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Base question: Suppose a telemarketer in State T calls a consumer who is a resident of, has a phone number associated with, and is physically present in, State C. In addition to federal law applying, which state's telemarketing laws apply?

Twist 1: What if the caller's location (State T) is unknown?

Twist 2: What if the consumer's physical/resident location is unknown? That is, for this twist, suppose the consumer is not actually in State C when called, but still has a phone number from there. (Assume State C remains identifiable by the consumer's phone number).

Twist 3: What if the product being sold is partially or completely geographically tied to State P, such that the consumer would have to travel to P to use any purchase?

Bonus points for case or law citations.

  • Are these automated calls generated by a bolierroom, or are these one at a time calls by an individual using the white pages to find names and numbers? And are these calls to landlines or calls to mobile phones? Or mixed? – BlueDogRanch Mar 1 '16 at 18:36
  • Suppose mix of landlines and mobile (if it matters, mobile's more likely). If computer assisted vs manual dialing or the source of the number list (not random-digit dialing) matters in determining which laws apply, note that in the answer? – WBT Mar 1 '16 at 19:23
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State T and state C have jurisdiction.

Twist 1: doesn't matter - just because people don't know where you are doesn't mean local law stops applying

Twist 2: it still remains a state C telecommunications channel so they still have jurisdiction, in addition, the state where the person is does too.

Twist 3: then state P also has jurisdiction

In all cases, "has jurisdiction" means "the relevant court in that state will decide if they have jurisdiction".

Jurisdiction is not an "I've got it so nobody else has" thing; it's an "I've got it, would you like it too" thing.

  • In Twist 2, how would the telemarketer know which state's laws s/he has to comply with? Must every interstate telemarketing call comply with all the telemarketing rules in all 50 states? – WBT Mar 2 '16 at 0:54
  • Yes and also any federal laws – Dale M Mar 2 '16 at 1:11
  • That seems like it'd make things very hard on telemarketers then. Also, federal law was edited in to the question (I thought it went without saying, but it's fair to make that quite explicit). – WBT Mar 2 '16 at 1:17
  • @WBT given that telemarketers make it hard on us, that's only fair. – Dale M Jul 30 '16 at 6:38
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Both, and so does federal law.

Twist 1: The fact that the caller's location is unknown means only that the recipient is unaware which state's laws govern the caller's location. If someone in New Hamphire breaks New Hampshire law in calling someone in Vermont, the fact that the Vermonter is unaware that the caller is in New Hampshire does not make the call legal.

Twist 2: In that case, the laws of state C are probably no longer applicable, but I'm not sure, and it's a separate question that should be asked as such.

Twist 3: In that case, the laws of state P may also come into play. Then again, they may not.

Sorry, I have no citations to support the first paragraph, but common sense states that the caller is subject to the jurisdiction of the state where he or she is calling from by virtue of the fact that he or she is located in that state. Similarly, the recipient is protected by the laws of his or her state by virtue of his or her location in that state.

  • For Twist 1, as you described, it seems like this could make the call legal in practice, because there's no way for the person being called to identify the fact that NH laws apply to be able to tell that they were broken and request enforcement. – WBT Mar 2 '16 at 0:56
  • @WBT assuming the call violates no Vermont or federal laws, perhaps, but "legal in practice" In that case would still be a variation on the theme of "illegal." – phoog Mar 2 '16 at 3:55
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@phoog and @DaleM have covered the situation with state laws and intra-state calls.

But for mobile phones (not landlines) in particular, Federal laws comes into play:

Placing telemarketing calls to wireless phones is - and always has been - illegal in most cases. (From https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/wireless-phones-and-national-do-not-call-list )

And Federal law trumps state law: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_preemption

So your company can be fined by the FCC for telemarketing in any respect to mobile phones.

And with many sites such as http://whocallsme.com available on the web, it's easy for people to corroborate you're a telemarketer and inform the FCC, too.

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