Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)

Signed into law in 1991, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) is an outdated consumer protection statute restricting telemarketing calls, junk faxes and the use of automated telephone equipment. Much has changed since 1991. While the wireless marketplace and consumer use of this technology has rapidly evolved in the last twenty years, the TCPA has not. Plaintiffs’ lawyers are now exploiting the law’s outdated language and using conflicting federal court rulings to bring abusive and costly class action lawsuits against businesses. Reform is needed to clarify interpretation of the law and to protect businesses from these lawsuits. read more...



The TCPA allows consumers to sue companies for statutory damages of $500-$1,500 (depending on if the violation was willful) for each prerecorded call, specified autodialed call and unsolicited facsimile they did not consent to receive. At the time the TCPA was created, its sponsor, Senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings (D-SC), explained the law was intended to facilitate actions in state small claims courts, which involve smaller sums and often do not require (or even allow) the participation of attorneys.

Today, however, TCPA cases are anything but small. Trial lawyers have used the law to file large class action lawsuits. The defendants in these cases are no longer just abusive telemarketers; they are businesses, big and small alike, forced to choose between settling the case or spending significant money defending an action where the alleged statutory damages may be in the millions or billions of dollars. Further, many of these companies are being sued for reasons outside of their control, such as dialing a number provided by a customer that was later reassigned to another party, or because an unaffiliated third party mentioned their products via phone call or text in an advertisement sent to consumers. One wrong call can be the basis of a class action lawsuit alleging millions of dollars in statutory damages and seeking discovery into every single call placed by that company to its customers going back four years. The risks of financial and reputational ruin strong-arms businesses into entering sometimes massive settlements even where there is no evidence of wrongdoing.

The growing trend of TCPA litigation already has caused many companies to consider discontinuing the provision of helpful information to customers, such as prescription availability, credit card fraud alerts or airline changes or cancellations.

Modernization of the TCPA is critical to resolving these issues. Businesses should not be faced with an untenable decision: whether to curtail communications with their customers because of the severe risk of class action litigation caused by the manipulation of an out-of-date statute by plaintiff attorneys.

Research

Engineered Liability: The Plaintiffs' Bar's Campaign to Expand Data Privacy and Security Litigation

April 19, 2017 | As data breaches are becoming more commonplace, the plaintiffs' bar is engineer a staggering expansion of liability in the areas of privacy and data security. Class action lawyers are pursuing data privacy cases and amassing fortunes even where no one has been harmed. This paper examines the data privacy and security legal landscape, plaintiffs' bar tactics, major cases and settlements, and a suggested framework for reform.

The Trial Lawyer Underground: Covertly Lobbying the Executive Branch

September 30, 2015 | This report highlights examples of the quiet and effective influence the American Association for Justice, the organization that lobbies on behalf of the plaintiffs' bar, exerts within the Executive Branch.

Additional Resources

All Results for Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)

Off the Hook Lawsuits

June 19, 2017 | News and Blog

In an opinion piece for The Hill, ILR President Lisa A. Rickard, writes about the "technologically ancient telecommunications law" known as the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Read More »

Congress Holds Hearing to Examine Abusive TCPA Lawsuits

June 13, 2017 | News and Blog

Today, the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice held a hearing to examine the abusive lawsuit industry that has been unintentionally fueled by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Read More »

In the News Today - May 26, 2017

May 26, 2017 | News and Blog

For small businesses, the TCPA being wielded like a weapon by serial plaintiffs and attorneys can be a nightmare. They shouldn't have to worry that communicating with their customers may result in an enormous lawsuit and thousands, possibly even millions, of dollars in a settlement. Read More »

TCPA: Telephone Consumer Protection Act? Or Total Cash for Plaintiffs' Attorneys?

May 24, 2017 | News and Blog

Have you heard of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act? If you're not a plaintiffs' attorney or someone like this… who watches a lot of daytime and late night TV to see regular ads for TCPA lawsuits, you probably aren't aware of it. Read More »

Marketing New Communications Software? Get Government's Permission First.

May 22, 2017 | News and Blog

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) became law a quarter century ago, in part, to protect consumers from unwanted telemarketers. But that old law coupled with today's new technology has become a recipe for lawsuit disaster, as plaintiffs' lawyers bring high-dollar litigation against companies of all sizes for doing things such as texting their customers or communicating via a smart phone. Read More »

In the News Today - May 19, 2017

May 19, 2017 | News and Blog

Law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP published a class action quarterly update, stating that "Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) cases have continued to dominate class action filings" followed closely by cases where the plaintiffs are "alleging claims of false advertising." Read More »

"Frequent TCPA Lawyer" Settles Lawsuits

April 27, 2017 | News and Blog

Forbes/Legal Newsline reports that a lawsuit between a "prolific plaintiffs' lawyer" and a defendant accusing him and his plaintiff of manufacturing lawsuits has been settled. Read More »

Engineered Liability: The Plaintiffs' Bar's Campaign to Expand Data Privacy and Security Litigation

Author: Divonne Smoyer and Kimberly Chow, Reed Smith LLP | April 19, 2017 | Research

As data breaches are becoming more commonplace, the plaintiffs' bar is engineer a staggering expansion of liability in the areas of privacy and data security. Class action lawyers are pursuing data privacy cases and amassing fortunes even where no one has been harmed. This paper examines the data privacy and security legal landscape, plaintiffs' bar tactics, major cases and settlements, and a suggested framework for reform. Read More »

In the News Today - April 18, 2017

April 18, 2017 | News and Blog

Texas plaintiffs' attorney Mark Lanier is co-hosting a fundraiser for Sen. Graham this week, "spreading talk among conservatives that Graham has allied himself with plaintiff attorneys who have a huge financial incentive to block bills that sailed through the House of Representatives earlier this year." Read More »

U.S. Court of Appeals Rules FCC Exceeded Authority as Relates to Fax Opt-Out Rule

April 03, 2017 | News and Blog

In 2014 the FCC upheld that its rule implementing The Junk Fax Prevention Act of 2005 required opt-out notices not only on unsolicited faced ads but solicited ones as well, writes B&C. Read More »

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