Telephone Harassment Lawsuits and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)
Our lawyers practice in several consumer law areas to include the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Often times, these two areas go hand and hand. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) is found at 47 U.S.C. § 227 . The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is found at 15 U.S.C. § 1692.
The TCPA has interplay with the FDCPA and it is important for you to try to figure out whether you are being contacted by a telemarketer of some sort or if the call is a debt collection call. In accordance with the TCPA, consumers are entitled to collect damages ranging from $500 to $1,500 for each unlawful call, fax, or text message. The third-party debt collection calls fall under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which allows for up to $1,000 per each violation.
Telephone Harassment Protection
Both of these statutes have been enacted by Congress in order to protect consumers from illegal telephone harassment communication from telemarketers and from illegal debt collection activities by a debt collector. Importantly, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) applies to cell phones. Since consumers now pay for the usage on their cell phones, this law prohibits any calls using an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS) or an artificial or pre-recorded voice. Under this law, it is illegal every time you receive a robocall and/or an artificial or pre-recorded voice message to your cell phone. This also applies to text messages. The only defense that anyone can use that is contacting you either by phone calls or text messages to your cell phone is that you previously gave the caller permission to do so.
Courts have held that consumers have “consented” to calls from a debt collector if the consumer provided their cell phone number on the credit application or gave express permission to either the creditor or collector over the phone. It is important to know that you can revoke consent previously given to a collector or creditor by sending a certified letter asking the creditor/creditor to stop calling your cell phone.
What to do if You’re Receiving Harassing Phone Calls
If you believe that you are receiving telephone harassment that is in violation of the TCPA, our law firm advises you to take the following actions:
- Answer the phone as much as possible when you get these types of calls. Please then keep a copy of all the phone bills you receive as this will allow the incoming call from the robocaller to appear on your phone bill.
- Google and research whoever is calling you to try to get as much information as possible. If you do a Google search, that should take you to various complaint sites in which you can try to find out who the caller is. Take screen shots and digital photos of the specific caller id showing the date, time and phone number of the phone call.
- Keep all of the voice messages and unsolicited text messages or Junk Faxes that you receive and, if you can, digitize and save them to your computer so you have them. Also, do not delete them from your cell phone.
- As stated above, keep phone bills and records and make a note of the incoming calls from the callers who are violating this law. Keep a log of the date of the call, time of the call, caller’s identity and a brief description of what the caller said to you and what you said to the caller.
- If you are sick and tired of these calls, you can revoke consent if you have given it previously to receive calls or text messages on your cell phone. A sample revocation letter looks like the following: (Please create your own and make sure you mail it by certified mail, return receipt. Please keep a copy of the signed and dated letter and the green card showing proof of receipt. Please make sure you list in the letter all phone numbers that were called and to which you want the calls and/or text messages to stop. It is important that you make sure that you have proof that you sent the letter so that is what certified mail will provide along with your keeping a signed and dated copy of the actual letter that you sent.)
Report Harassing Phone Calls
Sample Revocation of Consent Letter
123 Any Street Lane
Any Town, USA 00000
Date (put in the date here)
Re: Account number (any account number or reference that the caller says that are calling to)
You have been contacting me and I have never given you permission to do so. If you believe that I have given you permission to contact me, I am now revoking consent for you to call or text my cell number (xxx) xxx-xxxx. Please do not ever call me or text me at this number again. You may contact me by mail at my residence only and I will respond accordingly. Thank you for your cooperation with this matter.
(City, State and Zip Code)
Our law firm can help you with regard to telephone harassment under both the TCPA and the FDCPA. If you are getting harassing phone calls and you are not sure where to turn, please feel free to contact our office nearest you to set up a free private consultation visit with one of our licensed attorneys.