Imagine your world with no annoying unsolicited telemarketing calls. Or stealth texts which suddenly appear on your mobile device. Or repeated robocalls from a debt collector. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the agency that regulates telephone use, reported that month after month, unwanted robocalls, and texts, top its list of consumer complaints. Fortunately, in 1991 Congress acted to protect consumers by enacting the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) which can change your world by protecting you from unwanted calls.
The TCPA Strictly Regulates Unwanted Telephone Contacts and Sets Stiff Penalties for Violators
Here are some ways the TCPA protects you.
Cell Phones. Telemarketers and debt collectors cannot send robocalls, pre-recorded messages, and text messages to personal or business cell phones without your prior consent. You may have consented without realizing it. This is an important issue which will be discussed below. You can revoke your consent.
Home Phones. A telemarketer cannot send robocalls or prerecorded messages to your landline without your consent.
“Do-Not-Call” Registry. Telemarketers cannot call consumers on a number registered on this FCC Registry. Add your number to the registry by calling the FCC at 1-888-382-1222.
Time of Call. Debt collectors and telemarketers may not send a consumer a robocall before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
Required Information. The caller must identify himself and his business entity and provide contact information for the consumer.
Opt-out provision. The robocall must contain an interactive opt-out provision allowing the consumer to avoid future calls.
Debt Collectors and Telemarketers Dig Deep to Find Your Consent Because It Justifies Their Unwanted Telephone Contacts
“Since the TCPA’s enactment, calling technology has changed, and businesses have grown more vocal that modern dialing equipment should not be covered by the TCPA and its consumer protections. At the same time, consumers have also made it clear that despite such technological changes, they still want to avoid most robocalls they have not agreed to receive.”
This tension between business and consumers continues. Despite the TCPA, debt collectors and telemarketers continue calling because it is lucrative and economical. In part because of the high penalties, consumers have responded by suing the callers. As a frequent defense, the debt collectors and telemarketers have claimed that the consumer consented to the calls by previously signing a related document. For example, in a Florida case, the court ruled that the consumer’s signature on a standard HIPAA form at the hospital constituted consent for a debt collector to call about an unpaid medical bill.
At the first unwanted contact a prudent, proactive consumer would revoke her consent to future contacts, regardless of whether she believed she had previously consented.
What You Can Do to Preserve Evidence of Unwanted Telephone Contacts
Make a complete record of each call. Write down the time and date, the identity of the caller, and a summary of any conversation.
Save all messages on your answering machine.
Save all calls and texts on your cell.
Obtain copies of your telephone records from your provider and mark all incoming calls from the debt collector and telemarketer.
Save copies anything in writing that relates to the matter, such as your consent revocation or communications from a debt collector.
This is a complicated and unsettled area of the law. if you suspect your rights have been violated, contact a consumer attorney.
If a debt collector or telemarketer has been hounding you, to speak with a representative directly and immediately call 844-685-9200 for a free, no-obligation case evaluation. Our attorneys have experience in fighting debt collectors and telemarketers and standing up for consumers. If a debt collector or telemarketer has violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, you’re entitled to file suit in federal court and could be awarded up to $1,500 per call or text.
About the Author:
Sergei Lemberg is a lawyer whose practice focuses on consumer law, class actions and personal injury litigation. He has been repeatedly recognized as the “most active consumer attorney” in the country. In 2020, Mr. Lemberg represented Noah Duguid in the United States Supreme Court in the case entitled Duguid v. Facebook. He is the author of Defanging Debt Collectors, a book that teaches consumers how to battle debt collectors and win.