Almost everyone who has a phone has been contacted and probably annoyed by a telemarketer. Consumer concerns about the growing number of unsolicited telephone marketing calls to their homes and the increasing use of automated and prerecorded messages prompted Congress to pass the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) in 1991.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) subsequently adopted rules that require anyone making a telephone solicitation call to your phone to provide his or her name, the name of the person or entity on whose behalf the call is being made, and a telephone number or address at which that person or entity can be contacted. The rules also prohibit such calls before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. and require telemarketers to comply with any do not call request.
The unsolicited phone calls continued and the FCC took further action by enacting the National Do-Not-Call List in 2003.
The National Do-Not-Call List
If you place your home or cell phone numbers on the National Do-Not-Call List then callers are prohibited from calling those numbers. You can register a business number; however, solicitations to such numbers that are on the list are not unlawful.
What Calls Are Not Prohibited?
The Do-Not-Call list prohibits telephone solicitations. Telephone solicitations are telephone calls that act as an advertisement. The term does not include calls or messages placed with your express prior permission, by or on behalf of a tax-exempt non-profit organization, or from a person or organization with which you have an established business relationship (EBR).
An EBR exists if you have made an inquiry, application, purchase, or transaction regarding products or services offered by the person or entity involved. Generally, you may put an end to that relationship by telling the person or entity not to place any more solicitation calls to your home. Additionally, the EBR is only in effect for 18 months after your last business transaction or three months after your last inquiry or application. After these time periods, calls placed to your phone number by that person or entity are considered telephone solicitations subject to the do-not-call rules.
How do I Put My Numbers on the List?
You can register your phone number(s) on the national Do-Not-Call list by phone or by Internet at no cost. To add your phone number(s) to the national Do-Not-Call list via the Internet, go to donotcall.gov. To register by phone, call 1-888-382-1222 (voice) or 1-866-290-4236 (TTY). You must call from the phone number you wish to register.
What Can I Do If the Do-Not-Call Rules are Violated?
The FCC can issue warning citations and impose fines against companies violating or suspected of violating the do-not-call rules, but does not award individual damages. If you receive a telephone solicitation that you think violates any of these rules, you can file a complaint with the FCC.
Some states permit you to file law suits in state court against persons or entities violating the do-not-call rules. You may be awarded $500 in damages or actual monetary loss, whichever is greater. The amount may be tripled if you are able to show that the caller violated the rules willfully and knowingly. Filing a complaint with the FCC does not prevent you from also bringing a suit in state court.
Questions for Your Attorney
- Does the Do-Not-Call list prevent harassing or prank phone calls?
- How do I file a complaint with the FCC?
- What can be done if a telemarketer continues to violate the rules?