TCA Explains: How can consumers protect themselves against robocalls?

In 2021, there were more 50 billion robocalls in the United States.

A robocall is a call that delivers prerecorded messages through autodial software, and its purpose is usually to sell something to consumers and rip them off.

US telecommunications watchdogs have attempted to impose heavy financial penalties on illegal calling bots. They demanded to repay millions to their victims, but years later almost no funds were recovered.

Since 2015, the Federal Communications Commission has ordered violators of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (a federal law governing telemarketing and robot dialing) to pay $208.4 million.

This huge amount includes forfeiture orders in cases involving robocalls, the do not call registry and telephone solicitation violations. The FCC only collected $6,790 of $208.4 million.

Christopher Roberts, attorney at Butsch Roberts & Associates, told Top Class Actions that private citizens could help stop spam/robocalls by enforcing their rights and using the law – which is more effective than the ability of the government to put an end to these calls.

The reason there seems to be an increase in robocalls lately, Roberts says, may be due to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year in a case called Facebook v Duguid.

“It’s made it a lot harder for consumers to win. I think more calls are being made because it’s harder to prove something was an autodialer now than before,” Roberts told Top Class Actions.

According to Roberts, as technologies have evolved, it has become easier and cheaper for businesses to send large amounts of calls or text messages.

Roberts says the new FCC commissioner has expressed an interest in more vigorous enforcement and penalties for bot callers.

“Government has a role, but I think consumers have an even bigger role,” Roberts told Top Class Actions, “Private citizens have an incentive to stop these calls from coming to their phone, and the way they do is most commonly done through a federal law called the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which provides a private right of action for consumers to get $500 and potentially up to $1,500 per illegal caller .

Some states are now beginning to pass laws that provide additional consumer protections. For example, Florida passed a law that provides a penalty under state law for calling robots and also now has a broader definition of what an autodialer is.

“The government has a role, and it’s really important that the private citizen – the consumer – has a bigger role, because the government doesn’t have the resources to pursue all these illegal calls…and there are billion of those calls made in this country alone this year,” Roberts told Top Class Actions.

If you are on the National Do Not Call List and receive multiple marketing calls after being on that list for more than 31 days, the potential consumer payback is $500 to $1,500 per call.

I’m the TRACE (Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence) Act, Congress has given the FCC new ways to combat unwanted and often illegal robocalls, the top consumer complaint reported to the FCC each year.

“Congress passed this law to give the consumer a tool to fight back and start getting their phone back and their peace of mind back,” Roberts told Top Class Actions.

In order for consumers to better protect themselves against incessant robocalls, they need to be better informed of their rights and they should check their state’s laws to see if specific telemarketing laws can be used to help stop these calls.


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