Unwanted robocalls and texts are one of the most frequent consumer complaints received by the Federal Communications Commission. In 2014 alone, the FCC received about 215,000 complaints about autodialer calls and texts. These calls are particularly annoying when the caller is trying to reach someone else. Often, these wrong number robocalls are from debt collectors trying to collect a debt from the previous user of a phone number or from telemarketers pushing their products.
In response to the overwhelming number of consumer complaints, the FCC recently strengthened consumer protections against wrong number robocalls by clarifying the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The TCPA is a federal law that prohibits auto-dialed calls to your cellular phone without your consent. Until recently, however, there was a loophole of sorts for wrong number robocalls. Callers could argue that they had the consent of the person they were trying to reach and that was good enough to satisfy the TCPA’s consent requirement.
Thankfully, the FCC closed this loophole. The FCC has made clear that callers are liable for robocalls to reassigned numbers when the current subscriber of the number has not consented, even if the caller has no notice of the reassignment. This reaffirms the TCPA’s basic premise of giving consumers control over the calls that they receive.
Under the TCPA, you can obtain an order from a court that requires the caller to stop placing wrong number robocalls to your cell phone. In addition, the TCPA provides for damages of at least $500 per illegal robocall. This $500/call penalty is designed to deter illegal robocalls and to incentivize consumers to help the FCC enforce the TCPA through private lawsuits.