When your phone rings during dinner, while you’re putting the baby down for a nap, or when you’re locking the doors and calling it a night, you hope it’s someone important (and someone you actually want to talk to).
But sometimes it’s not. Sometimes, it’s even worse – it’s a telemarketer trying to get you to buy something, answer a survey, or set up an appointment to see the latest-and-greatest vacuum cleaner or knife set in your home.
While you can put your number on the National Do Not Call Registry, that doesn’t always work – and it doesn’t apply to some nonprofit organizations. And even then, some telemarketing companies ignore the legislation and make illegal telephone calls to consumers.
Fortunately, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act regulates telemarketers and robocalls to free consumers from unwanted and harassing calls.
What is the Telephone Consumer Protection Act?
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 was designed and enacted to prevent telephone solicitors (that’s the professional term for telemarketer) from bothering consumers. It restricts:
- The use of automatic telephone dialing systems (commonly called autodialers)
- The use of artificial or prerecorded voice messages
Additionally, the TCPA requires businesses that work with telemarketers to set up internal, company-specific do-not-call lists. It also forbids any company from robocalling a cell phone without prior consent from the phone’s owner. That’s true whether the calls come from the same state, out of state, or even out of the country.
What’s a Robocall?
Robocalls are automated phone calls using autodialers. Phone calls that contain prerecorded messages are also considered robocalls.
In order to not be considered a robocall, a phone call must have been dialed by an actual person, not a computer or autodialer, and it must have a live person on the other end.
Even if a live person is on the other end of the line, it’s still possible the call was made by an autodialer. You can usually tell, too: If you pick up the phone and hear a prerecorded message, chances are pretty good that the call was made with an autodialer.
These calls are illegal.
Updated TCPA Rules
In 2012, the Federal Communications Commission revised the TCPA’s rules to require telemarketers to get written consent from consumers before robocalling them. The law also forbids telemarketers to claim they have an “established business relationship” with consumers to avoid getting consent. Finally, telemarketers must provide an automated and interactive opt-out option at the beginning of every robocall so the person on the other end of the phone can immediately stop the calls. (Companies are also required to provide a toll-free callback number so people who wish to add their numbers to the company’s do-not-call list can do so.)
Your Rights for Robocalls
You have the right not to receive telephone solicitation, whether it’s a live person or a computer calling you.
Telemarketing Calls on Cell Phones
Unless you’ve given a company prior, written consent, they’re not allowed to call you on your cell phone – even if you’re not on the National Do Not Call Registry – in most cases.
Can You Sue Over Telemarketing Calls or Robocalls?
You absolutely have the right to get in touch with a telecommunications attorney who understands the TCPA and how it affects consumers. You may be entitled to financial compensation for unwanted robocalls placed by:
- Check-cashing companies
- Companies that say you won a contest or sweepstakes
- Credit card companies
- Debt collectors
- Finance companies
- Mortgage lenders
- Student loan companies
Telemarketers must follow all the same rules as debt collectors, credit card companies, and other entities, regardless of what they’re selling or what services they offer. You can sue telemarketers for violating the law, and the TCPA allows consumers to seek $500 per illegal robocall. If illegal robocalls are made willfully, the TCPA allows consumers to seek $1,500 per call.
Remember, though, some nonprofits and organizations making non-sales calls are still allowed to robocall you. It’s probably a good idea to talk to an attorney if you’re not sure whether the calls you’re receiving are legal.
What to Do if You Intend to Sue
Keep detailed records about companies that call you so you can provide your attorney with as much information as possible. Write down the company’s name, phone number, and the times and dates on which they call. Note whether you heard a live person or a prerecorded message on the other end. You’ll also want to save any voicemails or text messages from each company, and print up your phone bill to show your lawyer exact times and dates they called or texted you.
Do You Need to Talk to a Telecommunications Lawyer in Glendale or Los Angeles?
If you’ve received unwanted robocalls or telemarketing calls that you didn’t sign up for, talk to a telecommunications attorney right away by calling 818-659-8331. You can also use our toll-free number, 800-774-4163, for a free consultation. We may be able to help you recover financial damages under the TCPA.