The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) recently advised that text messages sent by auto-dialers (“robotexts”) are prohibited under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Consumers who received a new cell phone number must revoke consent in order to trigger TCPA protections, especially when their new cell phone number was reassigned from a prior owner who did grant consent to receive robotexts or robocalls.
Congress passed initial TCPA legislation back in 1991, and has been refining the rules ever since. The law limits the use of automatic dialing systems, artificial or pre-recorded voice messages, SMS text messages, and fax machines. It also requires the caller to be identified in the message.
Robocalls Require Permission
Telemarketers, lenders, and debt collectors must get your permission before they contact you on your cell phone using a robo-dialer or automated voice. If you provided a cell phone number, consent to call that number may be implied.
You Can Revoke Your Consent
You have the right to retract permission. If you no longer wish to be contacted on your cell phone, you need to contact the caller and inform them that they no longer have your consent. It is most effective to handle this request in writing in a letter like this one.
In Gager v. Dell Financial Services, the first case of its kind, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia, PA agreed that consumers may block annoying robocalls to their cell phones. Under the TCPA, consumers can revoke any alleged consent implied by applying for credit. Dell Financial’s further efforts to have the appeals court reconsider its ruling were rebuffed.
Document the Calls
If a telemarketer, lender, or debt collector continues to call your cell phone after you have revoked consent, it is important to document the calls in a call log. You should also retain your cell phone records and identify calls placed to your cell phone. To obtain phone records from your cell phone provider, you may need to send a written request.
If you continue to receive calls on your cell phone after requesting they stop, you may be able to bring a lawsuit against the caller. The TCPA permits consumers to recover $500 – $1500 for each call placed by the telemarketer, lender, or debt collector after they’ve been told to stop.