06 Apr What Is The TCPA?￼
If, like many Americans, you find yourself on the receiving end of what feels like an endless barrage of telemarketing and “robocalls,” the Telephone Consumer Protection Act may hold the key to returning peace and quiet to your home. What is the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and how, exactly, can it help?
In this blog post, we will explore the TCPA in detail and will answer the most frequently asked questions about it — including “What is the TCPA Act?” and many more.
What Is TCPA, and to Whom Does It Apply?
The TCPA is a federal law that regulates solicitations made using landline or cellphone calls, text messages, faxes, and VoIP calls. Ultimately, anyone who makes marketing calls or other solicitations using these tools — including individuals, small businesses and large corporate entities — must comply with TCPA provisions.
The term “solicitation” is defined broadly in the Act as a call or message sent to encourage the purchase or rental of, or investment in, property, goods, or services. However, there are a few exceptions: If you’ve provided prior express permission (or “opted in”) to receive these types of calls or messages; if you have an established business relationship with the caller/sender; or if the solicitation is made by a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization, then it is not considered a solicitation subject to TCPA provisions, as covered in greater detail below.
What Does TCPA Law Require, and How Is the Law Enforced?
The TCPA includes several requirements. Unless an exception applies (as mentioned earlier), telemarketers making solicitations must adhere to each of these rules:
- Time restrictions: When contacting residential consumers, telemarketers may only send calls, texts or faxes between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., in the recipient’s time zone.
- Identification: Callers must identify themselves, the business about/for whom they are calling, and must provide a phone number or mailing address.
- Robocalls: Unless a recipient has provided prior, written consent to receive artificial or pre-recorded calls for marketing purposes, telemarketers may not use such methods to reach consumers.
- Automated dialing systems: Callers may not use automated dialing systems to call or text cellphones if the recipient might be charged for the call, unless the recipient provided prior, express consent.
- Do-not-call lists: Telemarketers must maintain internal do-not-call (DNC) lists of consumers who ask to be removed from the marketer’s contact lists. In addition, marketers may not contact people whose numbers are on the national DNC registry and/or state-specific DNC lists.
The TCPA is enforced by the FCC and the FTC, but consumers who are victims of unwanted communications also have the right to file lawsuits and join class action litigation against telemarketers that violate one or more of these requirements.
How Do Telemarketers Violate the TCPA?
Telemarketers can violate any of the TCPA’s provisions described above. Sadly, for them, violations are not at all uncommon.
The most frequent violations/most common risks to telemarketers are sometimes difficult for them to control. For example, if telemarketers contact a number that was recently reassigned to a different consumer, they could unwittingly be violating the TCPA. Similarly, when callers use a marketing list purchased from a third party, they run the risk that the data on that list (names and numbers of consumers, as well as their DNC-registry status) is outdated. DNC violations continue to be a major area where telemarketers run afoul of the rules.
What Are the Financial Implications for Telemarketers Who Violate the TCPA?
Violating the TCPA — whether done intentionally or not — can be extremely costly for telemarketers. That’s because the TCPA is what’s known as a “strict liability” law. In other words, it doesn’t matter whether the violation was an honest mistake — although the penalties are higher when it can be proven that violations were intentional. There are also no statutory limits on violations and consumers have the right to sue violators to enforce the TCPA.
The penalties can be as high as $500 per violation for mistakes and $1,500 per violation for those where the caller had or should have had knowledge. It’s easy to see how this can quickly add up to significant expenses.
Are There Also Consumer Protection Laws for Telemarketing at the State Level?
Yes, in addition to the TCPA, which is a federal law, many states have implemented their own telephone consumer protection laws. Sometimes these laws mirror the federal provisions — in other cases, they include additional consumer protections. Telemarketers are required to comply with the FTC and with all applicable state laws.
Where Can I Turn for Help With Unwanted Calls or Texts?
The experienced TCPA attorneys at Stein Saks, PLLC can help you stop unwanted calls or text messages and help you fight for the compensation to which victims are entitled under the TCPA. You do not have to put up with what amounts to telephone or text harassment.
Contact Stein Saks, PLLC today to schedule a free consultation with a TCPA lawyer who will advocate for your rights.