The TCPA stand for the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. It was passed in 1991 to try to help protect consumers from many tricky tactics collection agencies used to use against them in trying to collect debt. In 2003 a rider was added making it illegal for what’s known as “robo-callers” to call you on things such as cellphones and pagers. There were two caveats; it didn’t pertain to emergencies and, oddly enough, it didn’t prohibit politicians from contacting you; wasn’t that convenient?

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The thing is that back when it was passed cellphone technology was pretty new and no one knew where it was going. Also, back then people got charged whether they initiated the phone call or not; by the time I got my first cellphone in 1995 you got charged for any calls you made or received before 9PM. Thus, this was pretty important legislation at the time.

Also, at the time, over 95% of the population had landlines and almost no one gave out their cellphone numbers. Thus, anyone who had a phone was pretty easy to reach at home, whether they answered their phone or not.

Things have changed drastically since 1991. Believe it or not, fewer than 45% of the American population has a landline now, even if they have more than one phone number. Other than certain long distance calls, almost all calls are free and without restrictions. People can use their phones for a multitude of things, and be contacted about a multitude of things.

At least they could if the robo-calling feature was legal, which it’s not. Certain companies have been sued and lost because they violated the law unknowingly. It seems that you the owner has to give explicit permission to be contacted via your cellphone. As a matter of fact, as of October 16, 2013, these specific rules went into effect:

* Prior express written consent is required for all autodialed and/or pre-recorded calls/texts sent/made to cell phones and pre-recorded calls made to residential land lines for marketing purposes;

* the “established business relationship” exemption (remember the thing where, if you bought a product a company could take that as you giving approval for them to call you & sell to you? Not anymore…) for pre-recorded telemarketing calls to residential landlines are eliminated

This all sounds good right? Do you feel protected? Not so fast.

Have you noticed you’re still getting these sneaky sales calls? Almost none of us knows how to track these phone calls because if you call them back none of the numbers shown work. Also, you sometimes find that you’re not getting information you thought you requested because someone finds out that you haven’t specifically signed an authorization, which means if you have doctors appointments or any other health related appointments that they’re supposed to pick up the phone to remind you of the appointment if it’s not a landline.

One other thing; if you’re supposed to go on a trip, unless you specifically give your cellphone number out the airlines, train station, buses or any other modes of transportation by law aren’t supposed to robo-call you in case something changes. Thus, if you forgot to check that box when you were making your reservation online, even if you gave them your phone number, they won’t contact you; I bet that’s happened to some of you.

Then we have to go back to the collection piece of this. This is a nation of debt and those who owe debt, as well as a pretty transient society, and collection agencies, as much as most of us tend to dislike them, aren’t all evil and sneaky. You know if you owe someone money, and having a legal right to fully dodge them because they’re not allowed to robo-call your number because it’s a cellphone or smartphone is inherently unfair to them and their industry.

There are a lot of industries, from travel to health care, trying to get this law changed. All of them say they’re not doing it for advertising purposes, and indeed all of them want that part of legislation to remain illegal (even though it’s the one area that no one seems to be able to stop). All these industries have lobbyists in Washington working away at politicians hoping to get these changes through.

I’ve had to think a long time about this, as I consult in one of the industries where this is a big deal. I have come around to understanding that this is a different day and a different animal, and if I were owed money and consulting for a facility in this particular capacity that I would be inhibited greatly because one can only hire so many people. Of course my industry is also putting things into place to obtain the permission needed to comply with the law.

What do you think? Are you troubled, because you don’t have a landline, that your privacy might be violated when you don’t want it to be? Or do you recognize that there are some rights that industry needs to have in a changing world?

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