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
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.