Cunningham is a part of a growing number of people using the intricacies of federal law to turn the tables on their creditors and the collection agencies they often use to recoup their money.
You can now add Seattle attorney Mark Arthur's name to that list. He's suing the 500-pound gorilla of the student loan industry, Sallie Mae Corp., for what he alleges were dozens of illegal phone calls.
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 prohibits debt-collection services from using autodialers to contact you, the debtor, if you haven't already provided them your contact info. And, according to the lawsuit, in 2008 the Federal Communications Commission concluded that receiving automated calls is more annoying for customers than calls from actual humans. That's why they've prohibited debt-collection services from using them unless the debtor has given consent.
Arthur, a Seattle University School of Law alum, says he received around $25,000 in loans from Sallie Mae to help cover his school costs. He graduated in 2003, and afterward fell "slightly behind" on his student loan payments.
"Like a lot of lawyers, the economy hit me hard," he says. That's when his voice mail began filling up with messages from his creditors. Arthur says that he's never provided his cell-phone number to Sallie Mae. Nonetheless, he's received dozens of robo-calls from entities identifying themselves as Sallie Mae Corp. Now he's suing for $500 per every call received that violated the TCPA, plus another $1,500 per for damages.
But lest you think that Arthur's just out for himself, know that he's only the representative in a larger legal action against Sallie Mae. Filed earlier this week, the class action suit is being handled locally by Terrell Marshall & Daudt, along with firms in San Francisco and New York.
Arthur doesn't know exactly how many others have jumped on the bandwagon, just that any one of Sallie Mae's estimated 10 million customers who have had a similar experience can. So, debtors, your ticket to semi-financial security awaits.
Asked to comment on the lawsuit, Sallie Mae spokesperson Martha Holler says in a statement that, "This case is an issue about consent--and when and how it is given." Adding, "We strongly disagree with the plaintiff's novel interpretation of current requirements. Our policy is to comply with the TCPA, and we intend to vigorously defend this matter."