Debt Collectors Calling your Cell Phone: TCPA protections you should not overlook
Are debt collector calls to a cell phone legal? In many situations they are not. But debt collectors will call you anyway because they know you likely won't do much about it.
You can stop these calls to your cell phone however. And if the calls don't stop, the collector must pay damages of $500.00 per call, $1,500 per call if willful.
Congress passed a law called the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) to govern telemarketing. However, it also applies to debt collection calls. Basically, the TCPA provides that companies including debt collectors can't call your cell with an autodialer. If you don't know what an autodialer is don't worry. Just know that nowadays pretty much all collection calls are made by an autodialer. You'll usually hear a short pause before the call connects.
These calls are legal ONLY if the debt collector has your permission to call your cell. You may have listed your cell number on the application for credit, or maybe the company trapped your phone number when you used your cell to call them.
So to stop these calls all you have to do is withdraw any consent to call your cell. It's best to do this in writing with a letter sent via certified mail. This way you can easily prove you sent the letter and that it was received. In many areas of the country you can also revoke consent verbally over the phone, but even so, that is much harder to prove.
So send that letter. Just say you are revoking consent to call your cell. Include your cell number so that there can be no mistake which number you are revoking consent to call. Do this even if you don't believe you ever consented in the first place.
The calls may stop. If so, problem solved. If not, then keep a written record of the calls. You can answer or ignore the calls, your choice. Then contact a consumer lawyer familiar with the TCPA. Each call is worth $500 in damages, $1,500 if willful. Recently we had a client who sent a letter revoking consent. The company sent back a letter stating that it didn't have to abide by that request. They were wrong. Our client walked away with a check for approximately $10,000. This same client came to us initially believing that he was going to have to pay us to settle the debt. Instead we wrote him a check.
This approach will give you peace of mind by not having your cell phone ringing all day. Many folks have to keep their phone on at work particularly when they have children in daycare. By revoking consent to call your cell number, you can stop your cell from ringing constantly at work or vibrating its way across your desk. If the calls don't stop, it will give you leverage to settle any past due accounts and/or significant damages. The calls should definitely stop after a lawsuit.