While consumers are waiting on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and telcos to effectively combat robocalls, one company has devised an app that allows consumers to actually sue robocallers for violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)
The app is called Robo Revenge, and it’s the offspring of DoNotPay, a robot lawyer app that allows consumers to, in the company’s own words, “fight corporations, beat bureaucracy, find hidden money, and sue anyone.”
Joshua Browder, DoNotPay’s founder and CEO, told Motherboard that since big companies have failed to protect consumers from robocalls, consumers have to take matters into their own hands.
“Consumers have to protect themselves,” Browder said. “The only way the problem will end is if the robocallers start losing money every time they call someone.”
So, you wanna make ‘em pay?
Robo Revenge appears to be all business, and its modus operandi appears simple enough.
Step one is that the consumer is automatically added to the Federal Trade Commission’s Do Not Call Registry.
Once that’s done, the consumer gets a virtual DoNotPay burner credit card (a disposable digital credit card issued in DoNotPay’s name that’s encrypted and masks the consumer’s personal data) to use when the consumer receives robocalls.
Using the robocaller’s contact information, Robo Revenge then guides the consumer through the process of suing the robocaller.
Under TCPA, consumers have the right to sue for up to $3,000, much like small claims court. Robo Revenge does its part by generating court documents and demand letters to help consumers file their claim.
Browder contends that lawyers are already making millions from suing robocallers, but the average person generally doesn’t understand the laws tied to this kind of litigation and don’t know they actually have the power to take control of these situations.
The deep end of the pool
While the basics of Robo Revenge sound simple enough, and TCPA does actually give consumers the right to sue, the number of hoops a consumer has to jump through to get a settlement from a robocaller can vary from state to state. Some of the information required to make a case may also be more than most people are willing to part with.
“Think very carefully about any decision to take legal action against a telemarketer,” cautions the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. “If you choose to sue them, you will be required to provide your address to them! Do you really want to do this?”
“Further, the proceeds you collect may be taxable (this is covered in IRS Publication 525). If you collect a substantial amount of money (more than $600), the telemarketer may need to obtain your Social Security number for purposes of issuing a Form 1099 if they agree to pay damages.”