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Global Tel*Link Agrees to Pay $8.8 Million in Class-action Settlement

by Derek Gilna

Global Tel*Link (GTL), the telecom company known for exploiting prisoners with high phone rates to maintain communication with their friends and family members, agreed on March 27, 2017 to pay $8.8 million to settle a federal lawsuit alleging violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA).

GTL was accused of placing automated “robo-calls” to the cell phones of people who received calls from prisoners that did not go through; such “notification calls” used prerecorded messages “to explain in sum and substance that inmate calls could not be completed and/or billed, and that the called party could take certain steps to arrange for billing and/or set up a prepaid account.”

The lawsuit argued that GTL’s notification calls made to cell phones without the prior consent of the call recipients were in violation of federal law. “When Congress enacted the TCPA, it found that ...’banning’ such calls made without consent was ‘the only effective means of protecting telephone consumers from this nuisance and privacy invasion,’” the complaint stated.

Included in the class are all persons who received a notification call from GTL on a cell phone from December 5, 2010 to the date of the settlement. Class members are eligible to receive “a pro rata share” of the $8.8 million settlement fund “after payment of notice and administration costs, any Court-ordered award of attorneys’ fees and expenses, and any Court-ordered incentive award for Plaintiff.”

There are an estimated 1.8 million members in the nationwide class.

As noted in the settlement agreement, GTL’s business model “provides collect-call services to inmates at jails and prisons throughout the United States. The service requires that the called party establish a billing relationship with GTL in order to pay for and receive calls from an inmate. When an inmate attempts to place a collect call to a telephone number for which there is no pre-established billing relationship with GTL, the call attempt will trigger a separate prerecorded ‘Notification Call’ that tells the called party that they need to set up an account in order to pay for and receive the call.” [citations omitted].

Pursuant to the settlement, GTL agreed to modify its practices to avoid future violations of the TCPA. Specifically, the company will “include in all Notification Calls an interactive-voice and/or key-activated opt-out mechanism that the called party may use to opt-out of all future Notification Calls.... [and] a toll-free number that can be used to opt-out.”

The district court granted preliminary approval of the class-action settlement in April 2017, and a final approval hearing is scheduled for December 4, 2017. See: Lee v. Global Tel*Link, U.S.D.C. (C.D. Cal.), Case No. 2:15-cv-03464-ODW-PLA. 

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Related legal case

Lee v. Global Tel*Link