Understanding the Telephone Consumer Protection Act or “TCPA”

You may be aware that the direct marketing and telemarketing industry is governed by several different laws and entities. The TCPA is one of them. What exactly is the TCPA, and how are you beholden to it? Find out in our answers to these commonly asked questions.

What is the TCPA?

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) was passed by Congress in 1991. It was originally designed to protect consumers’ right to privacy in light of unwanted telephone marketing practices. In order to implement and enforce the TCPA, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted specific rules in 1992, including the law that requires telemarketing companies to maintain do-not-call lists. The Act has been revised several times over the years since it was created.

What does it do?

The TCPA regulates telemarketing practices in several different ways. It places restrictions on telemarketing phone calls, autodialed calls, prerecorded calls, text messages, and unsolicited faxes. The FCC also created the National Do-Not-Call List under its rules, which prohibits telemarketers from calling consumers who have opted to sign up for the list.

Who does it affect?

The TCPA affects U.S. consumers, who are protected under its rules, as well as telemarketing companies, who must comply with its rules in order to avoid fines and legal action. When it comes to telemarketers, the Act especially affects companies that use automatic telephone dialing systems and prerecorded voices to call cell phones, pagers, specialized mobile radios, and other radio services.

What happens if I don’t comply?

If you fail to comply with the TCPA, the FCC is authorized to fine you for up to $16,000 per violation. Please consult the FCC website for the latest fines and fees, as they may change. Multiple violations can result in very significant fines. Under the TCPA, individuals may also file lawsuits – including class actions – and collect very significant damages as well.

What are some key TCPA rules?

To name just a few important examples, the TCPA prohibits:

  • Residential telemarketing calls before 8:00 AM or after 9:00 PM
  • Residential telemarketing calls to anyone on the national do-not-call registry
  • Autodialed calls, pre-recorded calls, or texts sent to wireless numbers without the recipient’s express written consent
  • Pre-recorded calls made to landlines for advertising or telemarketing purposes without the recipient’s express written consent
  • Disconnecting an unanswered telemarketing call too late (you must disconnect before 15 seconds or 4 rings)
  • Abandoning more than 3% of all telemarketing calls that are answered by a live person

If you have more specific questions about the TCPA as it pertains to your business, you should get in touch with an established telemarketing attorney. The lawyers at Cove Law can tell you everything you need to know about the TCPA and counsel you on how to comply with it. Get in touch with us for reliable and knowledgeable legal counsel.

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Written by Andrew Cove

Cove Law has significant experience defending federal investigations and formal actions by the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Finance Protection Board and the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as similar matters on the state level by the respective state Attorney General’s Offices and other local agencies.