Stopping Harassing Phone Calls

The use of robocalls − any call placed using an automatic dialer or which contains an artificial or prerecorded voice − is strictly regulated by the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act and state laws. There are several prohibitions.

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Robocalls to Cellphones

Robocalls to a cellular telephones are generally illegal unless the called party has consented to the call, by providing the number as contact information. The prohibition extends to all robocalls to cellphones, including telemarketing and collection calls. It is not essential that the cellular consumer be charged for the call. The “called party” is the person subscribing to the number called at the time the call is placed. The person who carries and regularly uses a cellphone may also be entitled to sue.

The Federal Communications Commission has determined that consumers who provide their cellphone numbers to a business as contact information expressly consent to the use of robocalls, either by that business or its collection agent. You should therefore be careful about giving out your cellphone number to businesses. However, businesses that “capture” incoming numbers or obtain them through skip-tracing or third-party contacts or in connection with a different transaction cannot robocall them.

Robocalls to Landlines

In addition, the law regulates robocalls to landlines. Until the 2012 amendments to the FCC regulations, telemarketing robocalls to landlines were outlawed unless the consumer has given permission to the company making the call or has an established business relationship with the company. An established business relationship for the purpose of telemarketing rules consisted of a transaction within the last 18 months or an application or inquiry not resulting in a transaction within the last 3 months.

Under the 2012 regulations, all telemarketing robocalls are prohibited unless the consumer has given express written consent. Express written consent includes checking a box on a computer screen stating that the person consents to receive recorded telemarketing calls. A consumer cannot be required to agree to receive robocalls in order to purchase a good or service. The consumers must be clearly and conspicuously informed that if they consent they will receive future calls that deliver prerecorded messages by or on behalf of a specific seller. It must relate to a designated telephone number.

In addition, the 2012 FCC regulations require that all robocalls include an interactive opt-out mechanism at the beginning of the message and that when a consumer chooses to opt-out, the number must be added to the caller’s do-not-call list and the call must be immediately disconnected. If a robocall leaves a message on the consumer’s voicemail, it must include a toll-free number for the consumer to call to opt out. This enables consumers to remove their numbers from lists − even if they have previously given permission to receive robocalls.

Telemarketers must state their names, the name of the business on behalf of which the call is being made, and the telephone numbers or addresses of those businesses.

Telemarketing calls cannot be made before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. in the recipient’s time zone.

The telemarketing restrictions for landlines do not apply to debt collection calls, calls made to a wireless customer by his or her own carrier if no charge is made, calls made for political purposes, calls by or on behalf of tax-exempt non-profit organizations, and informational messages such as school closings. However, such calls to cell phones are subject to the separate restrictions on calls to cell phones.

Do-Not-Call Registry

The FCC and the Federal Trade Commission have created a National Do-Not-Call Registry. A consumer can register home and cell phone numbers with the National Do-Not-Call Registry ( ); telemarketers have 31 days to remove the consumer from their call sheets.

In addition, a consumer can make a do-not-call request directly to the telemarketer. The telemarketer must comply for five years, after which the request has to be repeated.

Tax-exempt non-profit organizations, political campaigns, and health care-related calls covered under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act are not covered.

You May Be Entitled to Damages

There are statutory damages of $500 per violation of the fax and robocall restrictions. Damages may be increased to $1500 for a willful violation. Injunctive relief is also authorized.

There is a different private right of action for do-not-call violations. A person who has received more than one telephone call within any 12-month period by or on behalf of the same entity in violation of the regulations prescribed by the FCC may bring suit for actual damages or up to $500 in damages for each such violation. The $500 may be trebled if the defendant willfully or knowingly violated the regulations. Under this provision, a consumer cannot recover for the first call violation. For subsequent calls, damages are awarded on a per-call basis.

Generally, a suit may be brought for up to four years after the violation.

Some states, such as Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, North Dakota, Utah and Washington, have additional restrictions on junk faxing, robocalling and other regulated practices.

If you receive an illegal fax, text message or voicemail message, preserve it. In the case of a message, listen to the message, return the call, and make a note of who answers and what company they work for.

If you receive an illegal telemarketing call, note the date and time of the call, the number from which the call was placed, and the business name and the person to whom you spoke.


Contact an Illinois Lawyer About the Robocalls You Received

You do not have to put up with robocalling abuse. Our experienced Chicago consumer protection abuse attorneys can advise you of your options. Schedule a free consultation with an experienced Chicago consumer protection lawyer by calling 312-739-4200. You can also contact our law firm online.

Se habla español.