Nobody likes getting telemarketing calls or other unwanted phone calls. They’re annoying and if you wanted to buy what a telemarketer is trying to sell you, you’d call them, right? Is there anything you can do about these pesky calls? Well, actually there is under both federal and Mississippi law (or the law of your particular state). A federal law known as the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) makes certain calls to consumers unlawful.
- Autodialed or prerecorded calls to cell phones and other numbers without the prior consent of the person being called;
- Certain pre recorded calls to residential telephone numbers without the prior consent of the person being called; and
- Telemarketing calls to consumers who place their name on the nationwide do-not-call list.
Most text messages which are sent in bulk are also prohibited by the TCPA. Junk faxes to homes and businesses are also prohibited. Violations of the TCPA can result in a damages award of $500.00 per violation or actual damages suffered by the victim of the violation. Under certain circumstances, the $500.00 amount can be increased to $1,500.00.
In addition to the federal TCPA, the Mississippi legislature has enacted laws to protect consumers against certain types of unwanted calls. These laws apply to telemarketing calls to consumers and telephone solicitation calls to consumers. The use of any autodialer with prerecorded messages for sales purposes is also prohibited unless the consumer being called has given consent for the call. These laws also regulate the time of day that such calls can be placed. However, there are a number of exceptions to these consumer protection laws. Further, there is some question regarding exactly who can initiate legal action against telemarketers who violate these laws. In some instances, it may be possible for the attorney general only to take legal action for violations of these laws. On the other hand, some of these laws seem to be written to enable any person who is the victim of a violation to sue the offending telemarketer for money damages.
Mississippi Telephone Solicitation Act
One Mississippi law which seeks to protect consumers from telephone solicitations is the Mississippi Telephone Solicitation Act (MTSA). This law was originally enacted in 2003. The MTSA seeks to regulate telephone solicitation calls to consumers with certain exceptions. Consumers who are on a do-not-call list are protected from solicitation calls. Consumers who are not on a do-not-call list can be contacted only on Mondays through Saturdays between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Certain other restrictions apply.
In its current form, however, the MTSA applies only to a “residential telephone line and corresponding telephone number”. There is no mention in the law of cell phones or text messaging. There is currently pending before the Mississippi Senate a bill to address this deficiency. Senate Bill No. 2002 would amend the MTSA to include text messaging and any call over a “telephone line or wireless telephone”. The simple effect of this bill is to update the MTSA to keep pace with technology and the ever more prevalent use of cell phones and text messaging in the marketing arena. If the bill passes in the Senate and the House and is signed by the Governor, it will become law in Mississippi on July 1, 2016.
If you are experiencing unwanted calls, junk faxes, or text messages, you can do something about it. The laws mentioned in this post, as well as others, give you rights to combat the situation. A wise course of action is to consult with an experienced and competent consumer protection attorney to review your options. Our attorneys can help and a call to one of our offices nearest you will help you get started.
Ed Woods is the Managing Attorney of several of the Bond & Botes Law Offices throughout Mississippi. He holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Southern Mississippi, and a Juris Doctorate from Mississippi College School of Law. Ed puts his extensive knowledge of bankruptcy law to use defending consumers from debt collection lawsuits and more. Read his full bio here.