What is the TCPA? A Summary of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act


What is the TCPA?

The federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) is a law that prohibits telemarketers, banks, debt collectors, and other companies from using an autodialer or robocalls to call you either at home, or on your cell phone without your consent.

Legislative History of Telephone Consumer Protection Act

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) was passed by the United States Congress in 1991 and signed into law by President George H. W. Bush as Public Law 102-243, amending the Communications Act of 1934. The TCPA is codified as 47 U.S.C. § 227.[1], and it restricts telephone solicitations (i.e. telemarketing) and the use of automated telephone equipment. The TCPA limits the use of automatic dialing systems, artificial or pre-recorded voice messages, SMS text messages, and fax machines. It also specifies several technical requirements for fax machines, autodialers, and voice messaging systems—principally through provisions requiring that identification and contact information of the entity using the device is contained in the message.

The Congressional Findings Supporting the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)

Prior to 1991, telephone solicitation and marketing companies operated in an unregulated, wild frontier, harassing defenseless consumers. Congress responded to complaints from outraged and unprotected consumers by passing the TCPA. In doing so, it attempted to balance the benefits of cost-effective telemarketing for businesses against the nuisance to victims of unsolicited phone calls. This Congressional finding illustrates the balancing act:

Individuals’ privacy rights, public safety interests, and commercial freedoms of speech and trade must be balanced in a way that protects the privacy of individuals and permits legitimate telemarking practices.

Congress included general prohibitions, restrictions, and exemptions in the Act, but ordered the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to write the rules and regulations. The FCC has responded to the requests of consumers and businesses by creating and amending rules in 1991, 2013, 2015, and 2016.

The law applies to telemarketing calls and automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS) calls.

Congress Gave You Telephone Rights By:

  • Banning ATDS and artificial / prerecorded voice calls to:
    • Any emergency line such as 911
    • Any guest or patient room in a hospital, health care facility, or similar establishment
    • Any cell phone, paging service, or any service that charges the called party
  • Banning calls using an artificial or pre-recorded voice to a residential land line without your prior express consent, except in emergencies
  • Banning the use of a fax or computer to send an unsolicited advertisement to a telephone fax
  • Banning telephone fax messages unless the first page contains the time and date sent as well as the name and phone number of the sender.
  • Ordering the FCC to set standards for artificial or pre-recorded telephone voice message systems so that they:
    • Identify at the beginning of the transmission the business, person, or entity making the call
    • State during or after the message the phone number and address of the caller
    • Release the called party’s line within five seconds after notification that the called party has hung up
  • Allowing you to sue companies that violate the law for up to $1,500 per illegal call plus attorney fees
  • Allowing you to bring a lawsuit in federal court or in state court if your state has a similar law

What are Robocalls?

The FCC Has Given You These Additional Rights By:

  • Establishing the “Do-Not-Call” Registry (donotcall.gov) administered by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which covers all telemarketers except certain nonprofit organizations
  • Requiring telemarketers to obtain your written consent before robocalling you
  • Banning robocalls from debt collectors unless you have given your express consent
  • Requiring robocallers to provide an interactive, automated opt-out mechanism during the call to allow you to prevent future calls
  • Revoking the rule allowing telemarketers to use an “established business relationship” as a form of consumer consent
  • Banning calls before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m. in your time zone
  • Requiring a telemarketer to obey your do-not-call request for five years
  • Determining that regulations applicable to cell phones include both calls and text messages.
  • Allowing telephone service providers to offer ATDS blocking devices to customers
  • Allowing you to revoke consent for calls and texts from autodialers in any reasonable way at any time
  • Requiring callers to stop calling a reassigned number after a single call
  • Requiring consent to come from the called party, not the intended recipient

Thanks to TCPA, You Have the Right to be Free from Unwanted Telephone Calls

The TCPA Will Not Help You in the Following Circumstances:

  • If the autodialed call is manned by a live agent
  • Robocallers require only express consent, not written consent, for debt collection calls unless the call contains an advertisement
  • Calls from tax-exempt nonprofits, political organizations, and most healthcare organizations are exempt from the TCPA
  • Certain “exigent circumstances” calls, such as warnings of potential fraud or cyber breaches are exempt
  • Debt collectors collecting a federal government debt, such as a student loan, may robocall you up to three times per month

The rules of the TCPA and of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), administered by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), control telephonic collection practices. The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) enforces the rules and regulations of both Acts.

If a debt collector or telemarketer has been hounding you, call 844-685-9200 for a free, no obligation case evaluation with one of our representatives. Our attorneys have experience fighting debt collectors and telemarketers and in 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 and other damages.


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