How Automatic Telephone Dialing Systems (ATDS) Break the Law

picture of someone's hands holding a cell phone image for ATDS blog post

When you scramble to pick up your ringing phone only to hear a robotic voice, you might simply hang up and roll your eyes. But as unrelenting and annoying as they are, those calls are most likely illegal. The rates of pre-recorded calls send through Automatic Telephone Dialing Systems (ATDS) took a small dip at the beginning of the pandemic. Now, they are back with a vengeance. North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein took aim against a little-known Texas company for their role in robocalls this year. 

Articul8 is a gateway service for telemarketers and scammers (especially for callers outside the United States) to easily connect with large swathes of telephone consumers. The phone service provider is facing a lawsuit for alleged violations of consumer protection laws. 

The suit claims the company routed more than 65 million calls to North Carolina residents over the course of only a few months. Consumers reported recordings posing to have originated from Amazon, AT&T, and various government agencies. Many calls were made to numbers explicitly on the Do Not Call Registry, and “spoofed” to look like the calls were coming from government agencies. 

While many people ignore these calls, it’s easy to fall victim to a call that seems legitimate enough. Scammers and telemarketers count on automated systems and pre-recorded messages to reach as many people as they can. As consumers, it’s important to know your rights so you can better defend yourself from violations.

What Laws Protect Me from Robocalls? 

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) is a consumer’s first line of defense against telemarketers and scammers. The federal law that restricts calling and texting behaviors, particularly concerning Automatic Telephone Dialing Systems (ATDS).  

What’s the Difference between an ATDS and a Robocaller? 

ATDS are more commonly known as autodialers. They are the software used to blast consumers with calls. Robocalls are pre-recorded messages that play when a consumer answers the phone. If you decline the call, it’s likely the dialer will leave that message as a voicemail. Scammers and marketers will use these tools frequently as a cheap and efficient way to reach millions worldwide. Both are heavily restricted if not illegal. 

Some robocalls are legal under the law. For example: 

  • Informational messages – For example, appointment reminders or delayed flights. 
  • Debt collection calls – A company can call you about a debt you owe, but a company that is trying to sell services to lower that debt are illegal.  
  • Political calls – Candidates running for office may contact you without your explicit permission. 
  • Messages from healthcare providers – For example, a pharmacy calling about prescription refills. 
  • Charities requesting donations 

What is illegal, however, are those callers who are attempting to sell you something without your permission. If you are receiving an influx of robocalls, it is also likely that they are scams. 

What Are the Penalties for TCPA Violations? 

The cost of violating the TCPA is high. Solicitors can face a $500 penalty for the first violation, $1,000 for the second, and $5,000 for the third.  

What Should I Do If I’m Getting Illegal Robocalls? 

Have you been inundated with calls? The first rule is to never answer. If you have answered it, simply hang up. You can then report the violation to the FTC through their Do Not Call portal.

If the calls persist, you should collect all documentation you can including voicemails and texts and reach out to a consumer protection attorney. 

Representation for TCPA Violations 

Maginnis Howard has written extensively on the TCPA and continues to accept cases on the subject. To speak with an attorney, please call our office at (919) 526-0450 or submit an email request through our contact page.