Tennessee Telemarketing Fraud Laws

Telemarketing fraud involves using unsolicited sales calls to con people out of their money. For example, the victim may be persuaded to pay for goods or services that the telemarketer never intends to provide. Generally, telemarketing is a federal crime prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice because it frequently crosses state lines. The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) is the federal agency that investigates and prosecutes telemarketing fraud in the U.S.

However, Tennessee also has telemarketing fraud laws to prosecute this crime within its state. The Tennessee Office of the Attorney General and Reporter investigates and can prosecute telemarketing fraud in the state.

How to Protect Yourself from Telemarketing Fraud

Prevention is the best way to protect yourself from telemarketing fraud. Steps you can take to stop telemarketing fraud include:

  1. Register for the Tennessee Do Not Call list with the Tennessee Regulatory Authority online or call 1-877-872-7030.
  2. File a complaint against Do Not Call list violators online
  3. Don't give any unsolicited caller any personal information (including your Social Security Number, bank account numbers, or the name of your spouse or pets).
  4. If you feel pressured to buy something, just hang up.

Tennessee Telemarketing Fraud Laws: Statutes

The main provisions of the Tennessee telemarketing laws are outlined in the table below.

Code Sections

Tennessee Code Title 47, Chapter 18, Part 15: Consumer Telemarketing Protection

Tennessee Code Title 65, Chapter 4, Part 4: Telephone Solicitation

What is Prohibited?

Telemarketers, at the start of a call, must identify who they are and the company they represent. Telemarketers can't:

  • Call after 9 pm or before 8 am
  • Call people who informed them they don't want to be called
  • Call any home or mobile number unless they maintain a list of people who don't want to receive telephone solicitations by them
  • Block their number or disrupt a potential client's caller ID function so their number won't display

Unfair or Deceptive Acts and Prizes

Unfair or deceptive acts are also prohibited. These acts include falsely passing off goods or services as another or of a different quality than they are, causing confusion or misrepresenting the source of goods or approval of them, and claiming goods are new if they're not.

As for prizes, a company can't require payment as a condition to obtain information about or to receive a promotional prize, unless the person has received a notice with the following written prize information:

  • Name & address of company
  • Retail value of prize
  • Odds of winning
  • Any conditions or charges to get the prize
  • Any restrictions that apply to the prize or prize eligibility

Do Not Call List

Telemarketers must register with the Tennessee Regulatory Authority (regulates utilities) each year, paying $500 for the Do Not Call list regulatory and enforcement expenses.

Automatic Dialing Machines

To use any automatic dialing equipment and recorded message system (ADAD) to call numbers in Tennessee, a company must register with the TRA, who can revoke permits if needed. The automatic dialer operator must maintain a bond of $10,000 to continue operating in the state.

A person or company can't use ADAD equipment or the U.S. mail to solicit calls to their number. Phone companies can't provide telephone lines to telemarketers for automatic dialers or US mail.

Automated calls or recorded messages are permitted if initiated by the person called, concern a good or service already purchased, relate to debt collection, or are made by a K-12 public school to prevent absenteeism of students.

Credit Card Companies

When a credit card company offers by telephone solicitation a service and the cardholder doesn't authorize it, if the cardholder notifies the credit card company within three months from the date a charge isn't authorized, the company must refund the amount of a minimum of three months for charged services. If the credit card company can prove charges were authorized, no refund will be issued.

Penalty

Individuals and companies who violate the Tennessee telemarketing laws are subject to many different criminal and civil penalties, including those listed below.

Criminal Penalties

  • Blocking caller ID for telephone soliciting is a Class A misdemeanor punishable only by a fine not to exceed $2,500 for each violation
  • Not getting a permit or otherwise violating the automatic dialer or ADAD laws is a Class A misdemeanor with a potential penalty of 11 months and 29 days in jail and a fine up to a $2,500 fine.
  • Unfair or deceptive acts or practices are Class B misdemeanors, punishable by not more than 6 months in jail and a $500 fine.

Civil Penalties

Civil penalties for not maintaining a company Do Not Call list or blocking telemarketer number is $1,000 per violation. The TRA can order civil penalties up to $2,000 for Do Not Call violations; the money goes to the state public utilities account.

The attorney general of the county where the automated calls are made from or a group receiving the automated calls can seek a legal injunction to stop the calls.

Defenses

Telemarketers can defend themselves against telephone solicitation violations by showing they established and implemented reasonable practices and procedures to prevent violations.

Note: State laws change frequently -- it's important to verify the state law(s) you're researching .

If you have questions about telemarketing fraud, you should contact an experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorney for help.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.