Telephone and Fax Abuse
Telephone Consumer Protection Act
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) was enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1991, in part, to protect individuals from certain telemarketing calls, unsolicited (junk) faxes, prerecorded calls, and autodialed calls to cell phones. In 2003, it was amended to create a “Do Not Call Registry”. The “Registry” permits consumers to register their personal telephone numbers, both landlines and cell, to stop most telemarketing calls. Once registered, telemarketers have thirty one (31) days to stop calling or they will be in violation of the TCPA. However, neither registering nor other provisions of the TCPA does not stop all telemarketing or unwanted phone calls. The types of calls not prohibited by the TCPA include surveys, political calls and those calls from a company in which you have a prior business relationship.
There are too many TCPA violations to list them all. One of the most common violations is when a company uses an auto dialers to call a cellular phone. You can usually easily tell when a call is made with an auto dialer because there is a pause between when you answer and the caller begins speaking. The use of an auto dialer to call a cellular phone is prohibited unless you have given the caller your express consent to contact you on your cell phone. Other violations, typically done by telemarketers, include:
- Calls made to residences before 8:00 a.m. or after 9 p.m.;
- Failing to maintain a company “Do Not Call” list, which must be maintained indefinitely;
- Failing to honor a request to not be called again;
- Using an auto dialer to engage two or more lines of a multi-telephone line business; and
- Sending unsolicited advertisements by fax to anyone without prior express consent. A prior business relationship is considered consent unless the recipient of the fax withdraws that consent.
The actual content of the call does not matter for there to be a violation under the TCPA. This differs from the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) where the content does matter. A debt collection call may violate both Acts depending on the circumstances.
Under the TCPA, a company that violates the Act must pay you, either your actual damages or statutory damages, whichever is greater, for each call. Actual damages are usually rare under the TCPA as most people usually just have the annoyance and inconvenience of the call. The TCPA sets the statutory damage amount for a TCPA violation at $500.00. However, if it is determined that violation is willful and intentional, the statutory amount can be up to $1,500.00 per call. In addition, the TCPA provides that the company can be made to pay your attorney fees as well as your legal costs. So, if a company calls your cell phone five (5) times, without your express permission and through an auto dialer, you could walk away with up to $7,500.00.
If your believe your rights under the TCPA have been violated, contact Lapin Law Offices for a free consultation.