Did you get robocalls about 5 or 6 years ago offering a “free cruise” in exchange for short survey? If so, you could easily get US$500 for each of the calls received.
According to NBC News, Florida-based Caribbean Cruise Line and its two co-defendants — Vacation Ownership Marketing Tours and The Berkeley Group — have agreed to pay between $56 and $76 million to settle a class action lawsuit that claimed they made millions of unwanted and illegal robocalls between August 2011 and August 2012 in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
More than a million people may be eligible for that money, but here’s the catch — you have to file a claim in order to be included in the settlement. And the deadline is February 1. You can do that online at FreeCruiseCallClassAction.net.
“It is the largest TCPA settlement ever,” said Chris Dore with Edelson PC, the Chicago law firm that brought this case.
“The money is available, but it does require consumers to take the very easy step of filling out an online claim form.”
Regina Stone, who lives in Louisiana, is one of the named plaintiffs in the class action suit. She told NBC News she still remembers getting those robocalls.
“They’d call my cell phone and they’d call my landline at all times of day and night. The calls just would not stop,” she said.
“It was more than annoying, believe me, and I was furious because I couldn’t get them to stop. They shouldn’t have done this. No one is above the law.”
Caribbean Cruise Line launched a major robocall campaign in August 2011 to landlines and cellphones. The automated messages told people they would get a free cruise if they took a short survey. Here’s an example of one of those calls:
“Hi, this is Bill from Political Opinions of America. This upcoming presidential election is the most important election in modern history. Your opinion and your vote matters. We are conducting a short 30-second survey and would like your valuable input. For participating, you will receive a two-day cruise for two people to the Bahamas at no charge, courtesy of one of our supporters.”
The lawsuit claimed Political Opinions of America was “not a legitimate survey organization or even a real company.
“It was simply a made-up name, a pretext for unsolicited telemarketing.”
Those who responded were connected to a live operator at Caribbean Cruise Line who attempted to upsell them a more expensive vacation package that required the travelers sit through a timeshare presentation at a resort owned by The Berkeley Group.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Illinois, claimed the survey was simply a smokescreen for a sales pitch and therefore was not exempt from the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
The lawyers in the class action lawsuit have the names of about 900,000 people they know received the bogus Political Opinions of America robocalls. These people have already been sent a notice or contacted by email about the settlement.
“Tens of thousands have responded so far and we believe there are a lot more individuals out there who can be part of this settlement,” attorney Chris Dore told NBC News.
Even if you weren’t contacted by the settlement administrator, you may still be included if:
Your landline or cellphone number appears inthe defendants’ records
You received one of these automated survey calls and one of the numberson this list is in your phone records
You believe you got one of these calls and can prove it with some type of documentation, such as caller ID or phone records, a recording of the call or even a screen shot of the call log on your cellphone
If you received three calls or fewer and your landline or cell number is in the defendants’ records or you submit proof you received the call, it’s presumed that you received three calls. You will receive payment for three calls (up to $1,500), unless challenged by the settlement administrator.
If you received more than three calls and can prove it, you can file a claim for each one. Some people, Dore said, have already filed claims for more than 10 calls.
Keep in mind: You didn’t have to take the survey or sign up for the cruise to be part of this settlement. That’s because the act of placing these robocalls is a violation of law. You can find out more about the settlement and fill out a claim form at FreeCruiseCallClassAction.net. If you need help filing a claim or obtaining phone records, call the claims settlement administrators at 866-354-3015.
A final settlement approval hearing is set for Feb. 23 when the court is expected to officially sign off on all of this.