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WHAT IS A VIOLATION OF THE TCPA?

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on December 16, 2013

 

The TCPA protects calls to consumers’ cell phones, residential lines, and to any number registered on the “Do Not Call List” (DNC).

Regarding cell phones-47 U.S.C. S 227(b)(1)(A)(iii):

The TCPA makes it unlawful for any person within the United States to make any call using an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS) or an artificial or prerecorded voice to a cell phone line without prior express consent and without emergency purposes. 47 U.S.C. S 227(b)(1)(A)(iii). The TCPA defines ATDS as “equipment which has the capacity (A) to store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator; and (B) to dial such numbers.” 47 U.S.C S 227(a)(1). According to the FCC, an ATDS is any telephone equipment that has the capacity to dial numbers without human intervention. Therefore, if the telephone equipment has the potential to be programmed to make auto dialed calls, then it is considered an ATDS and is regulated by the TCPA and the FCC. See Satterfield v Simon (9th Cir. 2009) 569 F.3d 946. Predictive dialers are also regulated in a similar fashion as an ATDS, because they have the capacity to dial numbers “without human intervention”, as it is equipment that utilizes lists or databases of known, nonrandom telephone numbers.” See Griffith v. Consumer Portfolio Serv., Inc., 838 F. Supp. 2d 723.

It is usually pretty easy to tell if you have received a call from an ATDS, because upon answering the phone you are first faced with dead air, and then you hear some clicking noises, and then you finally hear a pre-recorded voice message or your call is transferred to a live person. The courts have ruled that someone receiving a call with a robotic message is a factor to consider as circumstantial evidence that the call was placed with an ATDS. See Vaccaro v. CVS Pharm., Inc., (Southern District Calif. 2013) 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 99991.

The TCPA applies to all cell phones whether used for business or personal use, and does not require the consumer to answer the call in order to establish a violation.

The only defenses are if the call was placed for emergency purposes-such as the City informing you of an impending disaster, which is very rare-or consent. A consent defense to a TCPA lawsuit against a telemarketer usually arises because you previously gave the caller permission to call you. A consent defense to a TCPA lawsuit against a debt collector usually arises because you provided your cell phone number on the credit application or in connection with the transaction that resulted in a debt. You do not have to actually agree to receive robo calls for a consent defense to apply; it is enough if you simply gave your number to the creditor or debt collector. Even if you just gave your number to the original creditor, then the consent defense still applies to a third party debt collector trying to collect a debt that you may owe to someone else.

The only way to prevent this consent defense is if you revoke consent. Revocation can be orally by simply telling them during a phone call to stop calling you. However, they always deny that you revoked consent, so the best way to revoke consent is by sending a certified letter asking the creditor/collector to stop calling your cell phone.

Sometimes companies will accidentally call the wrong person, because of how often consumers change cell phone numbers. Even if a company was legitimately trying to call someone who had previously given them consent, but you now have that person’s number, then the consent defense does NOT apply to you because you—the subscriber receiving the unwanted calls-did not give them consent. In Soppet v Enhanced Recovery Co (7th Cir 2012), 679 F.3d 637, the court held that caveat emptor (buyer beware) applies to a company dialing the wrong number and even suggested that the collector seek indemnification against the original creditor (jointly liable) for its TCPA violation losses.

It does not even matter if you legitimately owe the debt upon which a debt collector is calling about.

Also, callers who have obtained your number from skip tracing (obtaining your cell number from some other source like consumer credit reports or court papers) are violating the TCPA because they did not obtain your number from you directly. Sometimes a company may obtain your cell number by capturing it on its own caller ID, which also does NOT amount to a consent defense.

The bottom line, if you are receving calls to your cell phone with either and ATDS or with pre-recorded or artificial voice messages, it is worth your time to contact us to fully evaluate your circumstances to determine if your rights have been violated.

Regarding calls to residential lines 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(B):

The TCPA prohibits “Artificial or Prerecorded Voice” messages for calls to residential line phones. Auto-dialed calls to a residence line are never a violation of the TCPA, because for whatever reason Congress did not write that prohibition into the law. Additionally, this TCPA section only applies to telemarketing solicitations from sellers with which the consumer does not have an “Established Business Relationship” (EBR). If the seller uses a telemarketing contractor who violates the TCPA, then both seller and telemarketer are jointly liable. If you have done business with a seller within the last eighteen months or made inquiry within the last three months, then the TCPA presumes that you have an EBR with that seller, absent evidence to the contrary. Evidence to the contrary would be a letter to the seller or telemarketer requesting that they stop calling you, and this letter should be sent via certified mail as proof of it having been sent (they always deny that you sent the cease contact letter).

Unfortunately, calls from debt collectors to residential lines are not illegal, even if the collector mistakenly calls a person who does not owe the debt. A consumer’s remedy in this situation would be under the Fair Debt Collection Practice Act (FDCPA), for harassment where the collectors continue to call after the consumer has pointed out the mistake and requests them to stop.

Because here is no need to prove that the caller is using an ATDS under this TCPA section. The consumer only needs to show that the call is a solicitation and that seller used an artificial or pre-recorded voice message.

Regarding Telemarketing Calls to “Do-Not-Call” Numbers- 47 USC 227(c)(5):

This section only applies to telephone solicitation calls. Anyone whose numbers are registered on the DNC list that has received two telemarketing calls within a twelve month period can sue for all calls including the first. It does not matter if calls are live, pre-recorded, or placed with an ATDS. This section applies to calls to both cell phone and residential lines that are registered on the federal or company specific do-not call lists.

It is easy to register your numbers on the national DNC list. Simply Google the “Do-Not-Call Registry” and register up to three numbers on its website. You will receive email confirmation of your registration, which you must keep record of as evidence in your favor.