California dealer agrees to $2.5 million settlement of ringless voicemail lawsuit

Marketing

A California dealership group and a former customer have agreed to a $2.5 million class-action settlement in a case surrounding ringless voicemails — a practice that is popular among auto dealers.

The allegations against Moss Bros. Auto Group, based in Riverside, Calif., claim the company continuously used ringless voicemails that amounted to “aggressive unsolicited marketing” that violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

Ringless voicemails are phone calls that deliver messages directly to a consumer’s voicemail and do not trigger a typical ring on an individual’s phone. The plaintiff said the messages are “essentially the same as the method for transmitting text messages.”

Due to their nature, ringless voicemails cannot be blocked in the same way other unsolicited calls can. Some car dealers have adopted the method as a way to telemarket to customers without being accused of violating the law.

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act prohibits pre-recorded or automatic telephone dialing systems from contacting consumers without prior written consent. Dealerships have claimed the voicemails do not fall under the act, as they are not traditional phone calls; politicians and legal professionals have disagreed.

Jamal Johnson, a recipient of ringless voicemails from Moss Bros. starting in 2019, claimed the messages fit the description of communications outlawed in the act. He said he had not given prior written consent but continued to receive the voicemails from February 2019 through October 2019.

Johnson filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in December 2019. The lawsuit was later certified as a class action and eventually grew to 2,385 members, according to court documents.

On June 24, the court approved the $2.5 million settlement, which includes $625,700 in attorney fees and a $5,000 service payment for Johnson. Each class member will be eligible for an estimated $46.

The settlement also requires Moss’ dealerships to “adopt policies and procedures regarding compliance with the TCPA and the National Do Not Call Registry.”

Attorneys representing Moss Bros. did not return a call from Automotive News seeking comment on the case.

Bloomberg Law and JD Supra previously reported the settlement.

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