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Home > Privacy and Business > Privacy Law Governing the Private Sector > Select Statutes > The Telephone Consumer Protection Act

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (47 U.S.C. 227) was enacted in response to complaints about intrusive and annoying telemarketing practices. It is only very narrowly a privacy measure, having much more to do with comfort and convenience than privacy.

The Act amends Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 to outlaw the use of automatic telephone dialing system or artificial or prerecorded voice systems and fax machines to call certain telephone numbers. The law also caused the Federal Communications Commission to issue regulations requiring telemarketers to maintain a list of consumers who request not to be called.

While surely a popular law because of our universal dislike of telephone marketing, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act has encouraged the use of live operators for marketing calls, making it much more embarassing and uncomfortable for consumers to end commercial telephone calls.

As happens so often with well-intended legislation, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act has undoubtedly slowed the development and adoption of technologies like caller-ID that would allow commercial calls to be screened by people who do not want such calls and accepted by those who do. Telephone marketing exists, after all, because enough consumers buy based on telephone marketing calls to make the practice worthwhile for sellers.


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[updated 8/29/00]

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