transmitting an opt-out request to the sending party. That ruling reversed another court ruling from 2012 that said a letter by a debtor to a creditor does not revoke prior express consent.

In a 2008 Declaratory Ruling on the TCPA, the FCC had stated that autodialed and prerecorded message calls to wireless numbers that are provided by the called party to a creditor in connection with an existing debt are permissible as calls made with the ‘prior express consent’ of the called party."

In the Gager case, the appeals court wrote that Dell still can contact Gager by phone about her debt, as long as it doesn’t use an automated dialing system.

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