Is there anyone from whom you’d like to receive six hundred telephone calls in six months? If there is, it probably isn’t your credit card company. Plaintiff Mazen Fares alleges that Discover Financial Services called him on his cell phone six hundred times between August 2016 and the filing of this case, in a jaw-droppingly blatant violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
The TCPA was established to protect consumers from abuses made possible by new technology. Specifically, automatic dialing systems and recordings made it possible for companies to call thousands and even millions of numbers at little expense.
Calls to cell phones were a particular concern because service providers normally charge for incoming as well as outgoing calls. The law forbids companies from calling consumers’ cell phones using automatic dialing systems or artificial or pre-recorded voices unless they have specific prior written permission to do so. Companies may call in an emergency situation, but they may not call to attempt to collect a debt.
However, according to the complaint, that’s exactly what Discover did to Fares—calling his cell phone repeatedly using an automatic dialing system and pre-recorded or artificial voice, calling several times in a day and on back-to-back days, with a high enough frequency that the calls can only have been intended to harass.
The calls began, the complaint says, in or about August 2016, and in or about that month, after “a ceaseless barrage of daily calls,” Fares told the company’s representative that they should stop calling his cell phone number. According to the complaint, this revoked any previous permission that might have been claimed by Discover to call Fares, yet the representative said that there was “no guarantee that the calls will stop” and that it was “not up to [her]” as to whether they did or not. Fares answered another call as well, the complaint said, and told Discover to stop the harassment, but the calls continued. Fares believes that Discover recorded one or more of the calls to him.
The complaint alleges that Discover Financial Services has been a frequent and blatant violator of the TCPA, citing 134 “communications tactics” complaints against it since January 2014 at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and 759 complaints against it in the last three years with the Better Business Bureau.
The complaint claims that Discover has willfully and knowingly violated the TCPA as well as Florida debt-related laws that prohibit harassment of debtors.