Telephone Consumer Protection Act

We all can relate to the scene of making a mad rush to a ringing telephone in the middle of dinner only to hear the unfamiliar and unexpected voice of a telemarketer.   Whether communicating a message about a debt collection, product deal, or commercial venture, this unsolicited marketing can be a nuisance.  Annoyance may heighten when the calls are incessant, come at inappropriate hours, or are received on your cell phone or mobile device where you end up paying for the minutes or text messages.  Other frequent situations involve calls that do not even involve human interaction, as is the case with “robocalls,” those calls that are dialed automatically and play recorded messages.

Congress responded to the public sentiment to telephone solicitations and enacted the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) in 1991.  This law was designed to restrict the activities of telemarketers in making unsolicited calls.

Telemarketing calls are defined by the statute as those made by advertisers that offer or market products or services to consumers.   Purely informational calls and calls for non-commercial purposes are not governed by the TCPA.

Specifically, the law bans the use of automatic telemarketing calling, whether live or prerecorded, to mobile devices and cell phones except in the case of an emergency or when the company has the clearly expressed written consent of the recipient of the call.  It likewise applies to unsolicited telemarketing faxes and short message services (SMS) text messages if they are made for marketing purposes.

In short, the TCPA prohibits these types of telemarketing practices:

  • Automatic dialing systems (known as robocalling) unless they meet the very strict guidelines contained in the TCPA;
  • Artificial or prerecorded voice messages;
  • Text messages of unsolicited advertisements;
  • Fax messages of unsolicited advertisements

There are a few, well-defined exceptions to the TCPA prohibitions, such as matters involving an emergency situation and allowing telemarketing calls to consumers who have given unambiguous written consent before receiving telemarketing calls or text messages.

As part of the TCPA, the “Do Not Call List,” was initiated.  In compliance with these guidelines, a business is only permitted to call a potential customer between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.  If the customer later decides he or she does not wish to receive such calls, he or she can demand the telemarketer quit calling.  At this point, the telemarketer is required to add the customer’s name to the list indefinitely and is not allowed to call them in the future.

Often, these prohibited telemarketing calls are used by debt collectors using an automated telephone system to harass people.  Regardless of whether you actually owe the debt, convincing the debt collector to stop calling you can require legal force.

The TCPA provides the right for call recipients to file individual lawsuits and collect damages for telemarketer violations.  The statute provides for strict liability, which means that the telemarketing company is in violation of the TCPA regardless of whether they intentionally or willfully violated the TCPA.  It is sufficient that a violation simply occurred.  Violations of the TCPA are quite easy to document, and the statute provides for actual or statutory damages from $500 to $1500 for each violation.  In selecting from this range of damages, the courts will analyze whether the defendant willfully or knowingly violated the TCPA.

If you believe you are a victim of telemarketing abuse, robo call harassment, or TCPA violations, contact the telemarketing law attorneys at MartinWren, P.C. by calling (434)817-3100 and ask for Robert E. Byrne, Jr.  As experienced consumer law attorneys, we will examine the facts of your case and hold companies that violate the TCPA accountable.  Let us help you recover your peace and privacy.

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