The federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act, also known as the TCPA, was passed by Congress in response to an increasing number of consumer complaints about telemarketer and debt collector phone calls. The primary purpose of the TCPA is to reduce the number of nuisance calls. But also, and perhaps more importantly, it works to protect the consumer's right to privacy.
The TCPA specifically restricts the practices of telemarketers and debt collectors and their use of automated dialing and pre-recorded voice messages with regard to:
It also restricts telemarketers from calling consumers who have registered with the do not call registry.
An automated call, or robocall, is a call dialed by a computer. A pre-recorded voice message, on the other hand, is a recorded human voice message that the caller uses when contacting the consumer. (Learn about other laws that protect consumers from robocalls.)
The following practices are prohibited by the TCPA.
The TCPA prohibits use of automated calls, pre-recorded messages and text messages to cell telephones. The law applies to all cellphones 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 cellphone.
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.
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 cellphone 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.
Consumers who are receiving calls in violation of the TCPA can take a few steps to document the violations.
Consumers who receive telemarketing calls, unsolicited faxes, pre-recorded and/or automated calls to their cellphones or residential landlines, may file a lawsuit against the telemarketer or debt collector for the violation of the TCPA.
A consumer can recover:
If you have further questions about the TCPA or want to learn more about filing a lawsuit against a telemarketer or debt collector for a violation of the TCPA, talk to a consumer protection lawyer.