By Jim Donovan
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- She says they kept calling, trying to collect a debt that she didn't owe. Now a Philadelphia woman is taking Comcast to court. Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan tells us about the law she hopes will be on her side and what you need to know.
These days even the sound of a ringing phone puts Kia Elder on edge. She says, "Ring, ring, ring. You think it's something important. It's the Comcast people harassing you for something you don't owe." Elder says she asked the Comcast callers to stop, but the calls kept coming. She says, "I'd say like seven, eight times a day, sometimes more than that."
According to Elder the calls were related to a Comcast bill that was paid off years ago and those calls to her cell phone were adding up. She says, "The incoming calls, I have to pay for. Every time they call, yeah I have to pay for it, it goes straight to the bill. They catch your voice, then they transfer it to somebody else and you talk to somebody."
"Everybody can understand somebody knocking on your door several times a day, that's harassment. This is the same thing through a cell phone," says Elder's attorney Craig Kimmel. Kimmel has filed suit against the cable giant. He says, "There is a federal law that says calls to a cell phone without consent are forbidden."
It's part of what's known as the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Passed in the 1990's the law was intended mostly to restrict telemarketing calls. But several years ago additional protections were put in place prohibiting companies from calling a cell phone using an automatic telephone dialing system, unless you've agreed to it first. This prohibition includes debt collection calls and Kia Elder says she didn't agree to any calls.
According to Kimmel, "That's why we're filing suit, because Comcast did not have permission to call her and under the facts of this particular case the client said she paid the bill back in 2011 so there really is no reason to call after one time."
Comcast does use third party outsources for debt collection activity. A company spokesman tells 3-On Your Side that they don't comment on pending litigation.
By the way, if companies don't comply with the provisions of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act they could be liable for penalties ranging from $500 to $1,500 per phone call.
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