The federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act or TCPA became law in 1991 as a response to an increasing number of consumer complaints over telemarketer and debt collector phone calls. The main goal of TCPA is to reduce the number of harassing calls. Also, more importantly, it works to protect the consumer’s right to privacy. The TCPA especially limits the practice of telemarketers and their use of automated dialing and pre-recorded voice messages with regard to residential phone lines, text messages and cell phones. It also prohibits telemarketers from calling individuals who have registered with the Do-Not-Call Registry.
When is the TCPA Violated?
The TCPA prohibits a number of actions that could amount to a nuisance for consumers and actions that infringe on consumers’ privacy. Here are some of the practices that are prohibited by the law:
- Calls to home phones: The TCPA essentially bans pre-recorded messages aimed at home phone lines. The law only applies to solicitations from telemarketers with whom the consumer does not already have an established business relationship. If, for example, your existing phone company calls to market a new product or service, that is not illegal under this law.
- Cell phone calls: The TCPA also prohibits automated calls text messages and pre-recorded messages to cell phones. A telemarketer violates the law every time they make a “robo” call or send a text message to the consumer’s cell phone unless the consumer has given prior permission to them to call. The consumer also has the power to revoke that consent by notifying the telemarketer to stop calling the cell phone.
- Do-Not-Call Registry: The TCPA also prohibits any solicitation calls to those consumers whose telephone numbers are registered on the Do-Not-Call List. Consumers can place both their residential lines and their cell phones on this registry.
- Calling times: Telemarketers and debt collectors using an auto dialer are not allowed to call consumers before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. In addition, the caller must provide his or her name, the name of the business entity on whose behalf the call is being made and a phone number where the person or entity can be reached.
Compensation for Consumers
If you are receiving calls in violation of the TCPA, you can take several steps to document the violations including saving all phone records and making note of incoming calls from telemarketers. Record the date of the call, the time, the caller’s identity and a summary of conversations you may have had with the caller. Save all voice messages. Consumers who get these unsolicited calls, texts or fax messages can recover up to $500 for each violation of the TCPA, up to $500 per phone call that violates the law and $1,500 per violation if you can show that the law was violated deliberately. If you have been the victim of an aggressive, hostile or inappropriate phone call associated to telemarketing, call 1-800-561-4887 for a free case evaluation.