N.A.M.E.D. News Service

August 13, 1999

AT&T Loses Suit Over Telemarketing Calls

CHARLESTON S.C. - Like most people, Robert Biggerstaff of Charleston doesn’t like being inundated with telemarketing calls. But instead of getting mad, he gets even. Yesterday, he turned the tables on the largest telecommunications company in the world, and won a lawsuit against AT&T for making telemarketing calls to him after being asked to stop.

“This is a great day for consumers, for privacy, and for the right to be free of illegal telemarketing calls” Biggerstaff said. The jury in the case returned its verdict against AT&T in less than 20 minutes after a trial that lasted most of the afternoon. “The jury agreed with us on every point” continued Biggerstaff “and this should send a signal to other telemarketers that continuing to call people who have asked you to stop is illegal, immoral, and is going to cost you.” The jury in the case found that AT&T made at least four more calls to Biggerstaff’s home after he asked them to stop calling in the spring of 1998.

Biggerstaff brought suit under a little known federal law created by South Carolina Senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings in 1991 called the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The law provides that if a consumer asks a telemarketer to stop calling, that the telemarketer must respect that request for 10 years, or pay the consumer $500 in damages for each violation of that request. The same law also prohibits unsolicited advertisements sent to fax machines, also known as “junk faxes,” and telemarketing solicitations by prerecorded messages.

This is apparently the first case AT&T has ever lost under this law and, according to Biggerstaff, the first ever jury trial against a telemerketer. “Most of these cases are heard in small claims court by a judge without a jury. I have never heard of a jury trial under this law before” Biggerstaff explained “but I wanted to put this case before a jury to see what they would say - and they said plenty. There were even two women on the jury who used to be telemarketers and they still agreed with us that what AT&T did was wrong.”

Biggerstaff plans to continue on his crusade against illegal telemarketing, and has several other suits pending. “If enough people decided to stand up for their rights, illegal telemarketers will eventually become extinct” he said.



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