Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991

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The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) was passed by the United States Congress in 1991 and signed into law by President George H. W. Bush as Public Law 102-243. It amended the Communications Act of 1934. The TCPA is codified as 47 U.S.C. 227. The TCPA restricts telephone solicitations (i.e., telemarketing) and the use of automated telephone equipment. The TCPA limits the use of automatic dialing systems, artificial or prerecorded voice messages, SMS text messages, and fax machines. It also specifies several technical requirements for fax machines, autodialers, and voice messaging systems—principally with provisions requiring identification and contact information of the entity using the device to be contained in the message.


General provisions

Unless the recipient has given prior express consent, the TCPA and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules under the TCPA generally:[1]

The FCC's initial do-not-call list regulations were ineffective at proactively stopping unsolicited calls because the consumer had to make a do-not-call request for each telemarketer. This burden was lifted by the Do-Not-Call Implementation Act's establishment of the National Do Not Call Registry and adoption of the National Do-Not-Call list by the FCC in 2003

The CAN-SPAM Act made a minor amendment to the TCPA to explicitly apply the TCPA to calls and faxes originating from outside the U.S.

The portions of the TCPA related to unsolicited advertising faxes were amended by the Junk Fax Prevention Act of 2005.

Unusual statutory provision

Though the TCPA is a federal statute, suits brought by consumers against violators are frequently filed in state courts.[4] The TCPA is unusual in that the language creating a private right of action led to conflicting views on whether the federal courts had federal question subject matter jurisdiction. The TCPA provides in relevant part: "A person or entity may, if otherwise permitted by the laws or rules of court of a State, bring in an appropriate court of that State. …"[5] As of January 2012, there was a circuit split among the federal appeals courts on the issue of whether federal courts have federal question, diversity jurisdiction (individually or under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005), or whether the state courts have exclusive jurisdiction.[6]

Major court cases

The TCPA's constitutionality was challenged by telemarketers soon after it was enacted. Two cases, Moser v. FCC, 46 F.3d 970 (9th Cir. 1995) cert. denied, 515 U.S. 1161 (1995) and Destination Ventures Ltd. v. FCC, 46 F.3d 54 (9th Cir. 1995) effectively settled this issue finding the restrictions in the TCPA were constitutional.

The United States Supreme Court resolved a significant circuit split to decide that federal courts have federal question subject matter jurisdiction in Mims v. Arrow Financial Services, LLC, __ US __, 132 S. Ct. 740, 181 L. Ed. 2d 881 (Jan. 18, 2012), resolving a circuit split.[7]

The Ninth Circuit held that the TCPA applies to unsolicited cellular telephone text messages advertising the commercial availability of goods or services as "calls" made in violation of the act.

See also


  1. ^ 47 U.S.C. § 227; 47 C.F.R. § 64.1200
  2. ^ 47 U.S.C. § 227(B); FCC Regulations exempt non-solicitation calls.
  3. ^ 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1)(A)
  4. ^ Robert R. Biggerstaff, State Courts and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991: must States Opt-in? Can States Opt-out? 33 Conn. L. Rev. 407 (2001).
  5. ^ Subsection 227(b)(3)
  6. ^ Mims v. Arrow Financial Services, LLC, 421 Fed.Appx. 920, 921 (11th Cir. 2010); Murphy v. Lanier, 204 F.3d 911, 915 (9th Cir. 2000) (federal courts lack federal-question jurisdiction over TCPA claims); ErieNet, Inc. v. Velocity Net, Inc., 156 F.3d 513, 519 (3rd Cir. 1998) (same); Foxhall Realty Law Offices, Inc. v. Telecommunications Premium Servs., Ltd., 156 F.3d 432, 434 (2nd Cir. 1998) (same); Chair King, Inc. v. Houston Cellular Corp., 131 F.3d 507, 514 (5th Cir. 1997) (same); International Science & Technology Inst. v. Inacom Communications, Inc., 106 F.3d 1146, 1158 (4th Cir. 1997) (same); Charvat v. EchoStar Satellite, LLC, 630 F.3d 459, 463–465 (6th Cir. 2010) (federal courts have federal-question jurisdiction over TCPA actions), Brill v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 427 F.3d 446, 447 (7th Cir. 2005) (same)
  7. ^

Law review articles

External links