What to do about unwanted marketing calls or robocalls?
Americans are constantly harassed by telephone marketing calls, debt collection calls and other unwanted telephone calls. These unwanted calls led to passage of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) in 1991. At the time, Senator Hollings, the sponsor of the TCPA, described these calls as "the scourge of modern civilization, they wake us up in the morning; they interrupt our dinner at night; they force the sick and elderly out of bed; they hound us until we want to rip the telephone out of the wall.” In the 26 years since the TCPA was passed, not much has changed. Unwanted calls are still a "scourge." About the only thing that has changed is that the telephones are no longer isolated on the wall, but are actually carried around by us all day long. These days, we simply cannot get away from our telephones.
Although at times it seems that there are no effective laws against unwanted calls, there are in fact some teeth to the TCPA. The TCPA generally restricts telemarketing calls and the use of automatic telephone dialing systems and artificial or prerecorded voice messages. You have the right to sue for violations of the TCPA and collect from $500 to $1,500 per call.
1. Get on the National do not call list
One of the first steps to take in cutting down unwanted calls is to get on the National do not call list. Registration is free. Most legitimate telemarketers screen their call lists against the do not call list. If your number is on the list, they will not call you.
2. Get on the Company do not call list
Telemarketing companies must keep internal do not call lists. If you get a call, tell the caller to put you on the company's do not call list.
Generally speaking, prerecorded robocalls are illegal unless you agreed to be called. If you think that you are receiving a robocall from a legitimate business that you interacted with, then make sure to use any interactive "opt-out" mechanism provided during the call (i.e. "press one") If you do not recognize the caller, then be cautious about responding because some shady companies making robocalls will continue to call if you respond.
If you recognize the business and it keeps making robocalls after you opt out, then consider contacting a law firm like Harmony Law for help.
If you cannot identify the business, then consider filing a complaint with the FTC.
There are also third party apps available that can block high frequency robocalls.
The TCPA restricts auto dialed calls. You can know it is an auto-dialed call if the call starts with a dead silence or click before there is a recording or person speaking. You might even say hello without an immediate response. This often indicates use of an auto-dialer. If a company is making an auto-dialed call to your cell phone without your consent, you have the right to sue for statutory damages of $500 per call. In some cases the statutory damages may amount to $1,500 per call. If you previously gave consent, you can revoke or withdraw consent. You can do this during the call. Tell the caller to stop calling your number. If you know the company, then follow up with a letter to the company telling it you have revoked your consent to call you at the called number. Keep a copy and send the letter certified mail, return receipt requested.
If you receive auto-dialed calls to your cell phone that were made without your consent, or made after you told the company to stop calling you, and you know the name of the company that is calling you, consider contacting a law firm like Harmony Law for help.