Araceli King got 153 “robocalls” from Time Warner Cable, and they weren’t even meant for her. The telecom giant mistakenly thought she was behind in payments and refused to stop the automated calls even after she repeatedly conveyed their error.
Now, Time Warner Cable must pay the insurance claims specialist $229,500 for placing those 153 robocalls calls over less than a year to her cellphone, a Manhattan federal judge ruled on Tuesday.
King, of Irving, Texas, charged that Time Warner Cable kept harassing her by leaving messages for Luiz Perez, who once held her cellphone number, even after she made clear who she was in a seven-minute discussion with a company representative.
The calls were made via an “interactive voice response” system that targed customers who were late paying bills.
Time Warner Cable countered that it was not liable to King under the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act, a law meant to curb robocall and telemarketing abuses, because it believed it was calling Perez, who had consented to the calls.
U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein awarded triple damages of $1,500 per call for willfully violating that law. The judge said “a responsible business” would have tried harder to find Perez and address the problem.
King sued Time Warner Cable in March 2014 in federal court in New York City, seeking statutory damages of $81,500. But in his decision yesterday, Judge Alvin Hellerstein tripled the damages, saying the company’s “particularly egregious” behavior violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991.
Time Warner didn’t dispute the number of calls to King, but countered that less than half the calls resulted in messages being played to King or her voicemail. The other calls didn’t violate the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, because they weren’t an automatic dialing system, the company claimed in court filings.
Time Warner also argued that she didn’t suffer harm and she consented to the calls under the customer agreement. That “terms of service” agreement states, according to a court filing: “We may call you at any number you provide to us (or that we issue to you) for any purpose, including marketing of our services… However, if you ask to have your number placed on our ‘do not call’ list, we will not call you at that number for marketing purposes … We may use automated dialing systems or artificial or recorded voices to call you.”