An Overview of TCPA Violations and Compliance

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In this article, we’ll go over TCPA violations and penalties, as well as how to steer clear of them by following best practices for compliance.

If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that unwanted robocalls and spammy texts are annoying. No one likes them. In fact, so many people complained about unsolicited telemarketing that Congress passed a law against it in 1991. It’s called the TCPA. If your marketing strategy includes phone calls or SMS messages, it’s important to understand what the TCPA is and how to follow its guidelines.

What Is the TCPA?

The TCPA is the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. It’s a piece of federal legislation that protects consumers’ right to privacy and is designed to cut back on annoying—and more specifically unwanted—telephone calls and texts.

What Is Regulated Under the TCPA?

Have you ever wondered whether the Do Not Call List is a real thing, or whether it’s just a polite way of asking telemarketers to leave you alone? We’ve got good news: it’s real! The TCPA created a national National Do Not Call Registry and prohibited telemarketers from calling anyone on it. The TCPA also regulates the ways in which businesses can contact people via their cell phones, residential phone numbers, text messages, and faces.

Robocalls and automated dialing
As cool as it sounds, a robocall isn’t actually a call from a futuristic robot. It’s when a computer dials a number instead of a human. Telemarketers use automated dialing to contact thousands of consumers at once. This practice is regulated under the TCPA.

Pre-recorded voice messages
It’s not illegal for a business to call customers for marketing purposes. However, a real person needs to be on the line. It’s a violation of the TCPA to use pre-recorded voice messages.

How Can You Remain TCPA Compliant?

You may have heard of express consent. If there’s one thing you need to know about TCPA compliance it’s express consent. We’ll say it one more time: express consent is really important. Luckily, it’s also easy to obtain.

In order for a business to send promotional texts to their customers, they must have express consent from each person on their list. What is express consent? As defined by the TCPA, it’s permission given by someone on paper or electronically.

When it comes to text marketing, we’ve built express consent right into the platform. When a user subscribes to receive your messages, they’ll automatically get a text confirmation with all the necessary TCPA disclosures.

Online forms, with the necessary compliance info alongside them, are another simple way to make sure you’re in the clear. Our embeddable, TCPA-compliant web forms can be added to any website. We even provide the option of enabling double opt-in, which requires the user to respond Y or Yes to confirm that they want to subscribe.

If you like to keep things old-school, you can always use a printed form if your customers are available to fill them out in-person. Just make sure to store all the paperwork safely in case you need to refer to it later.

In short, in order to remain TCPA compliant, you need permission to call or text consumers.

What Constitutes a TCPA Violation?

At first, the TCPA may sound quite scary and intimidating. But remember, it’s only designed to cut down on scammers and nuisances—it’s not meant to lawful businesses. Below are the three main TCPA violations every company should be aware of. Additional regulations apply to debt collectors.

Unsolicited Calls to Cell Phones
If a business, without prior permission, calls a cell phone using automated dialing or a pre-recorded message, that constitutes a TCPA violation.

Unsolicited Calls to Residential Phone Numbers
In order for businesses to call residential numbers, they must have an “established business relationship” with the owner of the number. If the telemarketer hasn’t done business with the consumer in the last 18 months, then they do not have an established business relationship and calling them using automated dialing or a pre-recorded message is a TCPA violation.

Calls to Those Listed on the Do Not Call Registry
It’s illegal to call anyone who has opted-out of phone calls by registering on the federal Do Not Call Registry.

What Are the Penalties for Violating the TCPA?

Penalties associated with violations of the TCPA can include $500 per each violation and up to $1,500 per willful violation. It’s not uncommon to see settlements in the tens of millions of dollars for class action TCPA lawsuits.

What Are Some Real-World Examples of TCPA Violations?

There are several notable cases that highlight how important it is to follow TCPA regulations, whether you’re a brand, or a marketing agency working on behalf of a brand.

Dish Network
In 2017, Dish Network had to pay approximately $341 in damages for violating TCPA guidelines. Members of the class action suit alleged that Dish had knowingly called numbers on the Do Not Call registry. Dish tried to argue that their telemarketing provider, Satellite System Network, was at fault, not them. The jury rejected this argument and awarded $400 per call.

Domino’s Pizza
In 2013, Domino’s Pizza agreed to pay nearly $10 million dollars to settle a class action lawsuit. Similar to the Dish Network case, the court found that consumers had received unsolicited marketing calls. Additionally, it was found that Domino’s sent promotional texts without receiving consent first.

That’s a basic overview of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Of course, as is the case with most legislation, it’s ever-evolving. That’s why we’re dedicated to staying up-to-date on the latest regulations and laws surrounding text marketing.

Disclaimer: Please note that this advice is for informational purposes only and is neither intended as nor should be substituted for consultation with appropriate legal counsel and/or your organization’s regulatory compliance team.

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