The Telephone Consumer Protection Act, or “TCPA,” prohibits anyone from calling or texting you using an automated dialing system, unless they had your prior permission. The TCPA also prohibits anyone from calling you using a prerecorded or synthetic voice, without your prior express consent. No one can send you unwanted robocalls or automated texts—not debt collectors, telemarketers, or salespeople—with few exceptions. TCPA lawsuits often result when companies won’t stop sending harassing calls or texts to consumers. These telemarketers just keep calling, and calling you…
It’s also illegal under the TCPA for a telemarketer to call or text someone’s cell phone or landline if the number is registered on the National Do-Not-Call Registry.
The TCPA allows people to get money for unsolicited calls and texts. TCPA class action lawsuits allow consumers to sue for robocalls, or robotexts, to collect between $500 and $1,500 per call or text. The TCPA also lets consumers take legal action against telemarketers who don’t honor the national do-not-call list and collect $500 per call, for every phone call beyond the first one.
5 Major Types of TCPA Violations for Unwanted Calls or Texts
|(1) Automated Call or Texts|
|(2) Use of a Prerecorded or Robotic Voice|
|(3) National Do-Not-Call List|
|(4) Internal Do-Not-Call Lists|
|(5) Wrong Numbers|
(1) Automated Calls or Texts
The TCPA prohibits calls or texts to a cell phone or landline if the caller is using an automated telephone dialing system. These robocalls and spam texts are illegal, unless either: (a) the consumer gave prior consent to be called, or (b) the consumer has an established business relationship with the caller or sender. The rule is clear and the penalties harsh ($500 to $1,500 per call or text) because Congress saw autodialing as especially pernicious, as it allowed a business to place millions of calls over a short span of time.
Consumers who answer an autodialed robocall may hear a long pause or clicks before being connected to a live person. The Federal Communication Commission requires companies that have a valid reason to use autodialers to connect you to a live person within 2 seconds of your answering the call.
(2) Use of a Prerecorded or Robotic Voice
On calls or voice messages, a company cannot use a mechanical voice or prerecorded human voice. Congress made it illegal to place unsolicited calls using these methods because it enabled a company to make millions of phone calls, without being limited by the number of humans it had to make calls. The penalty for using an artificial or pre-recroded voice is between $500 to $1,500 for each call or voicemail message.
(3) National Do-Not-Call List
Consumers can place their cell phone or residential landline number on the National Do Not Call Registry, maintained by the Federal Trade Commission. It may take up to 31 days for the listing to become active.
After 31 days, companies are prohibited from making unsolicited calls to numbers listed on the national do-not-call registry. But this requirement only applies to telemarketers. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) notes that debt collectors can place unsolicited calls to people who owe a debt, even if those individuals are on the National Do-Not-Call List.
The TCPA requires that companies obtain an updated version of the National Do-Not-Call List every 31 days. And it requires that companies have reliable methods in place to ensure that they are not placing telemarketing calls to numbers listed on the registry.
If a telemarketer places two or more calls to a number on the National Do-Not-Call List, the telemarketer has violated the TCPA. A consumer can get money for unsolicited calls beyond the first one if the consumer’s phone number is listed on the national do-not-call registry. The TCPA provides consumers with $500 per phone call that violates the TCPA’s prohibition on placing telemarketing calls to do-not-call phone numbers.
To register your cell phone or landline number on the National Do Not Call List, visit the Do-Not-Call Registry website.
Telemarketer harassing you?
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(4) Internal Do-Not-Call Lists
The TCPA requires companies maintain an internal do-not-call list of consumers who have specifically requested that the company stop calling them. If a company does not stop calling a consumer’s cell phone or landline after a ‘stop calling’ request has been made, each call may constitute a TCPA violation, subject to civil penalties of between $500 to $1,500. But the company has a 30-day grace period to start complying with the do-not-call request.
(5) Wrong Numbers
It often happens: a company is calling a number that used to belong to one of its customers. But now that number belongs to you. Thinking you’re a customer, the company just won’t stop calling. What can you do to stop these harassing phone calls?
You may be entitled to sue for a TCPA violation. The Federal Communication Commission has indicated that companies need to have processes in place to ensure that they are not making calls to telephone subscribers who have reassigned numbers.
Exceptions to the TCPA: Who Can Legally Robocall You?
The TCPA provides a few exceptions for certain types of organizations or individuals, depending on their relationship with you. The exceptions are:
|(1) Established Business Relationship|
|(2) Charitable Organizations|
|(3) Political Campaigns|
(1) Established Business Relationship
A company with which you have an established business relationship is allowed to send you automated messages. For example, your internet provider might send you automated reminders once per month to pay your bill.
That said, unsolicited calls or texts only fall within the exception for established business relationships if the call is related to the established relationship. Solicitations for entirely new, unrelated products may be a TCPA violation, even if the consumer has an established business relationship with the company.
(2) Charitable Organizations
Any non-profit and tax-exempt organization is excluded from the strict requirements of the TCPA. These organizations depend on donations and might suffer from being unable to place calls to potential donors.
(3) Political Campaigns
Political campaigns can robocall a residential landline with messages about a candidate or ballot initiative, or to solicit donations. But political campaigns cannot send automated texts or autodialed calls to a cell phone, without the mobile phone subscriber’s prior consent.
