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By: Matthew N. Foree
Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced in a press release that it issued a package of declaratory rulings regarding the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The FCC declared that it “adopted a proposal to protect consumers against unwanted robocalls and spam texts.”
The FCC stated that its rulings were informed by thousands of consumer complaints about robocalls that it receives each month, and asserted that it received more than 215,000 such complaints in 2014. The declaratory rulings address 21 pending petitions and other requests seeking clarity on how it interprets the TCPA. The FCC stated that its rulings close loop holes and strengthen consumer protections that are already on the books. It also reiterated that the TCPA requires prior express consent for non-emergency audio dialed, pre-recorded or artificial voice calls to wireless phone numbers as well as for prerecorded telemarketing calls to residential wireline numbers.
In the press release, the FCC highlights certain of its rulings. Among these is the proposition that reassigned numbers do not create loopholes. An exception for wrong number or ported calls was the subject of petitions pending before the FCC. In the press release, the FCC stated that if a phone number has been reassigned, companies must stop calling the number after one call. It remains to be seen exactly how the rule is written, especially as to how a caller can determine whether the phone number has been reassigned after one call.
Additionally, the press release highlights that the FCC affirmed the TCPA’s definition of autodialer. The FCC stated that autodialer is defined in the TCPA as “any technology with the capacity to dial random or sub sequential numbers.” The FCC asserted that this definition insures that robocallers cannot skirt consumer consent requirements through changes and calling technology design or by calling from a list of numbers.
The press release also highlights the availability of “Do Not Disturb Technology.” Specifically, the FCC reported that service providers can offer robocall-blocking technologies to consumers and implement market-based solutions that consumers can use to stop unwanted robocalls.
The FCC has not yet released the declaratory rulings themselves. At this juncture, video of the open meeting regarding the rulings is available here. Once the rulings are released, we will provide additional information and analysis. In the meantime, the press release from the FCC tends to show that it is not providing the clarity that businesses requested and questions remain whether such rules will actually curb the number of TCPA lawsuits.