Robo Calls Cost Time Warner $225,000

John Lister's picture

A federal court has awarded a woman $229,500 compensation after a cable company unlawfully called her cellphone 153 times in less than a year. Time Warner Cable continued to make the automated "robo calls" even after Araceli King complained.

The court ruled Time Warner Cable had violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, passed in 1991. The issue wasn't simply that the company made the calls without permission, but that they were automated.

Robo Calls Illegal Without Express Permission

With the so-called robo calls, a computer automatically dials a home phone number. If and when somebody picks up, it either plays a recorded marketing message, or connects the recipient to call center staff. In some cases, when staff aren't immediately available, the recipient simply hears silence.

An amendment to the law in 2009 means it's now illegal for a company to make robo calls unless it has the express permission of a customer to do so. Giving permission must be voluntary and can't be a condition of getting a product or service. The only exceptions are for political campaigning and charitable fundraising.

Normally, the standard penalty for making a robo call without permission is $500 for each call. Judge Alvin Hellerstein opted to hand down the maximum penalty of $1,500 per call because of Time Warner's "particularly egregious" actions.

Calls Continued Even After Lawsuit

The company made many of the calls to King after she had contacted them to point out that that the customer they were actually trying to reach was no longer using the cellphone number in question. To make things worse, 74 of the calls actually came after King had begun legal action.

Time Warner Cable's argued in its defense that it genuinely believed it was calling the previous number of the user, a customer who had given permission for robo calls, and thus that it was not knowingly breaking the law. (Source:

Judge Hellerstein had no sympathy for Time Warner and said that the maximum penalty is exactly what should be expected by any company that "robo dials the same person hundreds of times over many months without pausing to wonder why it cannot reach him." (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Are you plagued by robo calls? Have you noticed any difference since the law change in 2009? Should more companies be hit with stiff fines for violations?

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Dennis Faas's picture

Since I switched over to VOIP, I am able to whitelist only the people I want calling me, and everyone else has to press a random number to ring through. Since most telemarketers use the robo call system, I rarely ever get telemarketers because their system is unable to press random numbers to get through to my "extension". And even if they do get through, I can blacklist a number and prevent them from ever reaching me again at that number. All of this simply isn't possible with my previous phone company (Bell), and I'm paying 1/4 the price per month for my phone bill.

Kris's picture

Dennis, this sounds like a great feature. May I ask what VOIP service you are using, or if you aren't comfortable with that, what can I google to find VOIPs with this feature? TIA.

Dennis Faas's picture

I'm using Callcentric ( - $12.90 a month for USA and Canada toll free + a ton of features like call display, voicemail, caller treatments (which does the whitelisting, blacklisting, etc).

Stuart Berg's picture

For everyone else using VOIP that does not have the capability that you have (an "extension") OR does not want everyone calling them to have to additionally press a random number to reach them, there is NoMoRobo ( It intercepts and prevents robo calls. If anyone happens to have Ooma VOIP, it is integrated into Ooma here (, but I believe you have to be subscribed to Ooma Premier for blacklisting service.

Consumers Union (the publisher of Consumer Reports) has been on a campaign since February 2015 to end robo calls ( Consumers Union believes that it is the telcos that must intercept the robo calls and stop them if the person being called has not "opted in" to receive robo calls. The results have not been encouraging. You can read about the results and what the telcos are saying here:

tarza177_2334's picture

Collection agencies make Robo calls as a matter of policy.

RDB's picture

I believe every verified recipient who receives these calls against their will should be awarded 100 dollars per call rather than the government getting to keep the fines. Why should the government be paid for your aggravation and inconvenience? They are not the ones who run across a room or are awakened from sound sleep, or pause eating dinner to answer a call from one of these scum bags. I also think there needs to be a surefire way to track these useless sacks of shit, even when they spoof their number so you get a false indication on your caller ID. If I were to see on the news that one of these companies had their headquarters burned down or their people shot, it wouldn't piss me off at all.