What Are Your Rights? Dealing With Unwanted Robocalls

Recorded on April 21, 2021

How can you protect yourself from unwanted robocalls? What can companies do to contact you within the limits of the law?

Managing partner Paul Harding of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti is on CBS6 to help discuss this legal issue.

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Announcer: The following segment is sponsored by Martin, Harding & Mazzotti.

Interviewer: A Montana man sued Facebook claiming they violated a federal ban on unwanted robocalls and text messages after he received several messages claiming his Facebook account may have been compromised. The man never had a Facebook account and is still unclear how Facebook obtained his phone number. After years of litigation and appeals, the Supreme Court recently sided with the social media giant.

Noting, that the law only restricts calls made by an automatic telephone dialing system to numbers that are randomly generated. Here to help discuss legal issues and the rights of our viewers, when dealing with unwanted robocalls, is managing partner Paul Harding, from the law firm of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti. Paul, first question, can you just help us understand the Supreme Court’s decision, and why the federal ban on robocalls doesn’t apply to Facebook in this instance?

Atty Harding: I was surprised. They took a literal interpretation of what a anonymous robocall was. Right? Now the guy that got called, he had never been a member of Facebook. His phone number used to be. So the previous owner of his phone number was part of Facebook, and they said, “Listen, it wasn’t random. We had your number. We didn’t just randomly create a number, and that’s enough.” And therefore, you are not gonna be having the ability to bring a claim under this TCPA Act.

Interviewer: So does this decision kind of embolden companies to send unwanted messages or, you know, put out those calls?

Atty Harding: I think it did two things. One, it set the roadmap as to what companies can do. They just import your number. No longer random. Right? We had your number. We intentionally made that call. Therefore, we’re not gonna be subject to TCPA, probably. But number two, I think Supreme Court said, “Lookit, this is a 1991 law. There were no cell phones. We weren’t robocalling. The world was different. Technology’s different. Legislature, you need to rewrite this law, and then, maybe we can enforce it.”

Interviewer: So what do our viewers need to know? How can they protect themselves from robocalls?

Atty Harding: Well, you know, the Do Not Call list. Right? So, the New York viewers, we got something kinda neat here that just passed. If you have someone who actually calls you, and you talk to them. They have to ask you, “Do you want us to put you on the Do Not Call list?” Right? Only state that has that right now, but make sure your number’s on that. It will cut back on the calls, but again, sometimes these calls are coming from other nations. They aren’t subject to these rules. It is a dangerous place out there when you have a cell phone. So maybe keep your cell phone off at night.

Interviewer: Absolutely. Paul, thank you so much for answering our questions. Of course, you can find all of the topics that we’ve discussed on our website, cbs6albany.com.

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