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 In growing numbers in the past few years, plaintiffs’ lawyers have exploited the law’s outdated language and conflicting federal court rulings to bring abusive and costly class action lawsuits against businesses.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. Attorneys: Unclear TCPA regulations lead to windfall for class action plaintiffs' counsel

    March 05, 2015 | News and Blog

    Christopher M. Cascino and Jennifer A. Riley, both of Seyfarth Shaw LLP, write in Lexology of the severe penalties and windfall awards currently being handed out in Telephone Consumer Protection Act litigation.... Read More

  2. In The News Today - March 3, 2015

    March 03, 2015 | News and Blog

    After agreeing to a $2.6 billion settlement with the federal government just last week, Morgan Stanley says it now expects to be sued by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman over subprime mortgage bonds. (Boston Herald)... Read More

  3. In The News Today - February 24, 2015

    February 24, 2015 | News and Blog

    Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller met with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Monday to oppose a recent attempt by industry groups to reform the key Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).... Read More

  4. In The News Today - February 20, 2015

    February 20, 2015 | News and Blog

    Investment firm Gray Financial Group Inc. has lodged a suit against the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in the latest of a wave of challenges against the body's use of administrative courts. ... Read More

  5. In The News Today - February 17, 2015

    February 17, 2015 | News and Blog

    Entrepreneur's Jeffrey Fotta cites statistics from ILR's recent study, Lawsuit Ecosystem II: New Targets, Trends and Players, in a story warning "sales reps who hit the phones" about the growing trend of Telephone Consumer Protection Act lawsuits.... Read More

  6. In The News Today - February 6, 2015

    February 06, 2015 | News and Blog

    Quoting ILR's recent blog post on the matter, Walter Olson notes the irony of the American Association for Justice being sued under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) while it simultaneously encourages similar lawsuits against businesses, and opposes updating of the outdated law.... Read More

  7. The Trial Lawyer Lobby Discovers a Frivolous Lawsuit

    February 04, 2015 | News and Blog

    What's good for the plaintiffs' lawyers' newest golden egg ... apparently isn't good enough for its national lobbying organization. ... Read More

  8. Reuters Highlights the Need to Revisit TCPA Regulations

    February 04, 2015 | News and Blog

    As we reported yesterday, the Institute for Legal Reform has collaborated with dozens of business groups in writing a letter to the FCC, urging them to revisit outdated TCPA regulations.... Read More

  9. Now Is the Time for the FCC to Revisit Outdated TCPA Regulations

    February 03, 2015 | News and Blog

    Yesterday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Institute for Legal Reform joined more than two dozen business and consumer groups in asking the Federal Communications Commission to clarify how a law written in 1991 that is prompting a tsunami of predatory class action lawsuits should be interpreted in the 21st century.... Read More

  10. ILR Leads Business Coalition Urging FCC to Update TCPA Regs

    February 03, 2015 | News and Blog

    ILR and dozens of additional business groups yesterday sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission urging the agency to "update its Telephone Consumer Protection Act regulations to counter a 'tsunami' of purportedly attorney-driven class actions."... Read More