Which Law Applies when an Area Code Does Not Match the Call Recipient’s Location?

For many years, we have advised our clients to comply with the most restrictive call monitoring disclosure laws (all-party consent) because area code does not determine location in the era widespread mobile phone use.

Thus, even if a telephone number has a Missouri area code (which is a one-party consent state), a plaintiff could, and has, alleged living in or even being temporarily located in California (an all-party consent state). California has a private cause of action, including $5,000 of statutory damages per call, so the most conservative course is for all calls, both inbound and outbound, to disclose monitoring until a court resolves this question.

The same analysis can apply with regard to other compliance issues, such as established business relationship exemption times, disclosures, etc. Most recently, a judge in Pennsylvania has ruled that area code is important with regard to jurisdiction and whether a caller has intentionally directed its activities at the state. In Chasse v. M.S. Investments Mortgage Company, the Plaintiff sued in Pennsylvania even though the call was placed to his Florida cell phone number.

The Court rejected the claim holding “… where a defendant’s only relevant contact with the forum is placing a telemarking phone call to an individual within the forum state, but the call was placed to a number bearing an area code of a different state, there is no basis for finding that the defendant  purposefully directed activities at the forum.”

This is just one case in one court, so the conservative course is still to comply with “all-party” consent disclosure rules for call monitoring, but perhaps other courts and higher-level courts will adopt this reasoning when a caller has no idea where a mobile phone might be located and complies both with its own state’s laws and the state of the area code(s) it calls.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about this case or TCPA compliance.