TCPA violations: Is the business liable or is it the third party collection agency's responsibility?

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act or TCPA safeguards the interests of telephone consumers through regulating the use of automated calling equipment. It has several other guidelines aimed at ensuring telephone communications do not become a nuisance.

However, the Act has seen a number of violations, alleged or proven, through lawsuits. Most recently, in the case of Petri v. Mercy Health, a federal judge in the state of Missouri ruled that under common law Agency Principals, a hospital could not be held liable for violation of the TCPA by a third party collection agency.

The case

In 2010, Mercy Health (Mercy) entered into an agreement with Valarity, LLC where it was decided that Valarity would perform collection services for them, including making telephone calls and requests for payment. The agreement also has a provision that says Valarity would be acting independently without creating an agency relationship between Mercy and themselves.

Further, the agreement stated that each party was solely responsible for the actions of its own employees. Thus, it would be clear that none of the parties had authority to act on the behalf of the other party nor control each other’s activities.

However, plaintiff Joseph Petri (Petri) claimed that Mercy violated the TCPA when Valarity used an auto-dialer to make calls to his cell phone without his prior consent. The TCPA places great emphasis on consumer consent, making it illegal to call anyone without their express permission.

The complaint states that Petri’s phone was called approximately 26 times between the months of February and April 2014. These calls were made to collect debt that was supposedly arising from medical services but which was eventually found to be a mistake.

Plaintiff Petri says that since Valarity was acting on the behalf of Mercy, Mercy should be held liable for this.

Note that this is a Motion for Summary Judgment brought before the court. Such cases are based upon a claim by one or both parties that issues within the case are settled, or are one-sided, and therefore do not need to be tried. In other words, the party that brings the motion forward claims that there are no facts at hand and hence the case need not go to a jury. Even if it does, the jury should rule in favor of the moving party or the one that brings forth the motion.

Coming back to the case, Mercy argued that because Valarity was not its agent, they could not be held liable. To this, Petri’s response includes references to corporate and tax records that he claims show that Valarity is owned by Mercy.

The judge has ruled Mercy not liable however, because of the lack of sufficient evidence towards Valarity acting as Mercy’s agent. Further, there are no claims made on Mercy’s actions either.

Know your Rights

As a consumer, have you suffered from annoying and unsolicited collection calls? Or do you know someone who has? If yes, know that you can sue the organization or entity making calls for monetary damages to the tune of $500 per violation. In case the violation is found to be willful, you may be paid as much as $1500 as well. You can learn more about TCPA guidelines in detail here.

Get in touch with a professional as soon as you can to understand what constitutes harassment by telephone and what does not.

About Us:

Legal Rights Advocates, PLLC is a law firm that specializes in helping clients who are facing harassment in any form, including telephone communication. Our team of attorneys, over the years, has helped countless clients get protections from debt collection practices that are deemed as unlawful and illegal under the TCPA.

If you are interested in learning more about how to safeguard yourself better from the harassment faced from phone calls, call us at (855) 254-7841 for immediate assistance.

Categories: TCPA

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