The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is tightening restrictions that prevent telemarketers from using robocalls and automatic dialers to reach consumers. This could open the door for class action lawsuits against auto-dialing companies.
The FCC voted on a plan last month designed to give consumers more protection against abusive telephone marketing. The regulation passed with a 3-2 majority. The dissenters’ objection: that it could open the door to an avalanche of class-action lawsuits.
That’s because robocalls and robo-texts are the single most common consumer complaint the FCC deals with. In 2014 alone it received 215,000 complaints.
The regulation passed on June 18, 2015, makes the law very clear. As FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler explained to Reuters:
“You cannot be called unless you consent to be called. . . . The consumer should be in control.”
So how does it work? The regulation prohibits any robocalls or autodialers to be used unless the consumer explicitly consents to that kind of contact. There are some exceptions, but only for time-sensitive healthcare and financial alerts like prescription refills or possible fraud alerts. Even if you have already given your consent, you have the right to revoke that consent any time, by any reasonable method.
Robocalls were already against the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, but the new regulation provides clarification for businesses that claim they were trying to reach the previous owner of a telephone number. Under the new regulation they only get one free pass if they autodial a number no longer connected to their customer. That means, as a consumer, if you get collections calls for someone you don’t know, be sure to tell the collections agent that the phone number they are calling has been reassigned and the person they are calling is no longer at that number. If they call again, you may be able to file a complaint against the company.
The new regulation also broadened the definition of an autodialer, which companies are not allowed to use without consumer consent, to include any technology capable of dialing random or sequential numbers, even if it has to be modified to do so. It also lets consumers use “do not disturb” technology to block unwanted robocalls when they come through.
It also keeps telemarketers from pulling your contact information from an acquaintance’s phone. The use of a third-party application by that person does not mean you consent to robocalls when they get your number.
The FCC sees thousands of robocall and autodialer complaints every year. If you have overdue bills, you may have been the victim of these illegal tactics too. These tighter consumer protection laws will crack down on collections companies’ harassment practices and give your consumer protection attorney more tools to fight back against the creditors.
Dani K. Liblang is a consumer protection attorney at The Liblang Law Firm, P.C., in Birmingham, Michigan. She acts as a shield between you and your creditors and makes sure you aren’t taken advantage of. If creditors are calling you day and night, contact The Liblang Law Firm, P.C., for a free consultation.