The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) has been around since 1991. The TCPA restricts telephone solicitations and the use of automated telephone equipment. Specifically, the TCPA limits the use of automatic dialing systems, prerecorded voice messages, and unsolicited text messages. Today, consumers receive more robocalls and unsolicited text messages than ever. Technology is the reason. Companies use autodialers to send out thousands of phone calls and text messages every minute for an incredibly low cost.
- What is a Robocall? If you pick up the phone and hear a recorded message instead of a live person, that’s a robocall. Similarly, if someone leaves you a prerecorded message, that’s a robocall, too. If the recording is a sales message, and you haven’t given your written permission to get calls from the company on the other end, then the call is illegal. Period.
- Robocalls to Cellphones: Robocalls made to a cellphone are usually illegal unless you give consent to receive the call by giving the number as contact information. It is not necessary that you be charged for the call. The prohibition extends to telemarketing and collection calls.
- You May be Entitled to Money: Get $500.00-$1,500.00 for illegal robocalls, text messages, and faxes.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) has been around since 1977. The FDCPA is a federal law that applies to every state. In other words, everyone is protected by the FDCPA. The FDCPA is essentially a laundry list of what debt collectors can and cannot do while collecting a debt, as well as things debt collectors must do while collecting a debt.
- Damages: if a collection agency violates any section of the FDCPA, the consumer is entitled to damages up to $1,000.00. Additional damages are warranted in cases where the collector’s collection activities were so egregious the consumer suffered emotional distress. 99% of cases do not involve emotional distress damages.
- Attorney’s fees: The FDCPA has a fee-shift provision. This means, the collection agency pays the consumer’s attorney’s fees and costs.
- Debt that is covered by the FDCPA: only consumer debt, such as personal, family, and household debts. For example, money you owe on a personal credit card, an auto loan, a medical bill, or a utility bill. The FDCPA does not cover debts you incurred to run a business, or debts regarding unpaid taxes, or traffic tickets.
- The FDCPA only applies to 3rd-party debt collectors: the FDCPA defines a debt collector as any person who regularly collects, or attempts to collect, consumer debts for another person or institution. In short, only third-party debt collectors are bound by the FDCPA. That is, original creditors, such as credit card companies and banks are not bound by the FDCPA.
Some states, like California and Florida, offer additional protection. Although the FDCPA applies to every state, some states provide its residents additional protection from collectors like California (the Rosenthal Act) and Florida (The Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act). The most important distinction between the FDCPA, and the Rosenthal Act and the Florida FCCPA, is the fact that the state laws allow protection from first-party creditors. That is, credit card companies cannot harass consumers while attempting to collect debts.
- The Rosenthal Act and the Florida FCCPA are valuable second layers of protection provided to consumers because first-party creditors can be some of the most aggressive collectors out there.
- Damages: if a creditor violates any section of the Rosenthal Act or the Florida FCCPA, the consumer is entitled to damages up to $1,000.00. Often times with original creditors, debt relief, as opposed to money damages, is available. So, the creditor with wipe out the debt, plus pay attorney’s fees.
- Attorney’s fees: The Rosenthal Act and the Florida FCCPA has a fee-shift provision. This means, the creditor pays the consumer’s attorney’s fees and costs.
- Debt that is covered: Only consumer debt, such as personal, family, and household debts. For example, money you owe on a personal credit card, an auto loan, a medical bill, or a utility bill. These state laws do not cover debts incurred to run a business, or debts regarding unpaid taxes, or traffic tickets.
- 1st-party creditors: The Rosenthal Act and the Florida FCCPA cover original creditors, such as credit card companies, banks, auto loans, utility companies, medical bills, etc.