You may know that unsolicited spam calls are illegal. That just makes sense. Spam calls are annoying, distracting, and they can make it hard to spot actually important calls. What you may not know is that spam text messages are illegal, too.
If you’re receiving unsolicited texts trying to get you to buy things, you’re actually suffering a violation of your legal rights. Depending on the situation, you may be able to take legal action against the spam texting company. Here’s what you should know about why spam texts are illegal and what you can do about them.
Protecting Your Phone: The Telephone Consumer Protection Act
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and its amendments regulate marketing phone calls and SMS messages. The TCPA was first signed into federal law in 1991 after technology advanced to the point that automated spam calls became a significant problem.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) determined that spam calls were becoming dangerous and impeding actual communication. It proposed the TCPA to ban unsolicited spam calls and impose penalties on companies that bought people’s private information or called at unreasonable hours just to market to them.
However, the bill quickly had to be updated as mobile phones became common over the next two decades. Today, the TCPA regulates all forms of phone-based marketing communication. It specifically bans practices such as:
- Contacting people for marketing purposes without their consent
- Using autodialers to contact people without their consent
- Using artificial or prerecorded voice messages without consent
Political, charitable, financial, educational, and healthcare organizations are exempt from these rules in specific circumstances. However, businesses of all kinds must follow them when marketing or face hefty fines.
How Texts Are Covered by the TCPA
Texts don’t officially have their own section under the TCPA. Instead, they’re considered a form of call. That means that they’re covered substantially similarly. According to the TCPA, text-based marketing is only permitted if the company:
- Obtains and saves the recipient’s written consent to receive marketing messages from it through text.
- Discloses exactly what kinds of messages the recipient agrees to before obtaining their consent.
- Identifies itself in every text chain.
- Maintains records of all communications with the customer through the medium.
- Informs and offers the recipients an easy way to opt-out of the communications at any time.
- Respects the National Do Not Call Registry and maintains a personal do-not-call list of people who have opted out of receiving texts.
- Restricts its messaging to the hours between 8 am and 9 pm in the recipient’s time zone.
Essentially, companies need to get the informed consent of customers to whom they want to send SMS messages, make it clear who they are in each message, make it easy to stop getting messages, and only text during reasonable hours.
If a company violates any of these rules, it could face fines of a minimum of $500 per text per recipient. A business that sends out the same text to a thousand people could be on the hook for $500,000 in fines from a single incident.
Furthermore, consumers can fight back against these texts, too. The recipient of an unsolicited marketing text can sue the sender on behalf of the FCC. In that case, the plaintiff is eligible to receive the money for which the company was fined. This allows people like you to assist the FCC in enforcing the TCPA as well as receive damages for the violations you’ve faced.
What’s Considered a Text-Based Violation of the TCPA
There are plenty of ways a business might break the TCPA’s rules when sending you text marketing. Common violations include:
- Sending outright unsolicited text messages to complete strangers using an autodialer or by texting numbers off a purchased phone number list.
- Texting marketing materials to someone on the National Do Not Call Registry without their consent.
- Failing to inform people about the messages they’ll receive when collecting their phone numbers.
- Failing to inform recipients about an opt-out method for the texts or failing to honor their opt-out requests.
For instance, if you get a text from a business you’ve never heard of, it’s probably a violation. Similarly, if you can’t get the messages to stop or weren’t told you’d get text messages after giving your phone number to a business, that’s also a TCPA violation.
Fighting Back Against Spam Texts
So, what should you do if you think that a company is violating the TCPA by texting you? You can actually fight back just by taking a few simple steps.
- Document the violations. This is the most crucial step. Don’t delete the spam texts if you might want to make a TCPA claim. You’ll need the texts to demonstrate that the sender is violating the TCPA in some way, such as by not identifying themselves or failing to tell you how to opt-out of receiving them. Save all the spam texts on your phone, so you have a record of when you received them and what they contained.
- Attempt to opt-out. If you’re not sure whether you agreed to receive certain texts or not, try to opt-out of the messages. If there’s no way to opt-out, or if the messages continue even after you’ve canceled them, then you have additional proof that the sender is violating the TCPA.
- File a TCPA lawsuit. The final step is to file an actual TCPA lawsuit. Get a qualified consumer protection lawyer and work with them to build and file your claim. The right lawyer will help you get the best possible outcome from your case and hold the text sender accountable for interrupting your privacy.
End the Influx of Spam Texts
You don’t need to put up with spammers filling your SMS application with unsolicited texts. You can fight for your privacy by filing TCPA lawsuits against spam texters and reclaim your phone from their annoying messages. You can end spammy texts for good with the right legal help. To get started, schedule your consultation with the consumer protection experts at the Law Offices of Todd M. Friedman.