As announced here, the Federal Communications Commission ("FCC") has announced plans to adopt a new rule protecting consumers from ringless voicemails on cell phones. The FCC is one of several federal agencies that regulate wireless communication companies. According to the announcement, the Chairwoman of the FCC is asking the other members of the committee to adopt a new rule that would forbid cellular phone companies from delivering ringless voicemails without the prior consent of the consumer. As the name suggests, a “ringless voicemail” is a voicemail message left in a consumer's voice mailbox without the ringing of the phone. Obviously, this can be just as harassing and problematic as a ringing call. As the FCC Chair explained, “[r]ingless voicemail can be annoying, invasive, and can lead to fraud like other robocalls—so it should face the same consumer protection rules. No one wants to wade through voicemail spam, or miss important messages because their mailbox is full."
If the rule goes into effect, consumers will be able to sue companies for violation of consumer rights. Under the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act ("TCPA"), companies are banned from making annoying and harassing "robo-calls" to any sort of phone device. Legally, the argument has been that ringless voicemails are "okay" because there is no "call" made to the consumer's phone (or other device). The FCC is rejecting that legal position by, in effect, adopting a rule that says a ringless voicemail is a form of "robo-calling" that is prohibited by the TCPA.
While the new rule has not been adopted yet, the announcement is a good sign for consumers. If you have received unwanted ringless voicemails to which you did not consent, you should contact consumer and debtor rights attorneys like the ones at Guardian Litigation Group. The TCPA allows consumers to file a lawsuit directly against violators. Consumers who prove violations can obtain money judgments of up to $500 for each violation (that is, $500 per phone call or ringless voicemail that violates the law). Under some circumstances, if it is shown that the violations were "knowing or willful," then additional statutory penalties can be added that are triple the initial amount. If this happens, then the money damages that can be recovered are $2,000 per phone call or ringless voicemail that violates the law.
In addition, under the TCPA, if a company is found to have committed violations, the company will be required to pay your attorney’s fees, court and litigation costs.
As noted, it is important to retain experienced consumer rights attorneys to handle your case. The legal issues are complicated and remain in flux. Even if the FCC adopts the new rule with respect to ringless voicemail messages, there are other legal issues that must be overcome like the question of injury-in-fact. California is a pro-consumer State and courts here will likely be protective. That is not necessarily true in other States around the country.
Contact an Experienced Consumer Rights Attorney
For more information, contact the Consumer and Debtor Rights attorneys at Guardian Litigation Group. We have the tools and legal experience necessary to protect you and to recover money damages for you if you have been the victim of robocalling and/or robo-texting. Our Mission is to provide unparalleled legal services and support to consumers and financially distressed individuals. We can be reached via our contact page or by phone at (800) 316-3133.