October 27, 2022

Keiser U Loses Court Argument Over Robocalls

Keiser U Loses Court Argument Over Robocalls

A Florida federal judge last week rejected a motion by controversial career school Keiser University to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Maria Fernanda Soto Leigue, who says she was bombarded with messages from Keiser urging her to enroll – conduct that she claims violated Florida’s statute governing robocalls. 

The October 20 opinion by U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom summarizes what is claimed regarding Keiser’s recruiting tactics:

Plaintiff alleges that she submitted an inquiry to Keiser through a form on its website on January 2, 2020. According to Plaintiff, she did not consent to receive automated text message solicitations on her cellular phone, but nevertheless, consistent with Keiser’s aggressive telemarketing practices, Keiser called her eleven (11) times between January 2, 2020 and January 13, 2020. In addition, Keiser sent solicitation emails to Plaintiff multiple times from January 2, 2020 until August 6, 2021, and sent text messages to Plaintiff’s cell phone multiple times from February 11, 2020 until September 23, 2021. The [complaint] alleges that Keiser’s messages did not include opt-out instructions.  On September 23, 2021, Plaintiff responded in an attempt to opt out of further text messages with Keiser.  Despite Plaintiff’s attempt, she alleges that Keiser continued to send her additional promotional text messages. 

The lawsuit is styled as a class action seeking damages for the named plaintiff and for others alleging a similar pattern of aggressive robocalling and texting.

The Florida Telephone Solicitation Act prohibits automated calling without the consent of the called party, “for the purpose of soliciting a sale of any consumer goods or services.” Keiser University’s clever lawyers, from the firms of Cole Scott & Kissane and Blank Rome, argued that college courses and degrees are not “consumer goods or services.”

Judge Bloom sensibly rejected that argument.

Republic Report has previously reported on aggressive student recruiting tactics at Keiser — tactics that have gotten the school in trouble with state and federal law enforcement — as well as numerous other abuses at the school, including misuse of non-profit status for for-profit interests.  Senior members of Congress this year have called on the Department to investigate Keiser University.

Keiser University “Chancellor and CEO” Arthur Keiser, appointed by House Republicans to the U.S. Department of Education’s outside advisory committee on accreditation and educational quality (NACIQI), remains the chair of that committee

In September, Judge Bloom rejected a separate motion by Keiser to delay the plaintiff’s lawyers questioning of Gragg Advertising, a prominent career college marketing firm, and to stay other discovery until the court ruled on the motion to dismiss.

Keiser University also recently opposed a settlement of a lawsuit brought by former students who assert they were defrauded by their schools and then had their claims for debt relief rejected by Trump education secretary Betsy DeVos.