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How to sue telemarketers in small claims court

By Gray Hall - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Most of us have gotten those annoying calls from telemarketers. If you have received the calls and have tried all you can to make them stop, lawyers say you can take legal action.  

If telemarketers are constantly harassing you, attorneys say you  may be entitled to hundreds of dollars. You can actually sue telemarketers if it's proven they are breaking the law by constantly calling.

Attorney, John Gayle is in the business of helping people. As a Consumer Attorney with The Consumer Law Group, he's gotten lots of calls for his help -- some of those from people complaining that telemarketers just won't stop calling.

He says, "the calls, contacts, and communications and solicitations for business became so annoying that Congress decided we had to put some restrictions on them."

That's where the no call registry comes in. It was created to help stop the annoying calls. People sign up and tele-marketers are supposed to stop calling. But if the calls don't stop coming in, legal experts say you have the power to take action -- and you could make some money in the process if telemarketers don't stop calling you.

Gayle says, "they are allowed one violation for free, it's kind of like every dog gets one bite." He says, if they surpass the one, so called "oops call" then you can take them to small claims court, and possibly cash in. 

He says, "you are entitled to $500 per call, if they did this willfully it's up to $1,500 per call."

Gayle says before you get too excited about a chance to make some cash, you need to make sure you are prepared. He says, first log the calls -- note the date, time and name of the company that keeps calling.

Next, make sure you have a full understanding of the law for small claims court. Finally, prepare to present your case before a judge. 

Martin Wegbreit, with the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society says, "it's simply a matter of educating yourself -- education is power."

He says the process to sue in small claims court is not difficult. He  says you'll need about $53,  fill out a couple of forms and you are ready. 

The court even has an interactive web site that will walk you through the process. Wegbreit says you may get paid before you even step into a courtroom.

He says, "in the overwhelming majority of these cases, I think the matters will settle out of court before a trial date ever takes places." Gayle says if you don't want to deal with preparing a case -- you can always contact an attorney and charge their fees to the company you are suing.

We didn't find any local cases, but we did find one case back in 2005 from Newport News, where the state sued a company called real time international for violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act . The company lost -- a  judge ordered them to pay $200,000 for breaking the law.

Gayle says as people learn that they can sue, we may see more cases against tele-marketers in court. 

He says, "the idea is not to make me money or the make the caller $500 but that if enough people start exercising their rights under the Federal and Virginia Law maybe these people will stop."

It usually takes about 21 days before you can get your case in front of a judge in small claims court. One thing to note is that there is a statue of limitations -- you have four years to file the suit.

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