Debt collector named in TCPA class action for robocall

Posted on: October 28th, 2013 by Steve Larson

Light Blue Icon "Cell Phone"An Arizona woman filed a putative class action on October 1, 2013, against Progressive Financial Services Inc. accusing the collection agency of breaching the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by autodialing her cellphone in pursuit of someone else’s debt.  Denise Ortiz says the company made an unsolicited call to her cellphone last month using an automatic telephone dialing system that played a pre-recorded message seeking to collect that debt, which wound up costing her because her phone service charges for all incoming calls.

She seeks to represent a nationwide class of people who received unsolicited, autodialed, recorded messages from Progressive Financial within the past four years, seeking $500 for negligent violation of the TCPA and up to three times that amount if the alleged breach is found to be knowing or willful, according to the complaint.

In her complaint, Ortiz relies on a May 2012 Seventh Circuit ruling in Soppet et al. v. Enhanced Recovery Co. LLC that dealt with robocalls placed to the wrong party.  In the first appellate ruling tackling the issue, the Seventh Circuit ruled that Enhanced Recovery, a debt collector hired by AT&T could not continue to call the cellphone numbers of consenting debtors after those numbers had been reassigned.

The appeals panel said Section 227 of the TCPA uses the phrase “called party” to clearly refer to the current subscriber of a phone number, rejecting Enhanced Recovery’s argument that the phrase refers instead to the intended recipient of the call.

Ortiz also relies on the Ninth Circuit’s ruling last October in Meyer v. Portfolio Recovery Associates as support for the validity of her claims.  In that case, an appeals panel upheld the provisional certification of a class action accusing Portfolio Recovery, a debt collection agency, of autodialing debtors without their consent, saying the claims raised met the commonality, typicality and adequacy requirements for certification.  The Ninth Circuit ruling also upheld a preliminary injunction restraining PRA from using an autodialer system to place calls to cellphones with numbers that were obtained via an information gathering process known as skip-tracing.

The case is Ortiz v. Progressive Financial Services Inc., case number 2:13-cv-01866, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.