A provision of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, or the TCPA, that is commonly violated is calls from a debt collector to a cell phone. In general, it is unlawful for any person to make a call, without the prior express consent of the called party, using any automatic telephone dialing system or an artificial prerecorded voice, to any cellular telephone service.
The TCPA provides for statutory damages of between $500 and $1500 per violation. This is different than other Federal statutes that only allow for one award of statutory damages per claim, and it is easy to imagine how big these cases might be. To put it in a different way, the consumer might be able to collect up to $1500 for each and every unlawful call he or she receives, plus attorney fees.
A couple of items to keep in mind are as follows:
- the call does not have to be harrasing or in any way violated the FDCPA–the call itself is the violation of the TCPA.
- you cannot have given prior express consent. Most consumers have not done so, but some have during the underlying transaction, and such express consent will likely destroy any potential TCPA claim.
- in order for debt collectors to violate the TCPA, they must make these autodialed calls to a cell. phone. Debt collectors are likely not covered by the TCPA for calls to a landline.
- a return call to the collector will not destroy any potential TCPA claim.
It is recommended that if you believe you have been the victim of an autodialed call from a debt collector to your cell phone that you contact a consumer law attorney. These claims are usually filed in Federal Court and an acute understanding of both the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is necessary to compentently puruse such claims.