Robocalls and Unwanted Solicitation Calls are On the Rise
Does it feel like your phone is ringing constantly with robocalls? You’re not alone – the number of these calls has skyrocketed lately. April marks the high point of these calls since 2015. By one estimate, there were 3.4 billion such calls in April of this year, or 112 million of them every day.
What is a Robocall?
Robocalls really have two meanings: the meaning that most people use, and their legal meaning. Robocalls are generally used by the public and the media to mean annoying, unwanted spam calls. They can include calls from real companies advertising something we don’t want, calls from scammers, or debt collection calls (real ones and scam ones).
But legally, robocalls have a more specific meaning. They include any call made from what is known as an automatic telephone dialer, “autodialer” or ATD. ATDs are devices that are capable of storing and dialing phone numbers without human intervention. They may dial hundreds of numbers every minute, and then after you pick up the phone, the call is routed to a human.
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) allows consumers to recover damages for calls that are made to them using an autodialer. That’s led to much debate over what an autodialer actually is.
Many companies that make huge amounts of phone calls every day (such as collection agencies) rely on these machines to make calls for their agents; doing so saves a lot of time in a day and allows them to make more calls.
Argument Over Definitions of an Autodialer
Naturally this all means that collection agencies are always arguing for more stringent, narrow definitions of an autodialer, and cases have been brought by consumers and collection agencies alike trying to get a definition from the courts regarding what an autodialer actually is.
The stakes are high: The penalty for making calls with an autodialer that violate the TCPA can be between $500-$1500 per call.
Some questions that courts are confronting today ask whether a machine has to store phone numbers and then dial from the stored list to be an autodialer. Cases have been brought as to whether dialing has to be “sequential,” that is, dialed in a specifically programmed order to be an autodialer.
How to Tell if a Call Was Made With an Autodialer
Although a consumer may not be able to tell immediately whether an autodialer was used or not, there are some good indicators that this occurred.
One of the most obvious indications includes if you pick up the phone and there is a pause, or empty sound, before someone picks up the other end of the call. Or, an autodialer was likely used if there is a recording (“please hold while we connect you to an agent”) when you pick up a phone call.
The TCPA also prohibits pre-recorded calls in many instances, regardless of whether an autodialer is used. That means that messages left on your voicemail with robotic or recorded messages may also violate the TCPA.
There are specific ways that the TCPA is violated, which we’ll look at in later posts. For now, just be aware that you do have legal recourse if you’re being bombarded by unwanted calls.
Contact Jacobs Legal in Miami today to discuss handling unwanted calls or text messages and to discuss whether you may be entitled to damages as a result of unwanted texts or calls.