If your business is making outbound phone calls, you likely already know about TCPA compliance. But what exactly is this regulation, and how can you avoid penalties? Here’s everything you need to know about this federal act to keep your business in compliance.
What Is the TCPA?
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act was passed by U.S. Congress in 1991 as a way to regulate telemarketing and telephone soliciting. The act was passed in response to the growing number of telemarketing calls and faxes in the digital age. Companies that do not follow the regulations could be subject to penalties or even be sued by consumers they are trying to contact.
TCPA regulations set specific limits on the use of automated telephone calls and the following systems:
- Telemarketing calls
- Auto-dialed calls
- Pre-recorded calls
- Text messages
- Unsolicited faxes
What Does the TCPA Say?
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has the power to create new rules concerning TCPA. So as technology and times change, the TCPA regulations can change, too. But here are some of the main components of the TCPA that every business should know:
- Telemarketers cannot make sales calls before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
- Consumers must be given the option to be placed on a Do Not Call list.
- Agents must provide their name and the name of the organization they’re representing.
- Telemarketers cannot use automated dialing to call a cell phone and leave a pre-recorded message unless the caller has already given consent.
- Callers must not continue to make calls to a phone number that has been reassigned.
- Debt collection calls are not considered telemarketing, so companies making this type of call can make non-automated phone calls to individuals even if they place their name on a Do Not Call list.
- Calls cannot be made to emergency lines, emergency phone numbers, hospitals, or phone numbers that will charge the person receiving the phone call.
What Are TCPA Exemptions?
The TCPA declares artificial or “robocalls” to be an invasion of consumer privacy. Most regulations under the TCPA are in relation to telemarketing phone calls. However, there are certain types of phone calls that are exempt from the TCPA, including:
- Calls made by a tax-exempt nonprofit organization.
- Calls made for a non-commercial purpose.
- Calls that do not include unsolicited advertisement (even if it is for a commercial purpose).
What Is the Compliance Risk?
Individual consumers have the right to file lawsuits or collect damages under the TCPA. Here are some of the compliance risks a company may face:
- A person who receives a phone call after placing their name on the Do Not Call list is granted a private right of action in a local court. They may sue for damages from each violation the company has made against them. Courts may be able to triple damages.
- Individuals may also sue for violations of laws in relation to faxes, auto-dialing, artificial calls, and pre-recorded messages.
- States may take initiative to defend their citizens against companies who violate the TCPA.
- Individuals can file complaints to the FCC, which can give penalties to companies who violate the TCPA.
TCPA violations could cost a company penalties of up to $500 per violation, or up to $1,500 per willful violation. There are no limits on the potential settlement of a TCPA lawsuit.
How Can You Stay in Compliance?
It can be difficult for companies to know if they’re in total compliance with the TCPA. The laws can be hard to understand, and collection rights may conflict in the federal courts.
Luckily, most companies are safely in compliance with the TCPA if they allow consumers to express consent for any type of contact. For example, if your company sends out promotional text messages, you’ll need to ask for permission by physical letter, email, or text message. Simply put, you need to get permission before making any phone call or text to a customer.
Getting Legal Advice
This article is not intended as professional legal advice, but serves as a guideline on the basics of TCPA compliance. If you’re seeking help with specific legal questions, we advise you to contact your organization’s legal counsel, which can help you ensure proper compliance with TCPA.