TCPA Violation: Fines & Penalties Explained (+ How to Avoid)

If you are in the US, unsolicited calls and text messages can constitute what is known as TCPA violation and get you into trouble. Read the article below to know how to protect yourself from the TCPA violation.

TCPA Violation

The TCPA, or Telephone Consumer Protection Act, is a US federal law that regulates telemarketing calls, text messages, and faxes to consumers. The act aims to protect consumers from unwanted, harassing and deceptive phone calls. To avoid TCPA violations, businesses must obtain prior express written consent from consumers and provide a user-friendly opt-out mechanism. Fines for TCPA violations can range from $500 to $1500 per individual violation, and may even reach up to $10,000 per call for intentional violations of federal robocall laws.

As the world grows digitally, technology is beginning to allow businesses to bridge the gap between company and consumer. Now more than ever, companies and consumers connect through social media, email, phone calls, and text messages. As such, marketing strategies have begun to evolve as customer relationships mature with technology.

For an innovative company that seeks to connect with customers and prospects so as to grow sales, using calls, SMS, and text message marketing strategies to connect with customers might be a channel.

However, there are a few consumer protection laws that may get you into trouble if you are not careful. One such law is the TCPA. Given the large number of calls or texts that can be sent electronically at the touch of a button, damages for TCPA violations can quickly run into the millions.

This is because this marketing strategy has an over 100 percent read rate. You'd agree that 20% of every text message you receive is read within 24 hours. As such, as the body of consumer protection law continues to develop, key stakeholders like companies, advertisers, consumer lawyers, debt collection attorneys, and commercial litigators must constantly monitor the decisions of the federal courts and the FCC to maintain clarity on acceptable trade practices.

TCPA Violation Feature

In this post, we'll look at what this consumer protection regulation is and how businesses should avoid breaking it to avoid incurring fines.

What is a TCPA Violation?

A “Telephone Consumer Protection Act” violation is what a TCPA violation simply means. The TCPA violation is a piece of federal legislation that safeguards consumers' right to privacy and is intended to reduce obtrusive—and more specifically, unwanted—telephone calls and texts that use an automated marketing message or a robo-dialer to send thousands of pre-recorded messages. It was signed into law by former US President George H. W. Bush in 1991.

TCPA Violation overview

It is the main federal legislation that controls how telephone solicitations are regulated. As a result, the TCPA gives customers a number of rights regarding how businesses may contact them. However, in recent times, this regulation has expanded beyond defending the privacy of those who use residential landlines. It now includes fax machines, mobile phones, and wireless numbers.

The TCPA regulations, however, have changed over time along with advancements in telecommunications technology. For instance, before sending texts or placing automated calls to customers' cell phones or landlines, telemarketers must first seek written consent, according to the new TCPA regulations that were adopted in October 2013. Additionally, subsequent legislation has expanded on the TCPA's framework, including the TRACED Act of 2019.

Even though the TCPA has restrictions, there are some situations where automated telephone device text messaging—can be used. In the later section of this post, we shall talk about this.

What are 5 major types of TCPA violations?

  1. Autodialing cell phones listed in the National Do-Not-Call Registry.
  2. Automated messages delivered to cell phones without prior express written consent (PEWC).
  3. Unsolicited marketing robocalls, including telemarketing and telemarketing sales calls.
  4. Inadequate or absent disclosures during a phone call, such as failing to identify the caller, failing to provide the required opt-out mechanism, or failing to provide the required company information.
  5. Failing to honor the request of a consumer to opt-out of future calls.

What Constitutes a TCPA Violation?

The TCPA contains several requirements. To avoid committing TCPA violations, marketers must comply with all of these requirements. However, the TCPA may sound quite scary, but remember that it is primarily designed to cut down on scammers and nuisance calls. Therefore, below are a few main TCPA violations that every company should be aware of.

  • Unsolicited Calls and Text Messages

It is against the TCPA for a company to text or phone a customer without the customer's express written consent. Only until the customer expresses written authorization may there be any interaction between the firm and the customer. Callers can only reach residential clients between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m., depending on the recipient's time zone.

Once more, if a customer registers for text-based business notifications, they must additionally confirm their subscription by responding to an automatic message that contains TCPA-mandated disclosures and is issued by the company.

Therefore, sending messages to consumers that require the recipient to utilize a descrambler in order to understand them is against the TCPA. Additionally, it's against the law to play audio that is difficult to understand or comprehend.

  • Automated Dialling and Robocalls

Automated Dialling and Robocalls

Automated dialing allow telemarketers to reach out to a large number of customers simultaneously. The TCPA law, however, prohibits robocalling or auto-dialed marketing calls from landlines, mobile phones, and other devices where the recipient may be charged for the call without their express, vocal, or even written, prior consent. The TCPA specifically defines an “autodialer” as any piece of equipment with the ability to store or generate phone numbers using a random or sequential number generator, then dial those numbers.

