You are about to sit down to a nice meal, when your cell phone rings and disrupts quiet time with your family. Reluctantly, you answer the call and immediately hear an automated voice pushing a new “miracle” product that just hit the market. It is bad enough the phone call disrupted family time, but this is fourth time this week the same company has called you, without you giving consent.
The time has come to learn about the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
Overview of the TCPA
Passed by the United States Congress and signed into law by President George H. W. Bush in 1991, the TCPA amended the Communications Act of 1934. The TCPA restricts unsolicited telephone calls made by companies and organizations that want to sell you a product, service, or membership. In direct response to the nuisance of telemarketer\ phone calls, the TCPA prohibits the use of automated dialing telephone systems that communicates via artificial or recorded voices. The landmark consumer protection law also includes provisions that regulate the use of fax machines and voice messaging systems
What Consumers Need to Know
The TCPA has gained additional provisions since it became law in 1991 that produce more legal backbone to protect consumers against unwanted telephone calls. Solicitors or debt collectors cannot call you before 8am and after 9pm. The consumer protection law mandates solicitors to create company-specific “Do not call” lists of consumers who have clearly requested not to receive unsolicited phone calls. Solicitors and debt collectors must also abide by the restrictions made by consumers who join the National Do Not Call Registry. Solicitors must provide consumers with contact information, such as the name of the person and/or organization making the call. The TCPA bans automated telephone systems and recorded voice messages outright. Violators of the TCPA can receive fines up to $1,500 for each violation.
The Federal Communication Commission
Congress delegated the creation and enforcement of TCPA regulations to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). Since 1991, the FCC has expanded the legal powers of the TCPA, especially in 2012 and 2015. The federal government agency added provisions specifically designed to prevent threatening and harassing phone calls made by debt collectors. After you request that debt collector refrain from contacting you by phone, the debt collector only has legal permission to call you one more time, and typically the reason for the phone call is to tell you the debt collection calls will cease. The FCC regulation that stipulates individual companies must maintain separate “Do not call” lists has created confusion among consumers and hence, the National Do Not Call Registry has helped consumers sign up for one “Do not call” request that applies to all companies and non-profit organizations. The CAN-SPAM Act amended the TCPA to give the FCC the legal power to prohibit unsolicited faxes from outside of the United States.
Is the TCPA a State or Federal Matter?
Another confusing aspect of the TCPA is that although the groundbreaking consumer protection law represents a federal statute, many of the lawsuits filed by aggrieved consumers originate in state courts. Unusual legal language has created a “private right of action” that questions whether the TCPA is strictly a federal legal issue. A 2012 Supreme Court decision somewhat clarified the confusion by stating “The TCPA’s permissive grant of jurisdiction to state courts does not deprive the U.S. district courts of federal question jurisdiction over private TCPA suits.”
The TCPA is a powerful legal remedy for consumers who do not want to receive unsolicited phone calls by telemarketers and debt collectors. We help California consumers receive justice for violations of the TCPA. Our team of consumer protection attorneys has amassed years of experience litigating lawsuits against violators of the TCPA. Contact our law firm today to receive a free initial consultation.