Modern technology has taken us out of the landline dark ages to the convenience of mobile phones and texting. Unfortunately, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) has not made the leap, and a coalition of businesses is asking Congress to update the act’s outdated language that is fueling frivolous lawsuits.
The coalition of over 25 trade associations and business groups, representing hundreds of thousands of U.S. companies and organizations, has written in advance of a hearing this Thursday in the House Energy and Commerce Committee on “Modernizing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.”
The letter from the coalition specifically calls attention to the rise in abusive TCPA litigation over the past few years, stating “last year alone, 3,710 TCPA lawsuits were filed in federal court, and between 2010 and 2015, the amount of TCPA litigation filed in federal court increased by 940%.”
This is a dramatic increase in litigation and a clear indicator that plaintiffs’ attorneys have figured out how to use the TCPA as a vessel for lawsuits.
The TCPA was enacted in 1991 to protect consumers from the onslaught of telemarketing calls, but it was written before the use of text messaging and long before the majority of Americans owned smart phones. Today, plaintiffs’ lawyers are using its outdated language to their advantage and targeting legitimate communications between businesses and their consumers, such as prescription reminders or bank and credit card alerts.
Each alleged violation of the TCPA comes with statutory damages of $500-$1,500 per call or text. These damages add up, especially when plaintiffs’ lawyers are using the TCPA to file huge class action lawsuits.
Just ask the Los Angeles Lakers, who faced millions in statutory damages for sending a “thank you” text to fans who texted in a vote for their favorite song during the game.
Congress has now been called on to take a look at this act and its unintended consequences. While protections should be in place to stop pesky telemarketing calls, businesses should still be able to easily communicate with their customers without the looming threat of liability.