The TCPA: Protection Against RoboCalls and Prerecorded Calls
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) places restrictions on robocalls and prerecorded messages made by telemarketers and debt collectors.
What Is the TCPA?
The federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), a United States statute enacted in 1991, seeks to eliminate abusive and harassing behaviors that businesses and others may engage in with consumers.
The TCPA states specific practices and rules under which business can contact consumers, and offer specific penalties for businesses found breaking this law.
The following is a summary of some of your rights under the TCPA.
Businesses are not allowed to use auto dialers and artificial or prerecorded voice messages programmed to call any pagers or cellular phones, or a call for which a charge is made to the calling party.
Businesses are not allowed to use artificial or prerecorded voice messages when calling a residence except in cases of emergency or if the caller has received prior express consent.
Businesses are not allowed to use auto dialers to engage two or more lines of a multi-line business.
Anyone using an auto dialer or an artificial or prerecorded voice message to call any number state the identity of the caller at the beginning of the message and give the address and phone number of the caller during the call.
Businesses are not allowed to send unsolicited advertisements by faxes or text messages to anyone without prior express consent. A prior business relationship is considered consent unless the recipient of the fax or text message withdraws that consent.
What Constitutes a Violation of the TCPA?
The following practices are prohibited by the TCPA.
Calls to Cell Phones
The TCPA prohibits use of automated calls, pre-recorded messages and text messages to cell telephones. The law applies to all cell phones whether used for business or personal use. In essence, a telemarketer or debt collector violates the law every time it makes an automated “robo” call, pre-recorded message, or text message to a consumer’s cell phone, unless the consumer previously gave the telemarketer or debt collector permission to call. In cases where consent has been previously given, the consumer can revoke that consent by notifying the telemarketer or debt collector to stop calling the cell phone.
Calls to Residential Phone Lines
The TCPA prohibits pre-recorded messages for calls made to residential telephone lines. It only applies to solicitations from telemarketers/sellers with whom the consumer does not have an “established business relationship.” If the consumer has done business with a telemarketer/seller within the last 18 months, or made inquiry within the last three months, then it is presumed under the TCPA that the consumer has an established business relationship with that telemarketer/seller.
Telemarketing Calls to Consumers on the “Do-Not-Call Registry”
The TCPA prohibits any solicitations calls to those consumers whose telephone numbers are registered on the Do-Not-Call List. Consumers can place both their cell phone and residential lines on the Do-Not-Call registry.
Under the TCPA, telemarketers and debt collectors using an auto dialer are also forbidden from other practices, including calling the consumer before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. The caller must additionally, during any call, provide his or her name, the name of the business entity on whose behalf the call is being made, and a telephone number or address at which the person or entity can be reached.
Documenting Evidence of TCPA Violations
Consumers who are receiving calls in violation of the TCPA can take a few steps to document the violations.
- Obtain and save all phone records and highlight incoming calls from debt collectors and telemarketers.
- Make a written record of the calls you are receiving, specifically, recording the date of the call, time of the call, caller’s identity, and a summary of any conversations held with the caller.
- Save all voice messages.
- If you have revoked your consent to receive calls, keep a copy of the letter.
Damages for Violations of the TCPA
Consumers who receive telemarketing calls, unsolicited faxes, pre-recorded and/or automated calls to their cell phones or residential landlines, may file a lawsuit against the telemarketer or debt collector for the violation of the TCPA.
Possible Compensation for Violations of the TCPA:
Individual who receives a call after a name removal request, and/or have rights violated under the TCPA’s provisions regarding faxes, text messages, autodialers, and artificial or prerecorded messages are granted a private right of action in a local court and may sue for actual monetary loss or $500 in damages for each violation; whichever is greater.
So, you can sue to be compensated for each and every illegal call, text message, fax, and artificial or prerecorded message received under the TCPA. In some cases, the courts can levy triple damages, meaning you could receive 1,500.00 for each illegal call, text messages, fax, and artificial or prerecorded message received without your consent.
A consumer can recover
- up to $500 for each violation of the Do-Not-Call registry
- up to $500 per phone call that violates the TCPA, and
- up to $1,500 per phone call if the consumer can show that the TCPA was violated knowingly and willfully.