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Tampa couple awarded $1M in bank robocall case

Phone solicitor and collectors may think twice about those harassing calls after a Tampa couple is awarded $1 million.
A sign is posted in front of a Bank of American branch office on January 15, 2014.

Tampa, Florida -- We've all been on the receiving end of those unwanted phone and robocalls.

Well now, a Tampa couple has been awarded more than $1 million in their battle with Bank of America, and the precedent could be a wake-up call for solicitors and collectors.

It's not like there were a handful of them.

"Unrelenting," says Joyce Coniglio.

"They treated us very badly," says her husband Nelson. "No two ways about it."

Over the course of four years, Nelson and Joyce Coniglio say Bank of America relentlessly badgered them after the couple had fallen behind on their house payments. An estimated 700 phone calls from the bank's mortgage department.

The calls that kept coming even after the Coniglios had asked the bank to stop and told them they were represented by an attorney.

"And he put in the paperwork to cease-and-desist this harassment," said Nelson.

The Coniglios sued, under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, and recently a federal judge in Tampa awarded them just over $1 million.

The math? $500 per call. Triple damages, because the court found the bank knowingly kept up the contact even though they'd been asked to stop.

"If I did what Bank of America did, I'd probably be behind bars," said Joyce.

"The borrowers, the people who own those phones, you do have a right to privacy. And when they say to stop, you have to stop," said the Coniglio's attorney David Mitchell with the law firm of Morgan and Morgan.

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A few weeks after the judgment, Bank of America asked the court to reconsider, and made new arguments against the Coniglios. But this past week, the judge rejected all of it.

Bank of America's recourse now would only be to appeal the order to the 11th Circuit.

"It's like they're immune to the law," said Joyce, "and I think that's wrong."

To those in a similar spot, the Coniglios offer words of wisdom.

"Start keeping documentation. Every bit of it," advises Nelson.

They also hope that their seven-figure award sends phone solicitors and collectors a clear message, hitting them where it hurts -- in the wallet.

"And more so than that," said Joyce, "I hope it helps people never go through what we've had to go through."

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