The phone rings…long pause…click…then automated voice comes on to give you a message. Whether it is a telemarketer, a debt collector, or who knows what, we have likely experienced being robo-called by a computerized system.
What many people aren’t aware of is there are laws that regulate and in many cases outright prohibit certain types of automated calls – particularly to your cell phone. In this article I will go over you options if you are dealing with aggressive debt collectors who are routinely robo-calling your cell phone.
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) is a federal law that focuses on stoping abusive methods that debt collectors and others use to contact consumers. While the TCPA does regulate things text messages, telephone solicitations, caller ID issues, and even the sending of junk faxes – for the purpose of this article I am going to focus on the TCPA regulations as they apply to debt collectors robo-calling your cell phone.
TCPA Restricts Debt Collectors from Autodialing or Sending Prerecorded Calls to Your Cell Phone
Debt collectors are not permitted to use autodialers or prerecorded messages when calling your cell phone. If you are receiving collection calls to your cell phone and when you pick up there is a delay, then a click, and then someone comes on the line it is likely that the call was placed by a machine known as an autodialer.
Another commoner tactic of debt collectors is to autodial your cell phone and then leave a prerecorded message about the debt or with instructions to call the collection agency back. In both instances a violation of the TCPA would have occurred.
But Wait…Did you Give the Debt Collector Permission to Contact you on Your Cell Phone?
As with most rules there are exceptions. The TCPA does allow debt collectors to robo-call you on your cell phone if you give them express consent to do so. You may be saying to yourself – “I would never give permission to a debt collector to bother me on my cell phone!”. But the law says that if you gave the creditor your cell phone number on the credit application or provided the number to the creditor as a way in which they could contact you, then you have consented to being contacted via your cell phone about the debt – even via an autodialed phone call or prerecorded message.
If you have provided your cell phone to a creditor and now they are using it to robo-call you, you can revoke your consent by sending a written letter the creditor and expressly revoking your consent and prohibiting them from contacting you via your cell phone with an autodialer or prerecorded message.
TCPA Provides for $500 – $1,500 Per Call In Damages
So how do you get the debt collector to stop with robo-calls to your cell phone? You can sue them. The law allows consumers to sue offending debt collectors and allows you to recover, if your lawsuit is successful, $500 per call that violates the TCPA. If the court finds that the debt collectors actions where done knowing or were willful the $500 per violation can be tripled to $1,500 per call.
If you are receiving these calls it is important to save any prerecorded messages you may have in your voicemail and then to pull a copy of the phone calls being made to your cell phone from your cell phone provider. This will provide you a list of how many times the offending creditor has called and can be the basis for determining what your damages are.
The TCPA and the FDCPA
Now we are simply getting into too many acronyms! TCPA claims are often brought against debt collectors who violate another consumer protection law known as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The FDCPA regulates how debt collectors can collect on a debt.
Often I will see a debt collector leave messages on cell phones where the content of the message violates the FDCPA because it is threatening, vulgar, or has information that is not true. At the same time the debt collector can be in violation of the FDCPA if the message was a prerecorded collection message or if it is clear it was autodialed.
If you are looking to bring an FDCPA claim against an abusive creditor it is important to review your cell phone history with your lawyer for possible TCPA violations as well.
Why Do Debt Collectors Robo-Call If They Know It Is Against the Law?
Receiving a robo-call from a debt collector is a pretty common occurrence. Are these debt collectors just thumbing their nose at the law? In some cases the answer is yes. It is a matter of numbers. Debt collectors can call hundreds of more numbers a day with an autodialer as compared to what person can do. Debt collection is about getting as many people to respond as possible. And this is a whole lot more efficient that hiring someone to punch in phone numbers all day.
And, like you before you read this article, many people simply don’t know that such calls are against the law. The debt collector may be willing to play the odds that they will be able to collect a whole lot more with relatively little risk of being sued.
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John Skiba, Esq.
We offer a free consultation to discuss your debt problem and help you put together a game plan to eliminate your debt once and for all. Give us a call at (480) 420-4028