Many consumers have told me that they get several calls a day on their cell phones from a debt collector or creditor who is trying to collect a debt. Collection calls to cell phones can be particularly frustrating because most consumers always keep their cell phones with them. As a consequence, these consumers may find their cell phone ringing during business meetings, job interviews and important family functions. What can be even more frustrating for consumers is answering the call only to discover that there is nobody else on the line. I've heard about consumers who have had to say “Hello? Hello? Hello?” many times before they’re connected with an operator. For others, they’re greeted by a machine or hung up on. This can happen several times a day.
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) may provide certain protections for consumers who getting such calls. If a debt collector is utilizing an automated dialing system (like a computer) or pre-recorded voice (a “robo call”) to call a consumer’s cell phone, they may be in violation of the TCPA. The TCPA applies equally whether the consumer owes the alleged debt or not. Even if a debt collector thinks it is calling the correct consumer, the TCPA may protect the rights of the call recipient.
However,it is important to know that the TCPA provides an exception when the consumer has provided the debt collector or original creditor with express consent to contact their cell phone regarding the account. Thus, if a consumer included his or her cell phone number on his or her credit application, or if he or she signed a specific disclaimer when the account was opened, the debt collector may not be in violation of the TCPA.
Signs that a debt collector may be violating the TCPA:
- The consumer is receiving debt collection calls on his or her cell phone (This type of claim does not apply to land lines and house phones)
- When the consumer answers the telephone call, he or she hears a pause before being connected with an operator, or the call may hang up on the consumer before connecting with an operator.
- The consumer is receiving cell phone voicemail messages that are pre-recorded (every message sounds exactly the same).
- The consumer is receiving cell phone voicemail messages that sound like they were left by arobotic voice.
- The consumer never provided the creditor with the cell phone number that is receiving the calls, or the consumer specifically instructed the creditor/debt collector in writing not to call that number because it is the consumer’s cell phone number.
If a consumer suspects that a debt collector or creditor is calling his or her cell phone in violation of the TCPA, it is important to keep track of the calls. Keep a written log of when the calls come in, and what number is appearing on your cell phone’s caller id. Keeping track of the information on your cell phone call history is not recommended because the call history is frequently deleted after so many calls or a certain number of days. Further, if your cell phone is damaged, you may lose this important information. Cell phone bill records are also not recommended, as the call logs on those bills only show calls that were answered. If you miss a call, it may not show up on your bill.
If you are getting voicemail messages, it is also important to save the voicemails. If you decide to file a lawsuit, those messages may become evidence that the caller was using an automatic dialing system. The message may also contain violations of other laws, such as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
If you are a Connecticut consumer and would like more information about the TCPA, or if you suspect that a debt collector or creditor is violating your rights under the TCPA, contact us to see if CLG can help.
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