Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)

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The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) was signed into law in 1991. At that time, cellphones resembled bricks and were often connected to a bag and lacked the ability to text message, let alone the capacity to access the Internet at 4G speeds. Fax machines were ascendant, as email did not become wide-spread until the mid-1990s. Read More...

Much has changed since 1991. But while the wireless marketplace and consumer use of this technology have rapidly evolved, the TCPA has not. In growing numbers in the past few years, plaintiffs’ lawyers have exploited the law’s outdated language and conflicting federal court rulings to bring abusive and costly class action lawsuits against businesses. Statutory reform is needed to clarify interpretation of the law and to protect businesses from these lawsuits.

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 and professional plaintiffs purchase multiple cellphones in the hopes of receiving large payouts. The defendants in these cases are no longer abusive telemarketers, as these individuals often operate off-shore and can be very difficult to find. Instead legitimate businesses, big and small alike, are sued and 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.

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 electrical outages.

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.

Suggested Resources

Research
  • TCPA Litigation Sprawl: A Study of the Sources and Targets of Recent TCPA Lawsuits

    TCPA Litigation Sprawl: A Study of the Sources and Targets of Recent TCPA Lawsuits

    August 31, 2017

    TCPA Litigation Sprawl is a macro-level analysis of Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) litigation that reviews all TCPA federal complaints and a segment of electronically-available state complaints from a 17-month period after the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) issued its July 2015 Omnibus Declaratory Ruling. Read More

  • The Juggernaut of TCPA Litigation:  The Problems with Uncapped Statutory Damages

    The Juggernaut of TCPA Litigation: The Problems with Uncapped Statutory Damages

    October 23, 2013

    Companies that communicate with their customers for any legitimate reason (marketing, collections, or transactional) have been discovering in recent years that if they reach out to customers via call, text, or fax, they are at risk for being sued under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) by a plaintiff claiming that the communication was not made with his or her consent. Read More

Additional Resources

All Results for Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)

  1. TCPA Plaintiffs' Attorney Admits Class Action Lawsuits Have "Not Cured the Problem"

    May 22, 2018 | Blogs

    Three weeks ago, U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) President Lisa A. Rickard said the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) has become a "goldmine for plaintiffs' attorneys." ... Read More

  2. In the News Today - May 17, 2018

    May 17, 2018 | News

    RICO Case Settled With TCPA Firm Accused of Teaching Former Students to Avoid Paying Loans by Suing; An Invitation to Join the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) for a Breakfast Panel | Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) Battlegrounds: Personal Jurisdiction, a Year Later | Monday, June 4... Read More

  3. In the News Today - May 16, 2018

    May 16, 2018 | News

    FCC Looking for Autodialer Definition Suggestions After Court Ruling; State Group Calls on N.Y. Government to Act on Lawsuit Lending... Read More

  4. In the News Today - May 15, 2018

    May 15, 2018 | News

    Details, Criticism Of How Class Action Attorneys Charged $75M Filed Under Seal; TCPA Trends: Impact On Future Litigation And Compliance... Read More

  5. Plaintiffs' Lawyers Looking for Absurd Attorneys' Fees Had a Rough Week

    May 14, 2018 | Blogs

    If two's a coincidence and three's a trend, what would you call six headlines in one week?... Read More

  6. ILR Petition: Clarity on Autodialer Definition Needed From FCC

    May 04, 2018 | News

    Yesterday, a coalition of 18 business groups, led by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), filed a petition calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to clarify the definition of automated telephone dialing systems (ATDS) now that "the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) landscape is dysfunctional and in need of clarity from the FCC," Law360 reports.... Read More

  7. ILR Asks Federal Communications Commission to Define Automated Telephone Dialing System

    May 03, 2018 | Blogs

    Today, the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and 16 coalition partners filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), asking it to clarify the definition of an automated telephone dialing system (ATDS). ... Read More

  8. ILR's Rickard: "Policymakers Must Answer the Call" On TCPA

    May 01, 2018 | News

    In an op-ed for Corporate Counsel Business Journal, U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) President Lisa A. Rickard said "policymakers must answer the call" by taking up "meaningful reforms to a woefully outdated" Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).... Read More

  9. In $28 Million TCPA Settlement, Lawyers get $9.3 Million and Consumers Get $38

    April 27, 2018 | News

    A proposed $28 million Telephone Consumer Protection Act settlement would award individual plaintiffs $38 while giving the attorneys $9.3 million in fees, plus an extra $600,000 for "out-of-pocket costs," Legal Newsline reports.... Read More

  10. In the News Today - April 25, 2018

    April 25, 2018 | News

    Robocall Settlement Payout Delayed Over Potential Fraud... Read More