A federal law that allows consumers the right to revoke their consent to being contacted by automated dialing systems came into play during a lawsuit that made national news.
Ashley Gager of Honesdale purchased a computer and financed it through Dell Financial. After making payments for two years, "a problem pregnancy" required her to quit her job and remain on bed rest. As a result, the family fell behind on some bills.
Gager was receiving "incessant calls" from Dell Financial, so she wrote a letter telling them not to call her on her phone. Dell Financial ignored the letter and called "about 40 more times" in a "three week period."
She sued to enforce her rights not to be called under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991.
The act covers three main areas:
• Prohibits debt collectors from calling cell phones unless they have consent
• Prohibits telemarketers from calling any number that is on the Do Not Call List
• Prohibits telemarketing faxes unless consumers give consent
"It's unlawful for them to call unless they have permission to do so," said Carlo Sabatini, a lawyer from Sabatini Law Firm, LLC in Dunmore, who represents Gager in the case. "The do not call list only applies to telemarketers. Debt collectors can still call without violating the act as long as they don't do it through automated systems and manually dial the number."
He explained that there are other laws that "govern the conduct" of debt collectors and collection agencies.
Cary Flitter and Andrew Milz of Flitter Lorenz, P.C. and Brett Freeman, also of Sabatini Law Firm, represents Gager as well.
"The lower court tossed out the case, saying that consent to be called, once given, may never be revoked," Sabatini explained. "This was a tough case. It was the first time this sort of issue was looked at."
Sabatini said the District Court initially made its decision last year. Gage and her attorneys didn't agree with the decision so they appealed and won.
"The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision," Sabatini stated. "Citizens can revoke their consent if they start getting harassed."
He said that in the 3rd Court of Appeals the decision is "binding" to all courts within the circuit, which, in this case, includes Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and the Virgin Islands.
"It's not binding in other states, but it's very persuasive," Sabatini said. "Now we go back to District Court to prove our case."
Sabatini said their win in the case was a "good accomplishment."
"It's generating a lot of interest," he said.
Page 2 of 2 - He also explained that Gager wants others to know that she was paying what she could, but became unable to given her situation.
To add numbers to the Do Not Call List, visit www.donotcall.gov to register.