Disclaimer: This blog is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice and does not create or intend to create an attorney-client relationship. This blog post should never be used to replace the advice of your personal attorney.
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 is an essential piece of legislation that protects consumers’ rights in the United States. Congress passed the original bill nearly thirty years ago to respond to the increase of complaints about unethical and outright harassing telemarketing campaigns. Since its inception, the TCPA has gone through several changes. These reflect the advances in wireless technology, which allow telemarketers to update their advertising strategies. As the name suggests, the purpose of the TCPA Settlement is to protect consumers and their legal rights. The National Do Not Call Registry, the Can-Spam Act, and the legislation concerning text messages go hand-in-hand with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
What Constitutes A TCPA Violation?
Federal and state laws regulate how telemarketers can use the landline and cell phone numbers of individuals and businesses in the United States for marketing purposes. In most places, the law forbids the use of automatic telephone equipment for telemarketing calls. Telemarketers additionally have the requirement to honor the rules of the Federal DNC list. Several types of entities, such as tax-exempt non-profit organizations and political campaigns, don’t have to follow the call rules that apply for businesses. However, some states such as North Carolina don’t allow robocalls and the use of automatic telephone systems, even for them.
A violation of TCPA occurs when a telemarketer doesn’t follow the letter of the law. Infringements can happen unknowingly or with intent. The court might decide on different fines for both cases. It’s the Federal Communications Commission that’s in charge of investigating potential violations. Consumers that feel a telemarketer has broken the rules may also seek compensation in the United States District Court.
What’s A TCPA Settlement?
The Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission receive a quarter of a million complaints about TCPA violations each month. Yes, you’ve read that right – 250 000 a month. Many of these complaints are legitimate, and the FTC and FCC deal with them internally. That means they are the ones that conduct an investigation and fine the telemarketers who broke the rules. In quite a few other cases, however, consumers choose to file a lawsuit with the court. That’s a relatively new phenomenon. TCPA lawsuits in 2010 totaled just 354. Five years later, in 2015, they were 3710. That’s more than a 1000 percent increase in litigation in merely five years. There are two main reasons for that:
- The TCPA goes through constant changes that strengthen the Act and makes the consumer protection clauses much more efficient
- The public learns more and more about its existence, and they are more willing to fight for their legal rights in court.
More often than not, lawsuits end with a settlement. It’s much cheaper for companies to pay the complaining party than to risk going to open court, where they run the risk of:
- Bad publicity
- Soaring legal costs, including attorneys’ fees
- An order to pay much more than if they agreed to the proposed settlement
These risks are even higher when it comes to class-action lawsuits. It isn’t the habit of attorneys and organizations to disclose the sums they’ve agreed to pay in a class action settlement. However, some of the more stirring cases became public. For example, Caribbean Cruise Line agreed to pay nearly $76 million to consumers who experienced harassment over the phone from its telemarketing department. Capital One came close, with $75.5 million for people who filed a class-action lawsuit because the bank used an autodialer to contact their cell phones.
Similarly, DISH Network parted with $61 million, US Coachways with $49.9 million, and AT&T Mobility with $45 million. Midland Credit, Wells Fargo (on multiple occasions), Uber, Bank of America, and HSBC are just a few of the other notable names that paid TCPA settlements. These are multi-million-dollar cases that happened in the past several years alone.
Consumers that receive prerecorded voice messages on the phone that have commercial purposes might want to explore the possibility of a TCPA settlement. Lawsuits are an efficient way to keep the legal system working. In general, offending companies stop their shady practices once they gain negative publicity from a big-time court-battle or agreement. Consumers who had their rights violated, at the same time, receive compensation in the form of cash. One can argue that the system works in the best interest of the public.
When Did TCPA Settlements Start?
The first settlements occurred in the infancy of the TCPA. Congress created the Act with the idea of ensuring the protection of consumers. It was only logical that they would seek their rightful compensation from unethical telemarketers and companies. It wasn’t before the adoption of the National Do Not Call Act of 2003, however, that the number of TCPA settlements increased. The legislation was slow to adapt to the changes in wireless technology. Companies got away with automatic phone calls to cellular telephone numbers, spam text messages, and junk fax for a long time before that. It’s been five years since the number of lawsuits and settlement payments increased. That’s particularly true for class action members who successfully convince big companies that paying would be the sensible thing to do.
What Does It Mean For Companies?
