Robocalls, Automated Messages, and The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)
Debt collectors cannot call you at work, (2) cannot reveal your debt to third parties, and (3) cannot mislead you about debts.
The FDCPA also prohibits excessive phone calls. And if you receive calls to your cellphone, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act provides additional protection.
Excessive phone calls
15 U.S.C. 1692d(5) prohibits “causing a telephone to ring or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number.”
Repeatedly or continuously is not defined in the FDCPA, but it’s an issue the courts have looked at repeatedly. Most consider it a fact specific inquiry. For example, if a consumer is negotiating a settlement agreement with a debt collector, repeated calls that day may be permissible.
On the other hand, if a consumer disputes a debt and receives numerous calls, that may be problematic. If a debt collector calls four times and leaves four messages in one day, that may also be problematic.
The bottom line is that if have received multiple collection calls in one day, it’s worth discussing further with a consumer rights attorney.
Autodialed calls and robo calls
Impermissible robocalls to your cell phone violate the The Telephone
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Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The TCPA provides wide protection against robocalls, calls using automatic dialers, and pre-recorded voice messages. For the most part, the TCPA comes into play when debt collectors make collection calls to your cell phone. If a debt collector makes impermissible robocalls to a consumer’s cell phone, the debt collector is liable for $500 per call. If it can be proven that the calls are willful, $1,500 per call.
The trickiest part to proving a TCPA violation is the issue of consent—whether there was consent to call a consumer’s cellphone. If you have given a collector written permission to call your cell phone, then the creditor has not violated the Act.
In many cases, it’s easy to prove there was no consent, because the consumer did not even have a cellphone, or their current cellphone number, when they opened the account.
Are you receiving illegal robocalls?
If you receive more four a calls a day from a debt collector, a debt collector may be calling you with an autodialer or computer program. If you answer a call and nobody is there or there is a pause on the line before someone picks up, that’s another sign of an autodialer. Or if you receive voicemails from a debt collector with a prerecorded message or part of the message includes a computerized voice, you might be receiving robocalls.
If the message say, this is a call for, <your name> – which sounds phonetically pronounced or robotic, and it is to your cell phone, then it violates the TCPA.
If you think you are receiving robocalls, it’s a good idea to contact a consumer rights attorney. We may be able to help you figure out if you are receiving robocalls, what your rights are, and what the next steps are.