This is an article I wrote for the local Home Owners Association newsletter:
I am not a lawyer, but I want to share some of the information I have come across on the subject of telemarketing.
In a recent poll of 2.2 million people, 98% of the people surveyed said they hated telemarketing calls. On the other hand, 98% said they did not know that there was a federal law that protected consumers from unwanted telemarking calls.
In 1991, a law was passed by congress called the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The law prohibits unsolicited fax advertisements, unsolicited prerecorded telephone solicitations to residential telephone line subscribers and repeated telephone solicitations to those who have demanded that their telephone number be placed on a do not call list.
Recipients of unwanted telemarketing calls can demand that their telephone number be placed on a do not call list. Companies engaged in telemarketing or represented by telemarketing calls must maintain a list of telephone numbers not to call and they must honor a do not call demand for a period of ten years. Companies engaged in telemarketing must have a policy, available on demand, for maintaining a do not call list. Telemarketers must also voluntarily provide a called party with their full name (not a code name or just a first name) and they must disclose the name of the company represented and an address or telephone number of the company represented.
Recipients of unsolicited fax advertisements at work or at home, recipients of unsolicited prerecorded telephone solicitations at their residence (including those free alarm systems, free satellite systems and free insurance quote offers), and repeated calls to residents after a do not call demand can file in local court for actual damages or $500.00 for each violation, whichever is greater. The amount of $500.00 for each violation is statutory. Statutory means that is the least a consumer will get if they win their case. If the unsolicited fax advertisement, unsolicited prerecorded telephone solicitation or repeated telephone solicitations after a do not call demand is determined to be willful and knowing (they knew what they were doing) then the resident can get up to three times the statutory $500.00. The $500.00 is for every violation within a call and there can be several violations within a single call.
So what about those hang up calls? Telemarketers use a device called a predictive dialer, which is programmed to dial 20 telephone numbers when only ten Telephone Sales Representatives (TSR) are available. If 15 calls are connected and only 10 TSRs are available, than 5 of the calls are abandoned. That way the TSRs are constantly reading their sales pitch to someone. The telephone numbers that were abandoned wind up back in line for another call. It is not uncommon for someone to get a dozen hang up calls within a few days from the same telemarketer using a predictive dialer. All telemarketing calls (including these hang up calls) must, by law, provide proper identification of the caller, the name of the business represented and the telephone number or address of the business represented.
The TCPA is a law that the consumer may enforce. So how does one do that? Do not hang up on the calls! Place a logbook next to your telephone and start writing down the time and date of the calls. Recording a call is legal in the State of Texas.
Get as much information on the business as possible. If they do not voluntarily provide a telephone number or address of the business represented, ask for it. Write that down too. Caller ID can help to identify the caller. Tell the telemarketer you want your telephone number placed on a do not call list. The telemarketer must do this at the time the request is made. You are not required to give any information other than your telephone number to the telemarketer. Do not agree to a “removal” from the call list.
If you get a live call after a do not call request, repeated hang up calls from the same business, an unsolicited fax or an unsolicited prerecorded telephone solicitation to your home, you can file a private right of action in local court. Filing fees are $15.00 and serving fees are the cost of a certified letter or $45.00 for constable serving. Don’t give up if you lose your first case. Remember, these are sophisticated telemarketers with years of experience behind them. Stick to the facts and you will win your day in court.
You can also file complaints with the Public Utility Commission (1-888-782-8477) and the Federal Communications Commission (1-888-225-5322). The more information state and federal agencies have on abusive and illegal telemarketing activity the better chance there is of our legislature introducing and passing bills that will curb this type of activity.
For more information on the TCPA call the FCC and ask for their booklet “What You Can Do About Unsolicited Telephone Marketing Calls And Faxes” or visit http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/policy/telemarketing.html.
Unsolicited Commercial E-mail will be dealt with accordingly!
Last update 09/03/00