Small businesses and big corporations alike started paying closer attention to the TCPA once the number of settlement deals increased. Studies demonstrate that consumer satisfaction goes through the roof when organizations follow the law. The rules’ design aims to make the telemarketing experience as smooth for the individual receiving the call as possible. While corporations have separate telemarketing departments within their infrastructure, that’s not always the case for small-time players. They often have to seek the assistance of third-party contractors.
That means they need to make sure the telemarketer they’re paying is legitimate. The FCC won’t take lightly to violations of third-party telemarketers that call on behalf of an otherwise legitimate business. Both the callers and the organization that hired them might be subject to investigation and successful suing in case of a valid claim. Entities with enough resources, such as American Eagle, have already created settlement funds to use when they need to make a bulk of complaints go away.
In general, the practice of TCPA settlements has made it too expensive for companies to ignore the Telephone Consumer Protection Act rules. Its effects are widespread and are already changing the landscape of telephone marketing.
The Importance Of TCPA Settlements For Consumers
The settlement practice changed the way companies operate. It affected consumer behavior, as well. People pay closer attention to their legal rights now and don’t take lightly to harassment from telemarketers. As the TCPA evolves, its rules become known to the broader public. On top of the financial compensation consumers receive, the settlements’ importance serves as a form of education. Cell phone and landline number owners know when telemarketers can call them and in what way.
TCPA And DNC Rules Everyone Should Know
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act is clear. A company can’t use automatic telephone systems to contact individuals on their cell phones as well as to occupy multiple business lines. Prerecorded messages should contain the name, contact information, and the entity’s physical address making the call. If it’s a third-party contractor, they should inform the consumer about who’s hiring them too. The technology behind robocalls is evolving, and prerecorded messages more and more successfully mimic real voice. Even those should make it explicitly clear that the consumer doesn’t have a live operator on the other end of the line. Some states even require that the consumer gives prior express consent to receive robocalls and telemarketing text messages before a company can even think of contacting them.
The Do Not Call List
The Federal Do Not Call Registry is a nation-wide database of telephone numbers of citizens. The owners of these numbers have requested protection from unsolicited telemarketing calls. Companies can’t call members of the list with sales pitches for products and services unless one of three conditions are satisfied:
- Their registration on the donotcall.gov website happened less than 31 days ago
- They have a prior business relationship with the company
- A prior express consent to receive telemarketing calls exists
Breaking these rules constitutes a violation of the DNC registry and the TCPA by extension. Exceptions are possible when the telemarketer calls to inform a consumer about a service change, with delivery messages and the like. Debt collectors, non-profit organizations, and political campaigns can still contact DNC numbers in most cases. It’s important to remember that all calls, including robocalls, should happen between 8:00 am and 9:00 pm on business days, local time.
There are, of course, many other rules and regulations that are a part of the TCPA. If your company wants to guarantee its consumers’ protection one hundred percent, feel free to contact TCPA Protect. Our expertise and products explicitly tailor to be of service to small, medium, and big businesses looking to ensure TCPA compliance. It’s the best way to avoid unpleasantries like participation in a final approval hearing for a settlement.
How Do You File A TCPA Claim And Win?
Step one is to fill a claim form at your district court. Of course, a valid claim form is an intricate matter, which you’d best leave to an attorney that specializes in TCPA settlements. It would be your end goal to reach the final approval stage, and you can’t do that without the help of a professional who knows what they are doing.
As the number of lawsuits soared in recent years, attorney advertising for TCPA litigation also became prominent. Many law firms, big and small, try to attract clients with promises of large sums of money. When you’re planning on filing a claim, you should be careful about the lawyers you hire. It’s best to go for litigators who have experience as class representatives. Class action lawsuits, which gather many people with the same complaint against one company, are the best course of action. The reason is simple – corporations that usually break the TCPA rules have more resources for exhaustive court battles than private citizens. They are much more likely to agree on a settlement when a couple of hundred people, or more, sue.
To find the proper legal representation, you might employ the capabilities of modern technology. An attorney advertisement with a link to a settlement website would be a suitable place to start. If the law firm has had success as a settlement administrator in the past, you may rest assured they know what they are doing. Check if they’ve won TCPA settlements against some big telemarketers and businesses in the United States. You have a high probability of winning yourself with such attorneys by your side.
TCPA Protect And Your Business
When you’re planning a telemarketing campaign, it’s only normal to worry about TCPA compliance. If you or your telemarketers break it, you’re likely to suffer through an investigation by the FCC. A class-action lawsuit from your consumers won’t be pleasant either. You can easily avoid any difficulty by following the rules of the law. Our company will gladly help you protect your consumers against unethical and unlawful telephone solicitations. That will also help you protect your company from dealing with a TCPA class-action settlement in the future.