Unsolicited faxes have been a thorn in the side of businesses from the first day that fax machines became a common piece of equipment in just about every office. They interrupt your work, monopolize your fax line, and they’re not just a drain on your costly ink cartridges, but on your productivity, too.
Most business owners have become resigned to unwanted junk faxes as just a part of the cost of doing business.
Did you know that solicitations from businesses that you’ve never had a relationship with, and have no requested advertising from, could be against the law?
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act
Many business owners haven’t heard of the TCPA, but it’s an important law to know about if you’re dealing with unwanted solicitation, either over a phone line or through the fax machine. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act, or TCPA, is a federal law that was first passed in 1991 to protect consumers (both businesses and individuals) from unwanted communications received over a telephone line.
What is covered under the TCPA?
- Phone calls
- Text messages
Originally passed and implemented before cell phone use became commonplace, the TCPA was designed to limit the use of autodialing machines (also often called ‘robodialers’), artificial or prerecorded voicemail messages, SMS text messages, and fax machines.
Unless the recipient of this communication has given prior express consent, the TCPA and FCC rules under the TCPA generally:
- Prohibit solicitors from calling a residence before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., local time.
- Require solicitors to maintain a company-specific “Do-Not-Call” list (or DNC) of consumers who have asked not to be called, which must be honored for 5 years.
- Requires solicitors to honor the National Do Not Call Registry.
- Requires solicitors to provide their name, name of the person or entity on whose behalf they are making the call/sending the communication, and a telephone number or address where the person or entity may be contacted.
- Prohibits solicitations to residences if those solicitations use an artificial voice or recording.
- Strictly prohibits any call made using automated telephone equipment or an artificial or recorded voice to emergency lines (like 911), a hospital’s emergency number, physician’s office, health care facility cellular telephone, or any service for which the recipient is charged for the call.
- Prohibits autodialed calls that engage more than a single line of a multi-line business.
- Prohibits unsolicited advertising faxes.
While it’s nice to have this information on-hand, many business owners wonder what they can even do about unsolicited faxes or advertising, and if it’s worth it to pursue the matter in a court of law.
Can You Sue Under the TCPA?
The answer is, you have that option, depending on what sort of communications you are receiving.
If the TCPA is violated, a subscriber may choose to take one of the following actions:
- Sue for up to $500 per violation or recover actual monetary loss (whichever is the greater amount)
- Seek an injunction against the person or entity
If you are able to prove the person or entity committed these violations purposefully in willful disobedience of the law, you have the option to sue for up to three times the damages, or $1500 per violation.
When the TCPA was passed in 1991, they largely delegated the responsibility of the Do-Not-Call Lists to the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC. While Congress suggested establishing a large, national database for Do-Not-Call Lists, the FCC only requires each company to maintain its own personal DNC lists, which has undercut attempts to enforce them.
Two other laws followed on the heels of the TCPA: the National Do Not Call Registry was created in 2003 by the Federal Trade Commission rather than the FCC (as originally intended), and later Congress ratified its creation into law. The Junk Fax Prevention Act explicitly regulated unsolicited advertising faxes and was passed in 2005.
Does the Do Not Call Registry Work?
We’ve heard one loud complaint about the private company Do-Not-Call Lists and the National Do Not Call Registry — they don’t work.
Business owners are still receiving sometimes dozens of unwanted telemarketing calls, texts, or faxes each day. This bogs down the workplace, cuts productivity, and in some busy workplaces can cost hundreds of extra dollars per year just in the unnecessary printer ink required to keep up the fax machine.
For many of the entities sending these unwanted junk faxes and robodialed telemarketing calls, the idea is simply to continue inundating business owners and individuals and hope that their victims simply shrug and put up with it.
You don’t have to accept unwanted junk faxes and telemarketing calls as the status quo. The TCPA gives you options for recovering monetary amounts and for ensuring that you’ll stop receiving unwanted solicitations.
Has the Do Not Call List Failed You?
At BNTD Law, we’ve had experience working with businesses and business owners who have been inundated with unwanted solicitations — and who have had their requests to no longer be contacted blatantly ignored or disrespected. We’d be happy to sit down with you to discuss how the TCPA affects your business and what options you have for recovering the unnecessary costs you’ve been subjected to and to ensure your business may be left alone in the future. Reach us by phone at (803) 779-7599 or contact us online to request your FREE consultation today!