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 In growing numbers in the past few years, plaintiffs’ lawyers have exploited the law’s outdated language and conflicting federal court rulings to bring abusive and costly class action lawsuits against businesses.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

  • 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 - June 8, 2015

    June 08, 2015 | News and Blog

    With lawmakers coming back for an extended legislative session, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner is hitting the road this week as part of his "Turnaround Illinois" tour. A major priority in his "Turnaround Agenda" is tort reform. (Illinois News Network)... Read More

  2. In the News Today - June 3, 2015

    June 03, 2015 | News and Blog

    A Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) class action has been filed against Uber because of the company's allegedly "unsolicited text messages" sent to its drivers. The lead plaintiffs' attorney in the case claims the drivers are not employees, but rather "customers" of Uber. (The Recorder)... Read More

  3. FCC Chair's TCPA Proposal 'Surprising and Disappointing,' Says ILR's Kim

    June 01, 2015 | News and Blog

    "This is not an encouraging opening statement. I would characterize it as surprising and disappointing," said ILR Executive Vice President Harold Kim about FCC Chair Tom Wheeler's proposed clarifications of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).... Read More

  4. In the News Today - May 29, 2015

    May 29, 2015 | News and Blog

    Evidence submitted by Garlock Sealing Technologies shows the company's legal costs skyrocketed as a bankruptcy wave saw 28 companies establish bankruptcy trusts from 2000-2002. In 1999, Garlock paid an average of almost $10,000 to settle mesothelioma claims. By 2006, the claims paid by Garlock reached an average of almost $80,000. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2010. (Legal Newsline)... Read More

  5. FCC Proposals Would Be 'A Boon for Enterprising Plaintiffs' Lawyers'

    May 29, 2015 | News and Blog

    The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will soon rule on twenty pending petitions to clarify the enforcement of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).... Read More

  6. U.S. Chamber: FCC's Telephone Consumer Protection Act Proposals Would Worsen Abusive Litigation

    May 28, 2015 | Press Release

    ... Read More

  7. In the News Today - May 28, 2015

    May 28, 2015 | News and Blog

    The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will soon vote on proposals compelling telephone companies to offer "robocall-blocking tools," and requiring consumers' consent to receive automated calls as well an easy opt-out under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). (Reuters)... Read More

  8. In the News Today - May 19, 2015

    May 19, 2015 | News and Blog

    The U.S. Supreme Court will weigh in on whether businesses sued under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) can settle with individual plaintiffs in a decision that could curtail booming class action dockets. (Law360)... Read More

  9. The ILR Research Review - Spring 2015

    May 18, 2015 | Research

    This edition of the ILR Research Review offers valuable insights from the latest of ILR's research on enforcement slush funds, Canadian class actions, emerging litigation trends and theories from the plaintiffs' bar, and recent state tort law rulings.... Read More

  10. In the News Today - May 5, 2015

    May 05, 2015 | News and Blog

    A backlog at the Securities and Exchange Commission has delayed payments or decisions to roughly 83% of tipsters in its highly publicized "whistleblower" program, according to information obtained by the Wall Street Journal. (Wall Street Journal)... Read More