Could telemarketers be facing jail time for violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act?
The answer might be "yes" if a bill introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) gains approval in Congress. The Quell Unnecessary, Intentional and Encroaching Telephone Calls Act of 2015 (the QUIET Act) would impose criminal penalties for violations of the statute.
Specifically, defendants could face up to 10 years in prison or $20,000 in fines per call pursuant to the bill.
Currently being considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee, S. 1681 would apply to any commercial robocall made with an automatic telephone dialing system or prerecorded voice "for the purpose of soliciting or encouraging the purchase or rental of, or investment or enrollment in, property, goods or services."
Prior written consent from recipients would be required to make such calls. The measure does maintain some of the current exceptions found in the TCPA, such as emergency calls and calls made by nonprofits with tax-exempt status.
Sen. Schumer has proposed similar legislation in the past based on the belief that the existing penalties for statutory violations are not sufficient enough to deter bad actors.
"When it comes to the robocall industry, which is blatantly ignoring federal laws, we need to fight fire with fire—that means higher penalties, jail time and better technology to fight the spammers who have ruined countless family dinners, sporting events and other family gatherings," Sen. Schumer said in a statement when he first introduced the QUIET Act in 2014. "Existing laws, including the federal Do Not Call list, are great tools to protect consumers, but only if they have real teeth that will stop illegal robocalls in their tracks. The QUIET Act would stiffen both financial and legal penalties when federal law is violated and should provide a much greater disincentive to skirt do-not-call laws."
To read S. 1681, the QUIET Act, click here.
Why it Matters: The possible penalties created by the QUIET Act are certainly alarming, but the bill failed when first introduced in 2014 and the current proposal will again likely face strong industry opposition.