Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission Chairman, Tom Wheeler, released a fact sheet on a proposal related to clarifications of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

The proposal theoretically addresses two dozen petitions that sought clarity on how the Commission enforces the TCPA. These petitions include requests from collection industry association ACA International as well as the American Bankers Association and the Consumer Bankers Association.

The Chairman believes he is proposing a set of actions that, if adopted, will close loopholes and strengthen consumer protections already on the books.

The fact sheet references proposed rulings that Mr. Wheeler has circulated to the other commissioner, but the complete proposals were not available for review.

The TCPA explicitly empowers the FCC to enforce and interpret its consumer protection provisions. There are two main ways the commission may do this:

  • Through a formal rulemaking process where notice and public comment period would be required, or
  • Through declaratory rulings.

In this instance Chairman Wheeler has chosen to act through declaratory rulings. He has circulated his proposed declaratory rulings to the other commissioners, thus bypassing the notice and public comment period required under the formal rulemaking process. The proposals will be voted on as a single omnibus item. The vote is scheduled to take place at the next FCC Open Meeting on June 18, 2015. If approved, these rulings would be considered final upon their release.

The two page a fact sheet is heavy on rhetoric and light on specific details. Based on our review of document, it does not appear that the proposed rulings are favorable to the ARM industry, nor do they respond favorably to issues raised by ACA or the CBA in their petitions to the FCC. A review of the complete proposals may provide better guidance.

Highlights from the proposed rules are:

  1. Consumers would have the right to revoke their consent to receive robocalls and robotexts in any reasonable way at any time.
  2. If a phone number has been reassigned, callers must stop calling the number after one call.
  3. Defines an “autodialer” as any technology with the capacity to dial random or sequential numbers. The rulings would ensure robocallers cannot skirt consumer consent requirements through changes in calling technology design or by calling from a list of numbers.
  4. Allow for very limited and specific exceptions for urgent circumstances (such as calls from a pharmacy regarding a prescription or calls from a bank or credit card issuer regarding possible fraud activity).

insideARM will continue to monitor this story and provide updates when available.


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