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In 1991 Congress passed the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) to curve abusive methods that debt collectors, telemarketers and others use to contact consumers.  The TCPA applies to any individual or corporation who advertises, solicits, collects, markets, or provides information using telephone calls.Common violators of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) are telemarketers, debt collectors, banks, or companies collecting debts in general.

The most common violations of the TCPA include autodialing, robocalls, and unsolicited text messages. Auto dialers are computer programs or equipment that automatically dial phone numbers. Even if a live person is on the other end of the call, it is still against the law for companies to use an auto dialer. Some of the revealing signs that an auto dialer is being used include hang-ups after you have answered the call or a long period of silence before the other person on the line speaks. Debt collectors, telemarketers and others are not permitted to use auto dialers or prerecorded messages when calling your cell phone.  If you are receiving collection or telemarketing calls to your cell phone and when you pick up there is a delay, then a click, followed by someone on the line it is likely that the call was made by an auto dialer.

Another commoner tactic of debt collectors and telemarketers is to autodial your cell phone and then leave a prerecorded message about the debt, instructions to call the collection agency back or about the product or service that wants to be advertised or sold. In both instances a violation of the TCPA would have occurred.

There are some exceptions to these sorts of calls under the TCPA.  The TCPA does allow debt collectors to robo-call you on your cell phone if you give them express consent to do so.  The TCPA states that if you gave the creditor your cell phone number on the credit application (including online) 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 or auto dial you, you can revoke your consent by any reasonable means. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently issued a Declaratory Ruling and Order (“2015 FCC Ruling”), clarifying that under the TCPA “[c]onsumers have a right to revoke consent, using any reasonable method including orally or in writing. Consumers generally may revoke, for example, by way of a consumer-initiated call, directly in response to a call initiated or made by a caller”. This means that even if you had given prior consent to these debt collectors, telemarketers and others, you can revoke such consent at any time and by any means such as telling them over the phone that you no longer give them consent to call your phone and to stop calling you.

So how do you get the debt collectors, telemarketers and others to stop the robo-calls and auto dialer 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 calls made to your phone (even missed calls), prerecorded messages you may have in your voicemail and even 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 or telemarketer has called and can be the basis for determining what your damages are.

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