“Is there anything I can do to stop being harassed by a service provider that I don’t even want?”
Question: I keep getting the same call over and over from a telemarketer for satellite service. The message is electronic and not actually a person. In order to delete my voicemail from my phone I have to actually listen to the entire message. The problem is that the message just keeps going on and on and on and the voice mail doesn’t reach an end. Then I end up not being able to receive voicemail that I actually want, like from my friends. Is there anything I can do to stop being harassed by a service provider that I don’t even want?
Answer: The use of telecommunications in Texas is governed by the Texas Business and Commerce Code and includes telephone solicitation practices. Anyone or entity that uses telephone service to solicit business within Texas must abide by the statutes found with that Code (TBCC).
The statute defines a “consumer telephone call” as an unsolicited call made to a residential telephone number by a telephone solicitor to solicit a sale of a consumer good or service, solicit an extension of credit for a consumer good or service or obtain information that may be used to directly solicit a sale of a consumer good or service or to extend credit for the sale. A “telephone solicitor” is a person who makes or causes to be made a consumer telephone call. Consumer telephone calls include calls made by an automated dial-announcing device.
Telephone solicitors are prohibited from making consumer telephone calls to a consumer unless the telephone solicitor immediately identifies himself or herself by name and the name of the business. A person may not use an automated dial announcing device to make a telephone call in which the device plays a recorded message when the connection is completed, unless the device disconnects from the called person’s line not later than five seconds after the call is terminated by either party. If the device cannot disconnect during that period, a live operator must introduce the call and receive the called person’s oral consent before beginning a prerecorded or synthesized voice message.
Additional problems related to telemarketers include fraud, scams, identify theft, bogus charity solicitation, government impersonators, stock tips, cheap vacation offers, foreclosure rescue offers, jailhouse scams and jury duty threats to name a few. Surprisingly, scammers are not afraid to leave electronic pre-recorded messages. Receiving messages that interrupt the normal use of one’s answering machine or voice mail clearly violates the statute.
The Office of the Attorney General of the State of Texas is charged with the responsibility of enforcing the provisions of the TBCC relating to telephone solicitation and they must investigate any complaints relating to violations of the statute. The power that the OAG has is great. They may petition a district court for a temporary restraining order to restrain a continuing violation of the statute. A district court, on petition of the OAG and on finding that a person is violating the statute, may issue an injunction prohibiting the person from continuing the violation or grant any other injunctive relief warranted by the facts.
Anyone who knowingly violates the statute is liable for a civil penalty of not more than $10,000 for each violation. Further, the OAG may seek restitution and petition a district court for the assessment of a civil penalty. The person who is injured by the acts of the telemarketer may also bring their own petition before a district court for recovery of damages and may include their attorney’s fees.
Any call received by an individual within the state of Texas that is suspect may be reported to the OAG. Local law enforcement agencies do not normally investigate telephone solicitation. Filing a complaint with the OAG may be done online. The OAG’s consumer website also has other helpful information about how consumers may protect themselves against fraudulent telemarketing. Visit www.oag.state.tx.us for more information.
This article is meant for informational purposes only and not as a substitute for sound legal advice. Please direct questions to Ask the Lawyer at firstname.lastname@example.org on Facebook: The Dalhart Texan, Amarillo network.