Have you seen the “free” water test kits available at Home Depot? You send a sample to be tested, and, with the test results comes a barrage of marketing calls from a company selling water purification systems. Annoying? Yes; also illegal.
The federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) prohibits the use of automatic telephone dialing systems, also known as “robo dialers,” to make unsolicited marketing calls. The penalties are stiff; $500.00 per call, and $1,500.00 for each call made after the recipient of a call demands that they cease. The statute imposes a flat ban on these calls, and knowledgeable consumers have learned to use the statute to collect significant damage awards. If you, or someone you know, has had it with automated marketing calls, call me, and I’ll refer you to an attorney who specializes in consumer protection law.
More importantly, if you use any direct marketing for your business, you need to know the law so that you won’t find yourself the target of a suit for violating the TCPA.
Consumer Protection Against Unsolicited Marketing Calls
The key factor in triggering a suit for violation of the TCPA is that a call must be “unsolicited.” Calls are not unsolicited if the recipient has a prior relationship with the company making the calls. Customers to whom you have sold a product or service have a prior relationship with you, as does anyone who contacts you for information about your product or service.
Home Depot ran afoul of the TCPA because it allowed sellers of water purification systems to use Home Depot’s name, logo and real estate to gather personal information about the individuals who sent in the water test kits. Free test kits of different kinds are proliferating as a marketing tool. Done right, they can be very effective. In the wrong hands, they are a menace to your reputation and business.