It feels like telemarketers have been around for as long as phones have, and we all dread getting those calls. Telemarketers are not only a hassle, but sometimes untrustworthy as well. So what laws are in place to make sure telemarketers are telling the truth and won't abuse our personal information? Here's a brief summary of telemarketing fraud laws in Maryland.
Statutes Regulating Telemarketing
Normally, telemarketing fraud is a crime prosecuted at the federal level because most of the calls are placed across state lines. In those cases, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) is the agency responsible for investigating and prosecuting telemarketing fraud in the U.S. However, Maryland, like many other states, has its own telemarketing fraud laws in order to further protect state residents. And in Maryland, the Attorney General's Office investigates telemarketing fraud.
Maryland Telemarketing Fraud Statutes
Telemarketing laws in Maryland main are highlighted in the chart below. You can also visit FindLaw's Consumer Protection section for more articles and resources on this topic.
Commercial Law Articles §14–2203, et seq.
Business Regulation Articles §6–101, et seq.
What Is Required or Prohibited?
Telemarketers must register with the Secretary of State as a solicitor.
A contract made pursuant to a telephone solicitation is not valid and enforceable against a consumer unless:
- It is in writing and signed by the consumer;
- It matches the description of goods or services as that principally used in the telephone solicitation;
- It contains the name, address, and telephone number of the seller, the total price of the contract, and a detailed description of the goods or services being sold;
- It contains a disclaimer: "You are not obligated to pay any money unless you sign this contract and return it to the seller."; and
- It does not exclude from its terms any oral or written representations made by the merchant to the consumer in connection with the transaction.
Telemarketers who break Maryland’s telemarketing laws can be penalized both criminally and civilly. Also, failure to comply with the telephone solicitation laws is a “deceptive act” under the Maryland Solicitations Act and telemarketers are subject to those penalties as well.
(a)A willful violation is a misdemeanor and subject to a fine not exceeding $5,000 or imprisonment not exceeding 1 year or both.
(b)A person grossly negligent violation is a misdemeanor and subject to a fine not exceeding $3,000 or liability for restitution that the court determines or both.
Telemarketers who don't comply with registration and other requirements can have their registration revoked, be prohibited from acting as a solicitor for up to 10 years, and be ordered to refund any donations or sales revenue.
Consumers who are harmed by telemarketing fraud can sue in civil court as an unfair or deceptive trade practice under Title 13, Subtitle 3 of Maryland’s Commercial Law Articles. If the violation involves a solicitation offering credit services, consumers can sue under the Maryland Credit Services Businesses Act.
Protecting Yourself from Telemarketing Fraud
The best way to protect yourself from telemarketing fraud is to take preventative steps. You can:
- Register for the National Do Not Call list online or call 1-888-834-9969.
- Contact Maryland Consumer Protection at (410) 528-8662 or 1 (888) 743-0023.
- Don't give out personal information like Social Security, bank account, or credit card numbers to any unsolicited caller.
- Don't rush into buying anything by telephone.
- Be wary if a caller wants you to pay over the phone by check or wire transfer.
- Ask for a written contract, the cancellation policy, and the contact information of the telemarketer and company he or she represents, as required by Maryland law.
Learn More About Maryland Telemarketing Fraud Laws from a Lawyer
Telephone solicitations, and the laws that cover them, can get tricky. If you've been charged under Maryland telemarketing fraud laws, you should contact a local criminal defense attorney. A skilled attorney can review your case, explain the laws, and any possible defenses.