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Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) FAQs and Why they Matter

Q: What is the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)?

  • The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) is a federal consumer privacy law. It was implemented in 1991 to regulate telephone calls to landlines and mobile phones. In 2015 the TCPA was updated to fit newer technology standards with devices such as smartphones and tablets that can receive phone calls and text messages. The TCPA applies to calls that are directed to both individuals and businesses. This includes telemarketing calls and calls made for business purposes, like informational calls. The legalities become more restrictive for certain types of calls like prerecorded calls, artificial voices, SMS text messages, and calls made to mobile phones.

Q: Why do producers need to comply with the requirements of the TCPA?

  • The TCPA applies to any businesses making outbound calls, faxes, or text messages. Violations of the TCPA are subject to legal action and can carry damage awards of $500-$1,500 for each phone call, text, or fax that was made. There is no statutory cap on these damages. In 2014, a lawsuit involving a credit card issuer created a total of $75.5 million in damages due to the issuer not following the TCPA regulations. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the state attorneys general can enforce the violations of the TCPA.

Q: When do producers need consent from the recipient to make a call to a landline (such as a residential or business line)?

  • If a call to a landline uses an artificial or prerecorded voice, the caller must have the recipient’s written consent first before placing the call. If a call to a landline doesn’t use an artificial or prerecorded voice for the entirety of the call, approval is not required. Lastly, if a call to a landline doesn’t include a telemarketing message in part of it or its entirety, no consent is required.

Q: When does a producer need consent from the recipient to make a call to a mobile or cellular phone?

  • This depends on if the call is for a telemarketing purpose or an informational purpose. If a call to a mobile device encompasses a telemarketing message and uses an artificial or prerecorded voice, the caller must have to recipient’s prior written consent. If a call consists of a telemarketing message and used for an “automatic telephone dialing system” (ATDS), then the caller must have written consent prior to the call. Lastly, if a call to a mobile device does not contain a telemarketing message, but utilizes an artificial or prerecorded voice, the caller must still obtain the recipient’s prior consent.

Q: When does a producer need consent from the recipient to send a text or SMS message to a mobile device?

  • Sending a text message uses the same requirements as a prerecorded voice call placed to a mobile phone with ATDS. So, if the text message contains a telemarketing message, the recipient is required to give prior written consent. If the text message doesn’t include a telemarketing message, prior permission is still needed.

These questions and answers are extremely important for insurance agents because many clients come from phone calls. To avoid violating the TCPA, you should stay up to date with any updates or changes that occur to act. For questions about your insurance agency’s legal obligations, you should consult your lawyer. For further guidance with the TCPA, visit https://www.fcc.gov/general/telemarketing

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