Telephone Consumer Protection Act Rules

The 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act made a number of telemarketing behaviors illegal, and authorized the Federal Communications Commission to create and implement Telephone Consumer Protection Act rules. From a consumer’s standpoint, here’s what you need to know:

  • The TCPA applies to telemarketing calls and to automated dialing systems or calls with an artificial or prerecorded voice (“robocalls”)
  • Telemarketers must provide you with their names, the name of the businesses on whose behalf they’re making the calls, and the telephone numbers or addresses of those businesses
  • Calls can’t be made before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. in your time zone
  • You can make a do-not-call request directly to the telemarketer and they must comply with it for five years; after five years, you need to repeat your request
  • You can register your home and cell phone numbers with the National Do-Not-Call Registry (www.donotcall.gov); telemarketers have 31 days to remove you from their call sheets
  • Tax-exempt non-profit organizations, political campaigns, and healthcare-related calls covered under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act are not bound by the TCPA
  • Businesses must have your prior written consent (real or digital signatures) to send you robocalls
  • Calls and text messages generated from autodialers and predictive dialers cannot be made to cell phones, pagers, or any service where you are charged for the call; debt collection agencies often use predictive dialers and call consumers’ cell phones, which is a violation of the TCPA if they do not first obtain oral or written consent
  • Calls using artificial or prerecorded voice messages (“robocalls”) cannot be made to home phone numbers, except if the calls are from non-profit organizations, if they’re non-commercial in nature, if they’re emergency calls, or if they’re not telephone solicitations
  • Unsolicited advertisements can’t be sent to home or business fax machines unless you’ve given the business permission, you have an existing business relationship with the business, you’ve provided the business with your fax number, or you publish your fax number in a directory or on a website
  • All unsolicited faxes must include a toll-free number and fax number, email address, or web URL so you can opt out of receiving the company’s faxes 24-7-365; you must be taken off their fax distribution list within 30 days
  • If a telemarketer, debt collector, or faxer violates the law or regulations, you can take them to court; if you win, you can be awarded actual damages or $500 per violation – and triple that amount if your attorney can prove that the company willfully and knowingly violated the law
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