A California federal judge last week approved a $2.75 million settlement with USCB Inc., an accounts receivable management firm, to end allegations that the company violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
Judge Fernando M. Olguin granted lead plaintiff Brenda Jonssons unopposed motion for preliminary settlement, certifying a nationwide class of people whose cellphones were called by USCB between November 2009 and May 2014 by an autodialer without consent. The deal also compels USCB to partner for five years with Neustar, a company that provides scrubbing services for a call database to determine if a phone number belongs to a cellphone. Neustar then will try to match the name on the account with the name on a debt collection account, according to the settlement. If the names dont match, USCB will take the number out of its dialing system, under the settlement deal. Jonsson filed the lawsuit in November 2013. She specifically alleged USCB repeatedly called her cell phone to collect on another person's debt using an autodialer and an artificial/pre-recorded voice. The case was settled in September. Jonsson called USCB several times to ask the company to stop calling her, but she continued to receive autodialed calls meant for another person, according to the judge. Jonsson also said that telling call recipients to call a certain number to tell USCB that the company had the wrong number and to remove them from the list violated the FDCPA.
According to plaintiff, implicit in this message is the threat that, unless the consumer takes the affirmative step of calling defendant and notifying it of the wrong number or indirectly requesting that the calls stop, defendant will continue to make its autodialed and/or artificial or prerecorded voice calls to the consumers phone, in violation of ... the TCPA, the judge said. An estimated 12,000 U.S. consumers who received a pre-recorded call on their mobile phones from USCB in the 2009-2014 timeframe are entitled to money from the settlement, according to California federal court documents. Class counsel obtained a list of the 12,000 class members by issuing subpoenas to the cellphone companies associated with a list of dialed phone numbers, according to court documents. At least $1.47 million will be distributed among the qualified class members, after attorneys fees and costs are subtracted. The amount per class member will vary based on how many class members file claims, but the motion for certification of the settlement said class members should expect to receive at least $45 each. The plaintiffs were represented by the Consumer Advocacy Center PC. Klinedinst PC represented USCB.
USCB America is the largest privately held receivable and resource management company in California, according to the companys website. The company has more than 300 employees and locations in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Calif., Santa Rosa, Calif. and Henderson, Nev.