But why are many consumers reporting unwanted calls and spam texts to their cell phones during the 2018 campaign season?
Many people don’t realize it, but when they register to vote in certain states and voluntarily provide a cell phone number and select a political party, they are consenting to be contacted by candidates of that political party.
Despite this, the TCPA requires that there be a live person on the other end who will respond to the text message or phone call within 2 seconds if you answer. If you answer the phone or text back and receive only an automated response, that may be a TCPA violation.
Unwanted political calls or text?
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How to Sue for Robocalls or Spam Texts
There are some issues that can’t be resolved in a court of law. But you can sue for unwanted phone calls. Taking legal action against telemarketers will usually involve retaining a lawyer who is experienced in filing TCPA lawsuits. Because the TCPA is a federal law, generally the lawsuits will be filed in federal court. Choosing the best lawyer for you is a very personal decision, and you should do your research.
How do I report harassing telephone calls?
If you don’t want to file a TCPA lawsuit for civil penalties of $500 to $1,500 per call, you can instead report harassing calls or texts to the Federal Trade Commission. To report robocalls, spam texts, or do-not-call violations, visit the FTC’s complaint website.
Debt Collector Won’t Stop Calling
Debt collection calls are often allowed under the TCPA, depending on the circumstances, because they fall into an exception. But there is another federal law that protects you against harassing debt collection calls or texts. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act imposes several restrictions on debt collectors.
(5) Cannot tell others about debt
|(1) No calls outside waking hours|
|(2) Must stop calling if requested|
|(3) All communication must cease upon written request|
|(4) All communication must cease if they cannot valid the debt|
(1) No calls outside waking hours
Debt collectors are only allowed to call between 8 am and 9 pm, according to your local time. They shouldn’t be calling your mobile phone or landline in the middle of the night.
(2) Must stop calling if you request it
If you request that a debt collector stop calling you at a particular phone number, such as your place of work, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act requires that the debt collector stop calling that number.
So, a debt collector can call you at work at least once, but if you tell them to stop, they must honor that request.
(3) All communication must cease upon written request
A verbal request can only stop a debt collector from calling a particular phone number. But if you send a written request to the debt collector to stop all communication with you, they can’t call any more numbers or try to contact you in any other way (such as by mail). But if the debt collector has zero chance of talking to you, they may decide to sue on the debt.
(4) All communication must cease if they can’t validate the debt
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act allows a consumer to request, in writing, that the debt collector send proof that the debt is valid. If the debt collector can’t do that, they must stop all collection efforts, including not calling anymore.
Debt collectors have often purchased the debt, for cents on the dollar, from the original creditor or a debt re-seller. As a result, they often don’t have the original paperwork to establish that the debt exists. If you send a letter to the debt collector to validate the debt, they may have to stop calling.
(5) Not tell others you owe a debt
Unfortunately, debt collectors are allowed to call your friends, family, or employer to try to find you. But they’re only allowed to say your name and request your current contact information. They cannot say that they are calling to collect a debt.
Debt Collector Violating Your Rights?
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Why am I getting so many harassing phone calls from unknown numbers?
In the past few years, there has been a huge uptick in the number of autodialed spam calls to people’s cell phones. Some of these can be remedied with a TCPA lawsuit. But unfortunately, a huge volume of the calls are from scammers outside the United States. Often, the scammers are unknown, impossible to find, and in a country with no laws governing unwanted calls.
The Federal Communication Commission generally advises that you not pick up the phone if you believe you’re getting a scam call. Even if you hang up immediately, some scammers are using autodials just to figure out which numbers are “live” numbers. By picking up the phone, you are telling them that the number is valid and there’s a live person behind it.
So, answering the phone may increase the volume of unwanted calls you are getting.
Our Current TCPA Lawsuits and Investigations
|Target Robocalls Lawsuit||The retailer Target has faced several TCPA lawsuits in the past for unwanted calls or texts, including calls related to Target-brand credit cards. We are investigating whether Target’s alleged robocalling is ongoing.|
|Audi Dealer Unwanted Calls Lawsuit||We’re investigating allegations that a “customer retention” company is calling former customers on behalf of Audi dealers, trying to get Audi drivers to keep servicing their cars at the dealership.|
|Grand Canyon University Harassing Calls Lawsuit||We are investigating allegations that Grand Canyon admissions staff are making repeated unwanted calls to people’s cell phones. Former Grand Canyon employees have said the admissions recruiting job is essentially telemarketing.|
|Alliance Security Robocalls Lawsuit||We are investigating allegations that Alliance Security and Monitronics are using autodialed phone calls to telemarket their services.|
|Home Energy Solutions Robocall Lawsuit||We are investigating allegations that a “home energy” company, going by various names, is using automatic dialers to send spam telemarketing calls to people’s cell phones and landlines.|
Our Consumer Protection Practice
For nearly 30 years, our consumer protection attorneys have challenged unfair business practices that erode consumers’ confidence and compromise their rights. We have recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for clients in litigation against the world’s largest corporations, earning some of the largest consumer settlements of all time and establishing our reputation as a skilled and trusted advocate for consumers.