How can I put telemarketers in their place?
If you’re asking yourself this question right now, chances are you’re waaaay past “robocalls are really annoying.”
We get that.
Robocalls and telemarketing calls reached an unbearable level a long time ago. In September 2018 alone, Americans received 5.26 billion of these automated calls. That’s roughly 20 robocalls for each person in the nation. However, some people get 20 spam calls in a single day, not just 20 in a month. It can feel helpless.
If enough is enough, legal action is one way to get even with harassing telemarketers and phone spammers.
When it comes to telephone communications, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) is the primary piece of federal legislation protecting consumers.
It was established in 1991 and updated in 2003 and 2012. It enabled consumers to put themselves on the Do Not Call Registry. Telemarketers also must get written permission from consumers before robocalling them and also provide a way for you to opt out of these calls in the robocall itself.
Sounds fair, right? And yet, it doesn’t resemble anything like what most people experience.
Telemarketers are subject to fines and legal action if they violate these rules. Unfortunately, that has not stopped all the abuses, in part because consumers often don’t take action against the violators.
If you are the victim of illegal robocalls or live telemarketer calls, you can and should explore your legal options.
“All robocalls should be illegal.”
We hear this a lot. Despite the way we feel about them, the TCPA created some room for businesses to make legal robocalls.
By definition, a robocall is an automated phone call that is made via an autodialer, which is software and/or hardware that dials phone numbers without the help of a human. Under the TCPA, no company can legally make calls using an autodialer unless the consumer has given consent. Robocalls may be pre-recorded, or they may be live calls.
Robocall laws also have a few exceptions for select industries, including political organizations, not-for-profit organizations, those conducting surveys, and bill collectors (within the rules of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act).
So a legal robocall is one that’s dialed by an autodialer to a consumer who has given consent ahead of time and meets the exemption criteria.
The simple truth is the majority of robocalls are illegal scam operations. They call from overseas, using spoofing technology to mimic U.S. phone numbers in an attempt to steal money and personal information from unsuspecting victims.
That said, there are still plenty of robocalls being made every day by U.S. companies who are willingly violating the rules of the TCPA. This makes them prime candidates for lawsuits from individual consumers and class action lawsuits.
If you receive a robocall or any telemarketing call from a U.S. company that you did not agree to through "express consent," you can sue and receive compensation.
These calls include robocalls and, in some cases, debt collectors. A lawyer may be able to get between $500 and $1500 for each call that violates the rule. Another option is joining a class action suit against individual companies.
If you’ve been the victim of harassing robocalls, the first step is to retain your phone records. The second step is to decide whether to work with an attorney to try suing in small claims court yourself.
If you consult with an attorney, choose one who is experienced in dealing with this issue. Some firms specialize in this area of the law, and many will be glad to offer you a free consultation. Your state bar association can guide you toward a reputable attorney.
You may also choose to handle the issue yourself. It's possible to take robocallers to small claims court and receive a financial settlement. The process may vary slightly state to state, but you can go directly your local courthouse and fill out forms to get started.
The small claims court clerk will explain the next steps you need to take. You do not need an attorney in small claims court, but you can use one. In general, your claim cannot exceed $10,000, but that ceiling is usually high enough for a robocall complaint.
Remember, if you've ever provided your phone number to a company without checking the fine print, you may have agreed to receive these calls.
As a reminder, make sure that you are on the FCC's Do Not Call Registry. You can list both landlines and cell phones.
A massive class action suit against Caribbean Cruise Line, The Berkeley Group, and Vacation Ownership Marketing tours delivered between $56 and $76 million to consumers who received illegal calls in 2011 and 2012.
In another case, a couple received more than $1 million from Bank of America after receiving approximately 700 loan collection calls in a four-year period. The couple's legal representative had sent multiple letters asking for the harassment to stop, but they were ignored.
Just a few months ago, a man from St. Petersburg, FL filed a complaint against the debt collector National Recovery Agency, claiming he was robocalled 14 times on his cellular telephone number without his express consent, which violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
For those who aren’t inclined to dive into a legal battle but are still eager to get even with spammers, there is another solution; one that hurts their wallets and makes them look like fools.
When a spam call comes in, RoboKiller blocks it and sends the caller to one of our Answer Bots that interact with the telemarketers and the people behind the robocalls.
The result is several minutes of scammers and telemarketer’s time wasted that they could have used to steal your money.
Just listen to this example:
As you can tell, Answer Bots make spammers look like fools!