TCPA litigation has risen 1,272% since 2010. While some companies that flout the law are finally being held accountable for bad business practices, many well-intentioned firms have been swept up in the rising tide of lawsuits. To attorneys seeking easy payouts and deceitful plaintiffs who have learned to game the system, any company is a potential target–even those acting in good faith.
The TCPA is infamous within the legal realm, earning the mock acronym “Total Cash for Plaintiff’s Attorneys.” And at least one plaintiff, Craig Cunningham of Tennessee, has gotten clever enough to cut the attorney from the equation entirely and keep all the cash for himself–and he keeps winning, even without a lawyer by his side. This calls into question who the TCPA really benefits and should be a grim warning for any business using call centers or SMS programs subject to the TCPA.
As Do-Not-Call Protection reported earlier this year, Cunningham started his game by acquiring thousands of dollars of debt so he could use the TCPA, FDCOA, and FCRA laws to target debt collectors prone to violations. His litigation techniques proved so successful he began authoring blog posts on finance forums with titles like “TCPA enforcement for fun and profit up to 3k per call” to share his findings and victories. He claims he is working on a full book entitled Tales of a Debt Collection Terrorist: How I Beat the Credit Industry at its own Game.
Cunningham has filed 83 lawsuits since 2014, including 19 this year alone. According to Forbes, Cunningham has expanded beyond debt collection lawsuits. Now, he has pursued litigation in a variety of industries, most recently targeting home security providers and resellers. This means scammers like Cunningham are now targeting promotional outreach as well as debt collection, exposing countless businesses to what Forbes dubs “phony lawsuits.”
To make matters worse for legitimate businesses using call centers, Cunningham is seeking to make his “profession” as a scammer even easier. As ComplianceDNC reports, he has submitted two petitions to the FCC requesting even more stringent written consent be required by the TCPA. This would expose many more businesses to unintended violations by making the regulations even more challenging to comply with and difficult to keep up with, as this would be the second major change to the law in five years.
One might assume that the odds of being targeted by one of Cunningham’s twenty or so lawsuits per year is too slim to be a real matter of concern. Unfortunately, Cunningham is not an anomaly. Just last year, Legal NewsLine reported on a woman named Melody Stoops who had 35 cell phones in her name for the purpose of capitalizing on the same TCPA loopholes as Cunningham.
With blog posts and books in circulation detailing how to take advantage of the TCPA and scammers attempting to rewrite the law to their benefit via petitions, using a call center without acquiring explicit documentation of consent for every call is risky business.
TCPA litigation has surged in the past 5 years. Settlements resulting from even a single unsolicited text message or phone call can cost businesses millions of dollars. Check out our TCPA settlements page to view recent examples.