Cook County Record

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Argosy U. sued over claims its marketing calls to cell phones violated federal law

By Scott Holland | Jul 10, 2015


UPDATE: According to federal court records, the plaintiff, on Sept. 24, 2015, agreed to dismiss his lawsuit with prejudice, and the defendant agreed at the same time to allow the putative class action to be voluntarily dismissed without prejudice.

A for-profit institute of higher education being sued for placing telemarketing calls to mobile phones has asked to move the case to a higher authority.

In early June, Anthony J. Gerhardt filed a class action complaint in Cook County Circuit Court against Argosy Education Group, which runs Argosy University. About a month later, Argosy has filed a notice to remove the case to federal court.

Gerhardt accused Argosy of making unsolicited telemarketing calls to thousands of cell phones across the country, a practice he says violates the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act. He cites “aggravation, nuisance and invasion of privacy” that come with such calls, as well as mobile minutes recipients of the calls may be charged for by their cell phone providers.

Gerhardt lives in Utah. Argosy is an Illinois corporation, though its headquarters are in Pittsburgh. It offers online education and has physical campus locations in 13 states, including two in Illinois - one in Schaumburg and another on North Michigan Avenue in Chicago. The initial complaint states the phone calls in question originated from Argosy’s Chicago administrative offices. He notes parent company Education Management Corporation also maintains a substantial call center in Arizona.

The complaint details Argosy’s automatic calling strategy and equipment, components of which are “capable of making numerous calls simultaneously (all without human intervention.)” Gerhardt said he personally received seven calls from Argosy in a day and a half in April, and received calls after he requested they stop. Upon answering one call, he recounted heraring a long pause while waiting to be connected to a live operator. That person said he was calling from Argosy and tried to persuade Gerhardt to apply to one of the school’s programs.

Gerhardt said he neither gave his number to Argosy nor had a prior relationship to the school, which his complaint alleges is common among the thousands of people Argosy has allegedly called with its automatic dialing equipment. His suit includes references to complaints he found from other people similarly frustrated with Argosy from, a website dedicated to helping people track phone numbers they don’t recognize.

“Argosy calling to try to sucker more people in,” one user is quoted as having written on the complaint website. “They have been spam calling me for months. I have asked to be put on a do not call list and to be taken off of any other call lists…”

“Kept getting these calls too and finally called back and it was Argosy University,” another allegedly wrote. “I’m in the process of applying to clinical psychology programs and made the mistake of contacting this school about their program, and now they seem to be stalking me! Scary. Can’t believe [their] programs are APA accredited. Hopefully they take me off their phone list otherwise I may need to follow up with legal action for harrasment (sic).”

Gerhardt has requested a jury trial and asked the court to certify a class action, with him serving as class representative and his lawyers - Edelson, of Chicago, and Hughes Ellzey, of Houston - as class counsel. He also requested actual and statutory damages and an injunction preventing all future unsolicited calls.

Argosy’s motion to remove to federal court notes Gerhardt’s complaint alleges a violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, a federal statute for which legal precedent holds is subject to federal jurisdiction, Argosy argued.

Representing Argosy are Timothy R. Carraher, of Reed Smith, Chicago, and Casey Laffey, of Reed Smith, New York.

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