Telemarketing calls are annoying. Everyone gets them and rarely has anyone showed enthusiasm for having received one. No one likes to have their busy schedule interrupted to listen to a sales pitch. The good news is that robocalls and calls made using an autodialer can only be done if the company has your prior written consent to do so. If consent has already been given, you can remove your consent to stop the calls. The bad news is that many companies choose not to follow the law. This article outlines what you can do about that and put an end to robocalls. First, lets begin with defining robocalls and autodialers
What Is a Robocall and Autodialer
An autodialer is a piece of hardware or software that is capable of calling phone numbers or groups of phone numbers simultaneously without human intervention. You can often spot the use of an autodialer where there is a long pause after answering the phone, a click or a beep after answering or where no one answers at all and the phone call hangs up moments after answering. These are telltale signs of autodialer use.
A robocall is is a call where a prerecorded or synethetically produced voice message is used and/or where an autodialer is used. Even if a live person answers the phone, it is still considered a robocall if the communication or call was initiated with an autodialer system.
When Are Robocalls Legal?
The TCPA has set strict requirements for companies making robocalls to ensure consumers are not receiving unwanted prerecorded or auto-dialed phone calls. Under the TCPA, it is a violation to place a robocall unless the following requirements are met.
Express Written Consent
Telemarketers must receive a consumer's written signature(digital signatures are allowed) prior to placing any robocall. This is known as "express written consent". The FCC's definition of a digital signature parallels that of the E-Sign Act which defines an electronic signature as "an electronic sound, symbol, or process attached or logically associated with a contract or other record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record". What this means is that express written consent can be obtained by the consumer simply checking an 'opt-in' option box on an online form. This is why it is always imperative to fully read anything you are agreeing to.
Fortunately, companies are prohibited from requiring consent to receive robocalls as a condition to purchase goods or services. This means that you should be able to freely choose not to receive robocalls without it affecting your ability to proceed forward with the purchase.
At the beginning of a call, the caller must state their identity and the businesses identity the caller is placing the call on behalf of. Additionally, the address of the business responsible for the call, along with their phone number, must be provided during the call.
The Ability to Opt Out
Even when leaving a voicemail, a company must always provide the ability to remove their consent for future robocalls. In the case of a voicemessage, the caller must provide a toll-free call back number to allow the consumer to call and "opt-out". In the case of the call being answered, the caller must provide this option at the beginning of the call.
Who Does the TCPA Apply To?
The TCPA applies to numerous types of companies. The following list is non-exhaustive but serves to show where application of the TCPA is commonly seen.
- Debt collection companies
- Finance companies including credit unions, banks and mortgage companies
- Payday loan companies
- Student loan companies
- Sweepstakes companies or reward offers (think of the common "free cruise" offer or "free hotel reward programs")
Can You Sue Under the TCPA?
Absolutely. The TCPA allow consumers to seek up to $1,500 per violation. To know how much your case is worth, speaking to an attorney would be a great start. Every case is unique and an experienced attorney may be able to identify violations that may be overlooked which could ensure you receive the maximum compensation.
If you have been harassed by unwanted phone calls from telemarketers or debt collectors, you may be entitled to compensation under the TCPA. Give us a call today and we will help you determine if you are eligible.