For anyone whose life was interrupted by a blaring robocall offering a “free” Caribbean cruise, your ship may have just come in.
Caribbean Cruise Line has agreed to pay between $56 million and $76 million to settle a class action suit alleging the company and its co-defendants made millions of unwanted robocalls offering the free cruise trips in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
Filed more than four years ago in Chicago federal court, the class-action lawsuit was brought by Chicago-area residents Grant Birchmeier and Stephen Parkes, who alleged Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Caribbean Cruise Line illegally contacted them multiple times on their cellphones. The settlement class includes consumers who received one or more of the automated phone calls offering a free cruise in exchange for taking a political survey between August 2011 and August 2012.
The lawsuit called the survey a “scam” and a “marketing tool with no legitimate political basis.”
Callers who completed the survey were immediately switched to a Caribbean Cruise Line representative, according to the lawsuit. Those who booked the free cruise were then pitched upgraded accommodations if they attended a sales presentation for resort condominiums owned by Florida-based Berkley Group, a co-defendant in the lawsuit.
Caribbean Cruise Line does not operate its own ships, but placed passengers on Celebration Cruise Line, based in the same Fort Lauderdale office building, according to the lawsuit.
An attorney representing Caribbean Cruise Line did not immediately return a request for comment Friday.
In 2012, the Federal Communications Commission revised its rules to require telemarketers to obtain prior written consent from consumers before robocalling them, to no longer allow an “established business relationship” as an exemption and to provide an “opt-out” mechanism during each robocall.
Parkes received nine robocalls from Political Opinions of America, an operating unit of Caribbean Cruise Line, despite repeatedly trying to remove himself from the call list through automated prompts, the lawsuit said.
Many members of the class have been notified, and any person with a valid claim is entitled to receive up to $500 per call — until the allocated settlement funds are exhausted.
Claimants whose numbers do not show up in the defendants’ records will need to provide a phone bill or other evidence of receiving the calls.
A final settlement approval hearing is set for Feb. 23.
More information can be found on the settlement website: www.freecruisecallclassaction.net