The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)

Voluminous consumer complaints about abuses of telephone technology—for example, computerized calls
dispatched to private homes— prompted Congress to pass the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. § 227. Congress determined that federal legislation was needed because telemarketers, by operating interstate, were escaping state-law prohibitions on intrusive nuisance calls. The Act bans certain practices invasive of privacy and directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) to prescribe implementing regulations. It authorizes States to bring civil actions to enjoin prohibited practices and to recover damages on their residents’ behalf. Congress also provided for civil actions by private parties seeking redress for violations of the TCPA.

While the TCPA was passed in 1991, the problem with abusive telephone practices has exploded in the last few years. My cell phone blows up throughout the day with all kinds of unsolicited calls. Unfortunately, not all calls are covered by the TCPA. Calls that are auto-dialed or pre-recorded to cell phones without prior consent are covered under the TCPA. Sending faxes to someone without their permission is also prohibited. However, if you’ve given prior consent to receive calls you can revoke that consent. The TCPA allows for actual money damages or statutory damages for each violation.

The TCPA has become a powerful weapon against junk faxes and unsolicited pre-recorded marketing calls because of the availability of a class action for violations. Recent cases have settled for millions of dollarsfor violations. It’s imperative that any business marketing by phone or fax fully knows the requirements of the TCPA.