Score another big win for the trial bar against survey, opinion and marketing research.

A settlement agreement has been reached in a class action lawsuit that alleged Gallup violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) by calling cellular telephones using an automatic telephone dialing system (autodialer) without prior express consent. Gallup has agreed to provide a $12 million dollar settlement fund. Gallup denies any violation or that it did anything wrong.

The law suit was filed by Kurt Soto on behalf of himself and a class that consists of all persons of the United States to whom Gallup placed a call to that person’s cell phone using an automatic telephone dialing system during the four years prior to the filing of the complaint. The complaint alleged that over the past four years, Gallup placed millions of automated “market research” calls in violation of the TCPA. Gallup allegedly caused consumers actual harm: by consumers having to deal with the annoyance that comes with unsolicited phone calls, and because consumers often have to pay for “minutes” used.

Soto's Allegations
Soto alleged that during the month of July 2013, he began receiving unsolicited calls on his cell phone. He claimed that: when returning the calls, an automated voice announced that the call had been made by Gallup for the purposes of “polling” him on political and social issues; the calls were made using an automatic telephone dialing system; and he had never had any previous contact with Gallup.

Class Allegations
The class alleged that Gallup placed millions of robodialed calls to a bulk list of phone numbers, including Soto and the class members. These calls were placed using an automatic telephone dialing system that had the capacity to store or produce numbers and dial them at random, in sequential order, or from a database. The class claims that Gallup obtained Solo and class members’ phone numbers by using a computer to generate numbers at random.

Additional thoughts
Unfortunately, TCPA lawsuits are becoming more frequent, including against research companies. The new Federal Communication Commission Declaratory Ruling and Order will only make these suits more prevalent. Researchers must strive to comply as best they can with the TCPA to avoid costly lawsuits like Gallup’s. Marketing Research Association (MRA) members can refer to our detailed TCPA analysis and compliance suggestions and initial Q&A about the new FCC Order.

This information is not intended and should not be construed as or substituted for legal advice. It is provided for informational purposes only. It is advisable to consult with your attorney on the precise scope and interpretation of any laws/regulation/legislation and their impact on your particular business.