Federal Text Spam Laws

Federal Text Spam Laws

If you’re being annoyed by spam texts, you should know that you’re protected by federal text spam laws.

In 1991, Congress passed the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) as an attempt to put an end to annoying intrusions into people’s lives. The TCPA expanded to include telemarketing calls, junk faxes, and text message advertising.

Other spam laws include the federal CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 and similar state laws. The TCPA authorizes the FCC to regulate unwanted commercial telephone calls and unwanted text messages. FCC rules make it illegal for a caller to make:

  • Robotexts and artificial/prerecorded messages i.e. texts made by ‘automated systems’
  • Without your prior express consent
  • To your cell phone
  • Without your specific, unrevoked consent with these exceptions:
  • Emergency text
  • Texts from tax-exempt nonprofits. political organizations, and most healthcare organizations
  • Legitimate texts warning of potential fraud or cyber breaches are exempt

The issue of consent often is tricky. Here are some rules:

  • Non-telemarketing texts (banks, debt collectors, etc): Giving the sender your phone number equals consent. Robocalls to a number not provided are not allowed
  • Telemarketing/sales calls: signed, written consent after conspicuous disclosure equals consent
  • Federal student loans have special rules: The FCC capped the number of texts debt collectors can make to wireless phones to three a month
  • Consent can be revoked: Caller must immediately honor your revocation

The TCPA provides heavy punishment for companies that break the law. If you are the victim of illegal robotexts, the company may have to pay up to $1,500 per text.

The CAN-SPAM Act has essentially the same purpose. The CAN-SPAM Act prohibits commercial email messages from being sent to your cellphone. Commercial messages are emails that can show up on your cellphone as text messages and advertise or promote a product or service for sale. The CAN-SPAM Act does not prohibit what it terms “transactional or relationship” messages that pertain to a service or product you already have. So, for example, an email message delivered to your phone from your home alarm monitoring company regarding your alarm status is not a violation, but a sales solicitation from a random alarm monitoring company could be a violation.

Under the CAN-SPAM Act, commercial email sent to your cellphone is required:

  • To disclose that it is an advertisement
  • To provide a free and accessible way for you to opt out of receiving future messages
  • To include both a valid postal address and return email address.
  • If you opt out, the company has only ten days to honor your request.

The CAN-SPAM Act, like the TCPA, has different rules for messages from nonprofit organizations and candidates for public office. Those senders can send commercial text messages to your cellphone with only your verbal permission.

If you believe a company has violated text spam laws and regulations, or if you would like advice or a free case evaluation, we urge you to contact us by using the form to the right or by calling us at 475-277-2200

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