The law that allows you to recover this money is known as the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. To recover under the act (and to potentially see your $500 to $1500 per call or text), you would need to file a lawsuit and allege that a caller has made calls or texts to you in violation of the act. Should you be successful in proving your case, you would then be entitled to ask for damages in the amount of $500 to $1500 per call. Click through the FAQ below for more detailed information.
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act, or TCPA for short, was enacted by Congress in 1991 to protect individuals from unsolicited telephone calls/texts. It has since been interpreted and expanded by the FCC. It allows an individual to recover $500 to $1500 per call or text made in violation of the statute.
If you're really interested in reading the statute itself, you can find it at 47 U.S.C. 227, and additional regulations at 47 CFR 64.1200.
Unlike most laws, the TCPA provides for something called "statutory damages." What this means is that even if you can't prove you were harmed, you are still entitled to damages set by the law itself. After all, how do you put a value on the frustration caused to you by such harassment?
The range is based on whether the calls/texts were made negligently ($500 per call) or willfully or knowingly (up to $1500 per call).
Generally speaking, the following rules apply (not to be construed as legal advice for your particular situation):
Calls or texts made without your consent (including wrong number calls and texts);
Using an automatic telephone dialing system OR prerecorded/artificial voice.
Telemarketing calls made without your consent;
Using a prerecorded/artificial voice.
Numbers on the National Do-Not-Call Registry:
Any telemarketing call (e.g. trying to sell you something) is illegal.
This violation is separate, meaning you can get recovery for this and for, say, an illegal prerecorded call.
For telemarketing calls/texts, your consent must be express and in writing (such as by clicking a box when signing up for a site authorizing prerecorded or autodialed telemarketing calls/texts, or by signing papers where the possibility of such calls/texts was clearly disclosed).
For all other types calls/texts, your consent need only be "express." Most courts have found that simply giving a company your telephone number is "express consent" to be called at that number.
Simply put, an automatic telephone dialing system is any system that has the capacity to dial numbers without human intervention. For example, a system that can dial from a list of numbers without an operator punching the number in is likely an "automatic telephone dialing system." Furthermore, even if the system used could not perform such a function at the time, if it is capable of being modified to perform such a function, it may qualify as an automatic telephone dialing system.
There is no fool proof way to know for sure prior to filing a lawsuit and forcing the company to produce documentation on their system. However, there are some telltale signs, such as:
Generally speaking, no, but you should. And when you do, do your best to document when you told them. Dates, times, names of the representatives are all helpful. Be firm. "Stop calling me" is better than "Can you stop calling me?"
For wrong number calls or texts, you are under no obligation to inform the caller that it has the wrong number. However, failure to do so makes it harder to argue for $1500 per call rather than $500 per call.
For debt collection calls or texts meant to collect a debt from you, there is a strong likelihood that the agreement creating the debt gave the debt collector permission to call. While this isn't always true, it is good practice to ask them to stop calling before contacting an attorney about a TCPA claim. Keep in mind, however, that if you legitimately owe the debt, asking the collector to stop calling does not mean the debt goes away.
For other unsolicited calls/texts, if they are truly unsolicited, you are under no obligation to ask them to stop calling. However, I have seen situations where a client insisted they did not provide consent, but after the defendant produced documents showing consent, they remembered that they had. As such, while it's not necessary to tell an unsolicited caller or texter to stop calling or texting, it makes life easier to be able to file a lawsuit that says "I did not consent. But even if I did, on January 2, 2015, I told representative John Doe to stop calling me." This also makes it easier to argue for $1500 per call rather than $500.
Well, here's the thing about those calls: while many of them do violate the TCPA, most of these companies are either overseas, or take pains to hide their true identity. That's why they often won't reveal to you their real company name, or address, or a call back phone number, or a website. Sadly, there's not a ton that can be done by an attorney in such a situation, because there's no way to recover if you can't find who you have to sue. The FCC and FTC are better bets.
My short hand is that in order to make a case potentially worthwhile, the company needs to have two of the following:
The "Do Not Call" list was created by the TCPA. If a company makes two or more telemarketing calls/texts in a 12-month period to a number on the "Do Not Call" list, it faces an additional $500 to $1500 per call on top of the penalties for making calls/texts using an automatic telephone dialing system or prerecorded voice.
Keep in mind, however, that the "Do Not Call" list only protects against telemarketing calls/texts, while the prohibitions against calls/texts using an autodialer or a prerecorded voice to a cell phone apply to almost any type of call.
A couple examples:
Nothing unless you win. I get paid on a "contingency" basis. What this means is that I take a percentage of what you recover, as well as my hard costs. However, if you recover nothing, you do not owe me a dime. Put simply, you owe me nothing out of pocket at any point.
There is no set time frame. I have had cases settle after a month, and I have seen cases drag on for over a year. A lot depends on the company being sued, their attorneys, and the strength or weaknesses in each side's case. Federal Courts are also notoriously backlogged -- there simply aren't enough Judges to get through all of their cases in what the typical person would consider "fast."
Nonetheless, I am always doing my best to maximize the recovery and the efficiency of that recovery for my clients.
Yes and no. For economic reasons, I typically do not take cases on an individual basis when there are less than 20 calls or texts from the same company. For example, the recovery range on a 5-call/text case would be $2500-$7500. The time and cost for an attorney to bring such a case typically is not worth it.
However, I do consider such cases as a class action, if those cases lend themselves to class actions. If you've received 5 unsolicited calls/texts from a legitimate company looking to sell you a product, odds are that same company is making these calls/texts to thousands or millions of people. A class action would allow you to be the voice of all of those people and hold the company accountable for all of those calls and texts.
Yes! You don't need to take my word for it. Just look at some of these news articles, all of which deal with the same law:
And for every judgment that makes the news, there are dozens more confidential settlements that do not. Glapion Law Firm has recovered settlements of up to $8.5 million in a class action, and up to $220,000 in an individual action. Glapion Law Firm has recovered numerous six figure settlements for individuals. Prior results do not, of course, guarantee similar outcomes.
Go back to the home page and click the "Do you have a case?" button. Fill out that form, and I will review and get in touch with you one way or another.
If it looks like you have a promising case, we can discuss entering into a formal representation agreement and filing a lawsuit over these calls/texts.
Simply filling out the form does not commit either of us to taking any action, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. It is just a way to get in touch with one another and allow me to evaluate your case.
I am Jeremy Glapion, an attorney based in Wall, NJ. I am a 2012 graduate of Harvard Law School and 2009 graduate of Louisiana State University (Geaux Tigers). I am licensed to practice in NJ and NY, as well as several federal courts across the country. I bring cases against harassing callers nationwide by appearing in court's "pro hac vice," which simply means that I apply to appear in certain courts on a per-case basis.
You can find more about me at my law firm's website. Or just email me and ask!