The bar was raised for medical debt collectors last summer when the Federal Communications Commission issued a ruling that made it harder to dial patients on their cellphones without their express consent.
Now a California-based hospital chain has become one of the first providers to be sued since the FCC's ruling in July.
The class-action suit targets Prospect Medical Group's Southern California Hospital at Culver City. It alleges that the hospital used an automated dialer to call a patient on her cellphone to collect a debt, and did not have her express consent to do so.
The FCC issued its ruling after the medical-debt collection industry—hoping for more flexibility—asked for greater clarification on the decades-old Telephone Consumer Protection Act to address issues such as auto-dialing cellphones, consent to call and wrong numbers. Instead, the FCC made it clear that debt collectors need express consent before dialing a cellphone and gave little leeway when collectors they reach a number that's been reassigned.
Prospect Medical declined to comment on the specific case, stating it hadn't yet been served with the complaint. However, it said in a statement that it follows necessary practices to obtain consent to call patients on their cellphones.