After getting the consent of the consumer, it is no longer illegal for a business to call customers for marketing purposes. However, a real person needs to be on the line. It is therefore a violation of the TCPA to use pre-recorded voice messages without that person’s prior express consent, too.

  • Do Not Call (DNC) Registry

Do Not Call (DNC) Registry

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) introduced the nationwide do-not-call registry for customers sometime in 2003. Customers can register their phone numbers in the registry to avoid telemarketing calls. As a result, it is unlawful to call anyone who has registered with the federal Do Not Call Registry to indicate that they do not want to receive calls.

Also, if you haven't done business with a consumer in the previous 18 months, you are not permitted to conduct a marketing call or send an SMS. Charity organizations are not permitted to call anyone on the Do Not Call list, though. Aside from the federal list, keep in mind that some states also have local DNC lists.

Causes of TCPA violation

To better understand how the TCPA violation works, it is important to know some of the causes of this violation, even if a company intentionally abides by the guidelines. Knowing this, you can take more precautionary measures to limit your risk of violation.

  • Ad Fraud/Fake lead generation

Ad Fraud or Fake lead generation

A company runs the risk of receiving more than 40% of inaccurate leads when it relies on digital advertising campaigns to generate leads. This is attributed to scammers using malicious bots to create fraudulent clicks and fill out their lead forms with false or unsolicited contact information. These fraudsters deceive their victims into believing they are receiving genuine leads. In fact, due to the growth in ad fraud, lots of ad bots in the market, these malicious bots accounted for more than 27.7% of all web traffic in 2021.

Ultimately, you are responsible for paying the fraudster for causing you a TCPA violation. In addition, a large portion of this consumer data is built using the contact details of real people whose information was stolen and sold again on the dark web without their knowledge or permission.

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When internal TCPA compliance controls are lacking, data errors are common. This happens sometimes because businesses have to pay attention to too many regulations in various industries. Therefore, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise if businesses lag behind on some regulatory compliance requirements. This may, in turn, contribute to a higher rate of TCPA violations.

  • Buying Lead Lists

In an effort to grow their customer base, some brands go so far as to buy large lists of leads from third-party organizations. These lists are not always genuine, and worse, they do not have the consent of the people on them. An even worse scenario is when the leads on the list are filled with fake information or have really outdated information. You end up communicating with complete strangers who never consented to receive communications, making yourself a victim of TCPA complaints.

Penalty for TCPA Violation

Penalty for TCPA Violation

You might wonder what happens when a business violates the law and the TCPA regulations. Individuals who receive calls that violate the TCPA regulations have a private right of action according to the TCPA legislation. As a result, penalties for companies that disregard TCPA guidelines can be as high as $1,500 per call or text and as low as $500. As of September 2021, the registry contained more than 244 million phone numbers. As such, these penalties can actually have a lot of negative effects on a brand's reputation over time.

Here's a list of the potential penalties for violating the TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act):

  • Financial Damages: Companies can face monetary damages for each violation of the TCPA. These damages can range from $500 to $1,500 per call or message.
  • Class-Action Lawsuits: Consumers who have received unsolicited calls or messages from companies can sue on behalf of themselves and others who have been affected.
  • Injunctions: A court can issue an injunction to stop a company from continuing to violate the TCPA.
  • Attorneys' Fees: Companies may be required to pay the attorney's fees of the consumer who sues them for TCPA violations.
  • FCC Fines: The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) can impose substantial fines on companies that violate the TCPA.
  • Damage to Reputation: Companies may face damage to their reputation if they are seen as being non-compliant with consumer protection laws.

It's important to note that these penalties can vary depending on the specific circumstances of each case, and the consequences of TCPA violations can be significant for both businesses and individuals.

Exemptions from TCPA Violation

As with any law or regulation, there are some exceptions. So, when thinking of dos and don’ts while embarking on telemarketing or any other form of marketing that may cause a TCPA violation, it is also important to know the exemptions to this regulation and perhaps take advantage of them.

  • Emergency Calls and Messaging

Emergency Calls and Messaging

There is one general TCPA exemption for emergency messaging. Calls made when emergency purposes do not participate as a violation of TCPA. Any messages necessary to prevent harm to health or safety does not require consent from the consumer. Most of these kinds of permitted calls are usually made by hospitals, healthcare organizations, and the government. It can also come from those working on behalf of any of the aforementioned organizations.

  • Non-profit organizations

One of the exceptions to the TCPA is non-profit organizations. A call is not considered a solicitation if it is done by or on behalf of a non-profit organization. It is crucial to understand that, even though a subscriber's phone number might receive automated calls or texts from a non-profit, sending messages to an unintentionally allocated phone number is prohibited by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Additionally, because it is not soliciting, the non-profit is not required to use the Do Not Call registration or maintain a personal or internal Do Not Call List as typical businesses do.

