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Debt Collector That Refused to Take Calls from Hearing-Impaired Callers Settles Suit

January 09, 2013

Another debt collection firm is in trouble, but this time it’s not for harassing a caller: it’s for refusing to take their calls. The U.S. Justice Department recently approved a settlement by a company called Peroutka and Peroutka, a law firm that represents creditors. The company was sued for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

According to court papers, the Justice Department sued Peroutka on behalf of hearing impaired individuals, saying the company refused to accept relay calls when the complainants called to resolve disputes involving alleged unpaid debts. This is a violation of the ADA.

Peroutka admitted guilt, acknowledging that it had directed its employees to refuse to accept calls made by individuals with hearing disabilities through relay services and, instead, directed the callers to call back when a manager was available. Peroutka employees followed these instructions, refusing to take relay calls and telling callers using the relay service they had to call back when a manager was available to take the call.

Telecommunications Relay Service, also known as TRS, Relay Service, or IP-Relay, or Web-based relay services, is an operator service that allows people who are deaf, hard-of-hearing or speech-disabled to place calls to standard telephone users via a keyboard or assistive device.

Title III of the ADA requires public accommodations – that includes law firms -- to make reasonable modifications to their policies, practices and procedures when necessary to afford equal access to people with disabilities, “unless doing so would fundamentally alter the goods or services provided.”

According to the terms of the settlement, Peroutka will pay $30,000 in compensation to the complainants. The firm will also be required to adopt and implement a new policy for ensuring that the firm can effectively communicate with individuals with disabilities, according to the website JDSupra Law News.

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Edited by Brooke Neuman

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