THE TCPA AND THOSE PESKY AUTOMATED PHONE CALLS
In 2017, over 30 billion robocalls were made in the United States. Are you one of the millions of consumers who have received those annoying pre-recorded phone calls or texts? Are these calls legal? In many cases they are not, and you may recover money damages for this abuse.
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AutodialerAn autodialer is an electronic device utilized mostly by the debt collection and sales solicitation industries to make massive amounts of phone calls without human involvement. Very simply, it automatically dials telephone numbers. If the call is answered the autodialer connects to a debt collector or telemarketer, or plays a recorded message. Sometimes the person answering the phone is asked to press a button or say something to confirm their identity. Many autodialers use sophisticated analysis to determine the optimal time to dial more numbers. So, they know when you are available. That*s creepy. However, consumers should know that they have the ability to stop these calls, and many of these calls are illegal.
The Telephone Consumer Protection ActThe Telephone Consumer Protection Act, (TCPA), went into effect in 1992. This important law protects consumers and businesses from a variety a solicitation and collection abuses. The primary provisions which involve consumers are as follows:
* The TCPA prohibits the use of artificial or prerecorded voice messages to call a residence without consent except in cases of emergency or if the caller has received prior express consent. (Such calls to businesses are not prohibited.)
* The TCPA prohibits autodialers and artificial or prerecorded voice messages programmed to call pagers or cellular phones without consent, or a call for which a charge is made to the calling party.
* The TCPA requires that anyone using an autodialer or an artificial or prerecorded voice message to call any number, state the identity of the caller at the beginning of the message and give the address and phone number of the caller during the call.
The Federal Do-Not-Call ListIn addition to the TCPA, consumers can get their specific phone numbers off of telemarketers* lists by simply going to the government website (https://www.donotcall.gov) and adding their phone numbers. If your number is on the list, they can*t call you.
The federal do-not-call list was enacted in 2003 to limit telemarketing sales calls to people who didn't want to be hassled. Essentially, you just enter your phone number (land line or cell phone or both) with the registry, and you cannot legally be called by certain telemarketers. There are significant exceptions regarding who can still call you:
* The registry only applies to residential lines, not business lines.
* A person may still receive calls from political organizations.
* A person may still receive calls from those conducting surveys.
* A person may still receive calls from companies with which he or she has an existing business relationship for up to 18 months after his or her last purchase, payment, or delivery from it, unless person specifically asks the company not to call again.
* A person may still receive calls from a company up to 31*days*after submitting an application or inquiry to that company, unless the company is specifically asked not to call.
* A person may still receive calls from debt collectors (either primary*creditors*or*
collection agencies). These callers are, however, regulated by other laws, such as those limiting them to calling during "reasonable hours." Some creditors may not call debtors who file for*bankruptcy*protection.
Staggering number of automated callsThe do-not-call registry has over 200 million phone numbers on it. Telemarketers are supposed to check the list every 31 days for numbers they can't call. Of course mistakes occur and/or businesses just ignore the law. So, more calls are being made and more complaints are being lodged. The FCC gets about 200,000 complaints about robocalls each year. The FTC got 4.5 million complaints about unwanted calls in 2017
What can you do if they don*t stop calling?* Talk to your phone company about call blocking tools they may have and check into apps that you can download to your mobile device to block unwanted calls.
* Don't answer calls from unknown numbers. If you answer such a call, hang up immediately.
* If you answer the phone you are asked to hit a button to stop getting the calls, just hang up. Scammers often use this tactic to obtain your information.
* Do not give out personal information of any nature, ever.
* Do not respond to any questions. Answer a question with a question or statement. (e.g. Who is this? What is your name? Do not call this number again.
* Be suspicious. If you get an inquiry from someone who says they represent a company or a government agency, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement on their website. You will usually get a written statement in the mail before you get a phone call from a company you know.
* If you use robocall-blocking technology already, it often helps to let that company know which numbers are producing unwanted calls so they can help block those calls for you and others.
Consider filing a lawsuitUnder the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, (TCPA), an individual who receives a call after a name removal request has been given or who receives an unauthorized automated call has a private right of action in court and may sue for $500 in damages for each violation. In some cases, the courts can levy triple damages. Similar suits may be filed for violations of the TCPA's provisions regarding faxes, auto dialers, and artificial or prerecorded messages.
So be smart, and keep alert about these calls. Save your voice mails. You may be able to stop this abuse and also recover damages as a result. Contact the Alexander Law Firm or an attorney who specializes in consumer protection if you feel the TCPA has been violated or if you have been the victim of automated call abuse.