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By: Matthew N. Foree
Michael O’Rielly, the Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) addressed the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) last week. During his remarks, he discussed litigation under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which he described as “an important issue that is impacting all sectors of the community.”
O’Rielly’s remarks reiterate the statements he published last year on the FCC’s blog regarding the need to provide clarity about the TCPA in the wake of a 30% increase in TCPA lawsuits. During his address to the ANA, O’Rielly admitted that “FCC decisions and court rulings have broadened the scope of the TCPA, creating uncertainty and litigation risk for legitimate businesses.” He noted that this has resulted in businesses avoiding making calls to existing customers or clients, “even if the purpose of the call could directly and immediately help the consumer.”
He noted that certain consumer groups have expressed fear that “the FCC will ‘gut the TCPA’ and lead us down a slippery slope of more robocalls.” O’Rielly played down those fears, stating that “[n]othing could be further from the truth, and I am concerned that catering to this unfounded fear will end up hurting the people they are trying to help.”
O’Reilly’s remarks recognized the need for the TCPA to be more adaptive to technology. As he recognized during his address, “FCC involvement occurs at the speed of regulation, not innovation.” Reassuringly, O’Rielly cast aside as unrealistic consumer groups’ arguments that companies can simply manually dial each and every telephone number rather than use electronic means.
In conclusion, he stated, “We can’t paint all legitimate companies with the brush that every call from a private company is a form of harassment. It is time for the FCC to act to provide clear rules of the road that will benefit everyone, and that means acting on TCPA petitions before us.”
O’Rielly’s remarks give hope that one day the TCPA will enter the 21st century and curtail the rising trend of overly punitive lawsuits.