  • Manually Dailing Customers

Manually Dailing Customers

Manually dialing customers without the use of pre-recorded messages is an exception or TCPA violation. Although this may not be an ineffective way to reach out to consumers, hey, it's better than nothing. It is the only way to stay out of trouble, stay in compliance with the regulations, and still market your business to potential customers.

How to avoid TCPA Violation

avoid TCPA Violation

Practical strategies for avoiding a TCPA violation would be the final point we would be making in this section. As such, here are a few steps you can take to safeguard your company and proactively avoid TCPA compliance problems.

More often than not, a TCPA violation happens because the involved organization does not have prior express consent for their telemarketing calls or text messages. As a result, a consent form that clearly requests permission to contact the consumer via automated calls can save your business millions of dollars in losses.

Make sure your contract includes a well-written TCPA consent clause in case you ever need to contact a consumer via an autodialer or pre-recorded voice. As such, a user-friendly consent form should leave no doubt about whether a consumer is consenting to receive communications from you. Additionally, make sure to keep all consent forms for at least four years, as the statute of limitations for TCPA claims is four years.

  • Make Sure To Keep Proper Documentation of Everything

Make Sure To Keep Proper Documentation of Everything

As a business, if you are doing telemarketing and complying with the TCPA regulations but don’t have proper documentation of consumer prior consent, your activities can be dangerous. In some cases, the inability to produce evidence or records of compliance can be a costly mistake for the company’s revenue.

As such, creating an organization-wide document that details the different aspects of TCPA compliance, why they each matter, and how to follow them all can make an enormous difference in the number of TCPA violations you face later. To put this in context, assume your marketing team reached out to about 500 wrong contacts and the FCC determined that the telemarketing was wilful.

That would mean a minimum of $250,000 in fines. But by presenting a document to show that it was an accident, your potential losses can be reduced to $84,000—a third of the initial fine.

  • Make It Easy for Consumers to Unsubscribe from Communications

Consumers can withdraw their agreement “in any reasonable way at any time,” according to the June 2015 FCC Declaratory Ruling and Order. Therefore, establishing a fast and simple process for customers to unsubscribe from emails, calls, and text messages is a crucial strategy for your business. This is one way to respect the consumer's permission and adhere to the TCPA rules.

  • Make sure to always check the National Do-Not-Call (DNC) Registry

National Do-Not-Call (DNC) Registry

Your lead database can be verified via the DNC registry, which can be extremely helpful for identifying potential issues before they occur. To check for numbers that are prohibited, it may also be possible to browse state- or company-specific listings. Regularly carrying out this action can significantly lower the chance of using DNC registry numbers in violation of the TCPA regulation.

  • Make Sure To Use Ad Fraud Software To Sift Fake Leads

Ad Fraud Software To Sift Fake Leads

To truly avoid breaking the TCPA, you should sign up for the service of any ad fraud solution of your choice. You can spot false leads in real-time using an ad fraud solution. This allows you to remove them from your database before a TCPA violation occurs accidentally. Also, this gives you the ability to face fraudsters head-on and shut them off before they can damage your advertising campaigns or steal your ad budget.

FAQs About TCPA Violation

Q. What Kind of Businesses Encounter TCPA Violation?

The TCPA violation is not specific to a particular industry; however, it is mostly a law that revolves largely around telemarketing. So, any brand that seeks to engage in the telemarketing strategy for reaching and getting in front of its customers must comply with the regulations laid down by the FCC and FTC in the TCPA regulation. The law is mostly in favour of the communication rights of consumers, so companies must tread carefully.

Q. Can a Company in the USA get a TCPA Complaint from Other Regions of the World?

Fundamentally, this is a regulation that mostly applies to businesses in the USA. However, for companies that seek to reach out to other regions of the world to generate leads and grow their consumer base, it is important to take caution. If you must call or send a text message to a lead outside of the USA, you must be sure to stay within the 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. recipient window based on their time zone. There are rare cases of this, but it is possible.

Yes, it is possible. You can provide your target audience with a form that states that you are permitted to put a call through or send a text message in line with the TCPA’s best practices. If very well documented, it can serve as a piece of evidence when any lawsuit alleging TCPA violations hits your organization.


Implementing appropriate compliance procedures becomes more crucial as consumer and legal awareness of the TCPA and its rights grows. It can be extremely distressing to lose millions of dollars in this kind of legal action.

We hope that this article has helped you to understand what you could lose if you don't comply with the various conditions that could expose you to this telemarketing violation.

The different steps to avoid paying TCPA fines should be considered precautionary measures. Therefore, it is crucial that you speak with your compliance expert or debt collection lawyer to make sure your company is safeguarded.

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