Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)

  • Home >
  • Issues >
  • Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)

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 In growing numbers in the past few years, plaintiffs’ lawyers have exploited the law’s outdated language and conflicting federal court rulings to bring abusive and costly class action lawsuits against businesses.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. In the News Today - September 26, 2018

    September 26, 2018 | News

    Protein Bar Manufacturer Says "Professional Plaintiff" Never Ate the Bar She Sued Over; New Jersey Court Offers Competing Autodialer Definitions... Read More

  2. In the News Today - September 25, 2018

    September 25, 2018 | News

    "The TCPA is a Clunker that Doesn't Stop Robocalls"... Read More

  3. In the News Today - September 24, 2018

    September 24, 2018 | News

    Ninth Circuit Decision "Heats Up TCPA Debate"; West Virginia Chief Justice Says Impeachment Process Must be Halted... Read More

  4. Ninth Circuit "Departs" From Other Rulings, Takes Expansive View of Autodialers

    September 21, 2018 | News

    A Ninth Circuit Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) decision yesterday broadened the definition of "automatic telephone dialing system" (ATDS) despite recent rulings that reined it in, The Recorder reports.... Read More

  5. Did the Telephone Consumer Protection Act Just Get Even Worse for Small Businesses?

    September 17, 2018 | Blogs

    Though it may have started as a well-intentioned law from 1991, we now know how plaintiffs' lawyers and professional plaintiffs have twisted the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) for financial gain... Read More

  6. Judge Cuts "Grossly Excessive" Attorneys' Fees

    September 13, 2018 | News

    A federal judge in Chicago cut an attorneys' fee request in a Telephone Consumer Protection Act settlement from 35 percent down to five percent because of the plaintiffs' attorney's behavior, the Cook County Record reports.... Read More

  7. In the News Today - August 29, 2018

    August 29, 2018 | News

    Healthcare Group Asks for TCPA Clarity; Recent Decision Adds to "Growing Consensus" on False Claims Act Test... Read More

  8. Law Professor: Potential "Ethics Violation" In TCPA Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of Man Who Passed Away

    August 16, 2018 | News

    A University of Virginia Law professor said a Telephone Consumer Protection Act lawsuit on behalf of a man who passed away last March "would be an ethics violation" if the lawyers knew the client had died before filing the suit, Legal Newsline reports in Forbes.... Read More

  9. In the News Today - July 30, 2018

    July 30, 2018 | News

    7th Circ. Cuts Attorneys' Fees in TCPA Case; ILR's Kim Discusses DOJ's New Policies on FCPA Flash Podcast... Read More

  10. In the News Today - July 24, 2018

    July 24, 2018 | News

    TCPA the "Poster Child for Abusive Class Action Litigation," Says ILR's Kim; Top Privacy Developments Of 2018, Part 1... Read More