Congress enacted the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) to protect consumers from unscrupulous business practices. Unfortunately, although the lawmakers’ purpose for the TCPA was good, the reality does not always play out as intended. It is not uncommon for businesses with the best of intentions to face an allegation of a violation of this law. As such, it is a good idea for businesses that use telephone communications to reach potential and current customers to have a basic understanding of this law.
What types of actions does the TCPA restrict?
The TCPA puts restrictions on the use of automated telephone equipment. The law defines this term as equipment that can store or produce a telephone number or sequential number generator used to make a call. The TCPA restricts business owners from using this equipment in certain situations. For example, business owners should only use this equipment during certain times of day and the caller or message should provide basic information about who is making the call.
Is there anything else businesses should know about this law?
This law is evolving. Lawmakers have made additional changes to the TCPA throughout the years since its inception in 1991. Some of the more notable include:
- Do-Not-Call list. In 1992, the FCC expanded the law to include a requirement that those who make these phone calls maintain company specific do-not-call lists. In 2003, this led to the creation of a national Do-Not-Call list administered by the FTC.
- Consent. In 2012, the FCC revised the TCPA to include a requirement that telemarketers get consent from consumers before making robocalls. The definition of consent for these purposes has come under scrutiny and led to courtroom battles.
It is also important to note that a violation of this law can come with steep penalties. Civil penalties can include monetary fines. In other cases, if a person is accused of willfully and knowingly violating the law, criminal penalties may also apply.