Robo-calls are calls made to consumers using a prerecorded voice message, or mass text. These calls are often made in an attempt to persuade consumers to purchase goods or services from the company behind the calls. Although some robo-calls are made by legitimate companies, including car dealerships, some of these calls may be scams made by individuals or entities in an attempt to convince consumers to hand over personal or financial information. Either way, these calls and texts are often against the law and may be considered illegal robocalls. Some types of calls are legal. In order for robo-calls to be permissible under the law, they must meet several requirements. Generally, in order for a robocall to be legal, you must have given the company your prior consent to be contacted via these calls. Legal robo-calls may include political calls regarding candidates running for office, calls made from charities asking for donations, or calls from emergency service providers. Calls that do not contain any advertising or marketing information and are simply informational are also generally legal.
Today, however, many robo-calls and texts are illegal. If you have received advertising or soliciting robocalls that were made by a company that does not have your express consent to contact you, the calls may be illegal. Additionally, more and more scam robo-calls occur looking for information to take advantage of unwitting consumers and the elderly. Most robocalls are illegal. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), along with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), is responsible for setting and enforcing robocall regulations. According to the FTC, companies that use robocalls to contact consumers must follow several rules in order to be in compliance. Otherwise, these calls may be against the law. The FTC ensures that legitimate companies comply with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act was introduced back in 1991 as a method of protecting consumers from unwanted technology-based solicitation. Of course, technology has significantly changed in the nearly 30 years since the TCPA was enacted, but the act itself has shifted as well to encompass new technologies. Under the TCPA, companies are prohibited from making robocalls to people who have never had a business relationship with the company. Other TCPA violations include not providing consumers with an option to opt-out of receiving calls, calling numbers on the national Do-Not-Call registry, calling residences before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., and failing to identify themselves when making calls. With the evolution of smartphones, the TCPA also applies to unsolicited, pre-written text messages, and spam voicemail. Consumers who have received illegal robocalls may be able to recover damages of between $500 and $1,500 for each violation of the TCPA.
Consumers who have received annoying or harassing illegal robocalls may be able to report these calls to the FCC, FTC or register their phone number with the national Do-Not-Call registry.
The Do-Not-Call registry may not prevent all robocalls. The purpose of the registry is to provide a list of consumers who have opted out of receiving these kinds of calls so that law-abiding businesses can consult the list and determine who they should not call. Most legitimate businesses abide by the registry, but some do not, and scammers are also willing to ignore these laws. While being on the Do-Not-Call registry will not stop these kinds of callers, filing complaints about these robocalls will alert the FTC and other agencies to robocall trends, helping them take action.
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