You’re eating dinner, playing golf, swinging your kids, working, etc., and you keep getting these annoying phone calls on your cell phone from telemarketers. Or you get numerous phone calls from debt collectors. What can you do about it?
Well, there are few things you can do about it. First, a little background:
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) was enacted by Congress in 1991 as a response to an increasing number of consumer complaints regarding telemarketing calls. At its core, the TCPA provides a framework of rules that telemarketers must abide by and requires companies to maintain company-specific “do-not-call” lists of consumers who asked not to be called.
This statute was designed to protect consumers from harassment communication from telemarketers and applies to calls, faxes and text messages. The TCPA prohibits any calls using an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS) or a pre-recorded voice. This means that it is illegal every time you receive an artificial or pre-recorded voice message to your cell phone, as well as automated text messages. Telemarketers must abide by the rules laid out in the TCPA or face hefty penalties. The only defense telemarketers who are contacting you by phone or text message to your cell phone is that you previously gave them permission to do so.
Lawsuits against violators are increasing, largely due to the fact that damages may be awarded under the TCPA for each individual violation and without any cap. The TCPA provides that a person who has received more than one telephone call or text message from the same telemarketer within any 12-month period that violates the TCPA may bring an action for damages. Under the TCPA, consumers are entitled to collect damages ranging from $500 to $1,500 for each unlawful call, fax or text message.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) was similarly enacted to protect consumers from illegal debt collection activities by a debt collector. Like the TCPA, the FDCPA provides guidelines that debt collectors must follow, as well as damages that consumers are entitled to if they can prove a violation. The TCPA applies to debt collectors since the majority of their communication is through phone calls. Courts have held that consumers have “consented” to calls from debt collectors if the consumer provided their cell phone number on the credit application or gave express permission to either the creditor or collector over the phone. Consent can be revoked by sending a certified letter asking the creditor/collector to stop calling your cell phone.
What to do about these annoying phone calls
If you believe that you are receiving telephone harassment that is in violation of the TCPA or the FDCPA, here are a few things you should start doing now:
- Carry around a notepad where you can write down the day, time, telephone number, and the content of every phone call,
- Send a certified letter asking the creditor/collector to stop calling your cell phone,
- Gather your phone records to prove every call you received, and
- Call a qualified consumer protection attorney to evaluate your case.
If you feel like you are a victim of a telemarketer or a creditor who is violating these rules, feel free to give me a call or send me an email so we can evaluate your case for free.