Debt collectors are regulated in how they can collect debts from consumers. Collection calls to a cellphone are regulated under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
If you are receiving calls from a debt collector on your cellphone, here is what you need to know.
Many debt collectors use automatic dialers
Debt collectors use robodialers, or automatic dialers, because it’s fast and efficient. Rather than having a debt collector input each digit of a phone number, a system or program will autodial the number. If and when the call is connected, the call is then transferred to a live collection agent.
In other words, autodialers allow debt collectors to make large volumes of calls in a very short timespan. Many times, these autodialed calls violate the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
How to know you are being autodialed
If you are receiving calls from a debt collector on your cellphone, there is a decent chance you are being autodialed. That said, there are a few key indicators of autodialers, including:
- Frequent calls in a short time span
- Nobody is on the other end when the call is connected
- There is a long pause before a consumer is connected to a debt collector
- When the consumer answers it hears a robotic or prerecorded message
- The consumer receives a voicemail with a prerecorded or automatic message
- Back-to-back calls on different phone numbers for the consumer
Damages for autodialed calls
The TCPA provides for statutory damages of $500 per call for each autodialed call. It does not matter if you answered the call, missed calls from an autodialer are also considered violative of the TCPA.
If a consumer can establish that the calls were willful, damages are $1,500 per call. Courts have not consistently defined what constitutes willful. Some attorneys argue that simply making the calls is considered willful, whereas others argue that willfulness requires a showing of intent to break the law.
Depending on who is making the calls and what else happened, a consumer may also be entitled to damages from a FDCPA claim.
When to contact an attorney
If you think you are receiving autodialed calls from a debt collector, it’s a good idea to contact a consumer rights attorney, like me. I can help you figure out if you are receiving autodialed calls, what your rights are, and what the next steps are.