The Telephone Consumer Protection Act
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), a federal law, imposes restrictions on the use of automatic telephone dialing systems (also called autodialers), artificial or prerecorded voice messages, and fax machines to send unsolicited advertisements. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted rules and regulations in 1992, implementing the TCPA and revised its rules in June 2003. It established, in coordination with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) a national Do Not Call Registry to reduce telemarketing calls. Companies are still required to keep company -- specific do-not-call lists for consumers who wish to avoid calls only from specific companies. (As noted earlier, there is some overlap between the "do not call" provisions of the FCC's rules and the FTC's Telemarketing Sales Rule.)
During a "live" call placed to your home, a telemarketer must tell you:
- The name of the individual caller;
- The name of the company on whose behalf the call is being made; and
- A telephone number or address at which the company can be contacted.
A telemarketer cannot:
- Call again once you've asked them not to -- or if your phone number is on the national Do Not Call list;
- Call you before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m.
Exceptions to the Do-Not-Call Rule Requirements
- Tax-exempt nonprofit organizations are not required to keep do-not-call lists.
- The do-not-call rules do not apply to calls placed to your business telephone number. However, your state may have laws that apply to business telephone numbers.
Rules that Apply to Computerized Calls
Artificial (computerized) or prerecorded voice calls cannot be placed to your home, except for the following:
- Emergency calls;
- When you have given prior consent to such calls;
- Non-commercial calls (for example, calls from charities, polling organizations, political or government agencies);
- Calls by or on behalf of tax-exempt nonprofit organizations;
- Calls which don't have unsolicited advertisements; and
- Calls from companies with which you have an established business relationship.
(Prerecorded calls to business numbers are not prohibited but two or more lines of multi-line businesses cannot be tied up at the same time.)
Information that must be provided for those computerized or prerecorded calls that are not prohibited:
- The company using the autodialer must clearly state its identity at the beginning of the message, and its telephone number or address during or after the message.
- The telephone number provided cannot be the number of the autodialer that placed the call, and cannot be a 900 number or any other number where you'd have to pay a charge higher than local or long distance telephone charges.
Rules that Apply to Unsolicited Faxes
Rules applying to unsolicited fax advertisements sent to your home and business fax machines:
- Advertisements for any goods or services cannot be sent to your fax machine without your prior express permission.
- Permission to send unsolicited faxes is presumed to exist if you have an established business relationship with whomever is sending the message.
- You can end this relationship by telling the company that you do not want to receive any more faxes from it.
Information that must be placed either on the first page or on each page of a permitted fax:
- The date and time the transmission is sent;
- The identity of the business, other entity, or individual sending the message; and
- The telephone number of the sender or of the sending fax machine. The telephone number provided may not be a 900 number or any other number for which charges exceed local or long distance telephone charges.
For further information on the revised Telephone Consumer Protection Act, see www.fcc.gov.
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