Why Am I Getting so Many Robocalls From Telemarketers?
The number of spam calls in the US is growing very, very fast. In fact, based on FCC statistics we estimate that 63% of all calls in the US are spam calls. This is why more and more people are starting to sue telemarketers who keep calling them.
Can I Sue a Telemarketer or Robocaller?
Short answer: yes. The law gives you many legitimate reasons for suing someone who is calling you without your permission. There are two different types of laws that protect you here: laws against automated calling and laws against unsolicited calling.
Automated calling is when a person or company uses a machine (software or physical device) to automatically dial the digits for your number. This kind of call is prohibited by a federal law called the TCPA, if you register yourself onto the Do-Not-Call registry. The process to do that and stop these calls is below. Every time a company calls you after you register, they are liable to pay you up to $1,500 per call without limit on the number of calls! The best news: some states push the limit even higher.
Unsolicited calling is when a telemarketer calls you without your permission, particularly when they repeat this behavior repeatedly. This includes automated / robocalls but also humans calling you repeatedly. The laws vary state to state, but as an example, California law allows a person who has received an "unsolicited" phone call to sue the caller in small claims court and win $1,000 civil penalty from the company in addition to an injunction.
How Hard is it to Sue a Telemarketer or Robocaller?
You might think it's hard to do a lawsuit, particularly if you've never done one before. But in reality, every state in the country has a small claims court where ordinary people can go an explain their case to a judge without a lawyer. You can easily and affordably file in small claims court using an online service - it usually only takes 10 minutes. Or even do it yourself if you have the patience to carefully fill out, print, mail, and file court forms.
The harder part is to figure out the legal name and address of the company or person who is repeatedly calling you. This is important because it is required to have the legal information of the person you're suing in court, and you'll need it to collect the judgement.
BUT if you can find that information, you can get paid very quickly. In fact, in most cases, a Dispute demand letter gets the company to mail back a check in less than two weeks, because they don't want to have to lose in court. Most of these companies know they have broken the law and just want to move on. In addition, most of them will actually stop calling you. If they don't, you can just sue them again.
How Do I Find the Name and Address of a Telemarketer Company to Sue Them?
Method 1: Just ask them.
The most common way to figure out who to sue is to pick up the phone, ask them what company they're calling from, and where that company is based. That's enough information to find the telemarketing company's registered agent online, which you can use to sue them in court. Ask them for:
- Name of caller. Getting the name of the person you're talking to can help you look up the company name on google or linkedin later.
- Name of the robocaller's company or organization. You can be clever about this by saying something like "Oh that sounds like a great service, what's the name of your organization?"
- Sometimes, the caller will work for a different company that is contracted by the main organization. In general, you want to sue the company doing the actual calling, but in the worst case, you can start by suing the company that paid for it and get them to give you the information of the company they hired to actually call you.
- Location of the telemarketing company (state). This is a bit hard, but generally, you want to get at least the state they're calling from. This is important because you usually have to sue a company in the State and County that the company is based in. That's not always true of course - if the telemarketing company has an office or other presence in your state, you can sue them in your state.
- You can say something like "Out of curiosity, where are you guys based?"
- In general, the more casual you make your conversation, the more likely they are to give you the information you need to sue them.
Interestingly, most telemarketers will actually be happy to tell you, as long as they think it'll help them close the sale they think they're making. People who work robocallers like telemarketers are usually paid on commission, so they really want to try to make the call.
This does mean you have to answer the phone and talk to a telemarketer, and if they're robocalling you, the marketer might keep calling back in the future. But don't worry. Once you sue a robocaller even once, they will somehow magically remember to stop calling you from then on.
Method 2: Get a Call Blocking App
AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile all have official free apps on iOS and Android that automatically block some calls. The good thing is that after they block the call, they'll actually show you some data on who the caller was, and sometimes they can identify the caller.
Additionally, you can use their enhanced caller ID features to get a better name for the corporation that called you, and use that to find the robocaller's corporate registered address.
Method 3: Look up the Owner of the Phone Number that Called You
In general, there's no reliable way to find the owner of a phone number every time because of privacy laws to prevent stalking or harrasment. But sometimes, you can find the telemarketing company by just searching google for their phone number. Here's a suggestion: search the phone number with quotes to force an exact match. For example search: "999-999-9999" instead of 999-999-9999.
Suing Out of Country Telemarketers
There's one big catch with suing robocallers: you generally cannot use the American small claims courts to sue a company or person who's not located in the United States. This is because small claims courts only have jurisdiction in specific geographic area, and that doesn't extend outside the US. In fact, you can't generally sue someone in any American civil court if they're not in the US, or in one of few allied countries to the US. You would have to go to the country they're based in and sue them there, based on the laws of that country - this is obviously not worth it.
Is It Worth Doing All of This?
Your time is valuable, just like everyone else's. A lot of people read about this process, get excited about suing someone, and then get discouraged because they think it'll be a lot of work.
Here's how we think about it at Dispute: when you get a robocall, they're wasting a little bit of your time. If you can get even 1 in 100 of those callers to give you their name and location in the US, you can get paid $1000s pretty easily.
There are hundreds of news stories about people suing robocallers and getting thousands (and even millions) in court winnings from judgement against robocaller companies. With a little patience and determination, you can do it too.
How to Start Suing a Telemarketer
Send a Demand Letter
After you have the address information of the robocaller, you can look up the lawful penalty you're owed and use it to write a demand letter. At Dispute, we see our demand letters settle 60-70% of cases without ever filing a lawsuit, particularly when a corporation is being sued. You should send this by mail with a tracking number because it's more official, and more likely to get to the legal department who will have the authority to pay you to settle the case. You can do this yourself, or just buy one of our Dispute Official Demand Letter templates and fill that out - 2-Day Priority Mailing with Tracking is included in our price.
File Court Paperwork
If you end up in the 30-40% of cases where the demand letter doesn't work, you can prepare and file the court paperwork for small claims court next. The upside is that you can typically do this yourself and don't need to send much evidence with your filing. You just need to know the name of the party you're suing, the amount you're suing for, and answer some basic yes/no questions.
Again, you can do this yourself, or use Dispute's Small Claims Filing platform which includes online paperwork prep, live online notarization, and online filing.
Serve the Defendant
After the court accepts your paperwork, you have to serve your court paperwork to the defendant to officially notify them they're being sued. This is also another point where people will often realize they should just settle before going to court.
This is the one step you aren't allowed to do yourself. To avoid bias, the court requires you to get someone else to serve your case and file a proof of service in court (simple statement that they swear they served the defendant). The free way to do this is to get a friend or family member who isn't part of the case to help you. The hassle-free professional way to serve court papers is to hire a process server and let them take care of it.
Taking the First Step in Your Lawsuit
If all of this work seems complicated or daunting, rest assured that its easier than it seems at first. 2.7 million small claims court cases are filed every year in the US and that number is only growing as more people realize how easy it is to enforce their legal rights in court.
There's no rush. But when you're ready to sue a telemarketer and join the fight against robocalls, you can get start with a simple demand letter online.