LEGAL MATTERS: What Can You Do About Robo-Calls?
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Since the 1990’s,the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act has prohibitedtelemarketers from both a) making prerecorded sales and debt collection calls to your residential telephone number, and b) making prerecorded or autodialed (i.e. dialed by a machine, not a person) sales and debt collection calls to your mobile phone number, with two big exceptions.Unsurprisingly, the sleazy companies that pitch their products using robo calls took full advantage of the exceptions. But the Federal Communications Commission has stepped in to curtail the exceptions and crack down on unsavory robo calling businesses.
The first exception was a company could call you if it had an "established business relationship” with you. (Department stores would claim they had that with you if you had one of their credit cards.) The FCC eliminated that exception last year.
The second exception was a company could robocall you if you gave it your “prior express consent.” Since the consent did not have to be in writing, companies came up all sorts of creative ways to trick people into giving their consent. Effective October 16, 2013, the FCC says the consent be in writing which should cut down on the games companies played to get consent.
Enforcing the Law
Rather than creating a government bureaucracy to enforce the TCPA, Congress decided to provide incentives for consumers and their lawyers to enforce the Act through private lawsuits. The theory was companies would obey the law instead of having to pay mandatory damages and attorney fees to the consumers who caught them cheating and sued.It was a good thought but consumers have not gotten the message and most just shrug off robo calls. Don’t be a passive victim! If you get an unauthorized robo call, talk to an attorney about suing the bastards.
• Unauthorized prerecorded sales and debt collection calls to residential telephone numbers.
• Unauthorized prerecorded sales and debt collection calls to wireless telephone numbers.
• Unauthorized auto dialed sales and debt collection calls to wireless telephone numbers.
• Autodialed calls to residential telephone numbers as long as a human being is available to speak with you if you answer.
• Auto dialed and prerecorded calls from pollsters.
• Auto dialed and prerecorded calls from charities trying to raise money.
• Auto dialed and prerecorded calls to business lines.
• Autodialed and prerecorded emergency calls.
Next Week: The federal laws that protect you from unwanted text messages.
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