For some time the FCC’s Chairman, Tom Wheeler, has been calling on wireless and wireline carriers alike to take more aggressive steps to assist consumers in preventing unwelcome or unsolicited calls and spam messages. The FCC’s July 10, 2015 Declaratory Ruling, for example, contained a discussion focused on resolving the question of whether carriers had a legal obligation to transmit all calls without blocking. In the Matter of Rules & Regulations Implementing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, 30 FCC Rcd 7961, ¶¶ 152-63 (July 10, 2015). The Declaratory Ruling affirmed that nothing in the Communications Act or FCC rules or orders prohibits carriers from offering or implementing call blocking technologies for those customers who choose to use them. Id. Continue reading
The FCC recently issued a declaratory ruling addressing petitions that had been filed by Broadnet Teleservices LLC (“Broadnet”), National Employment Network Association (“NENA”), and RTI International (“RTI”), each of which sought guidance or clarification on the extent of the TCPA’s governmental exception when a contractor is placing calls or texts pursuant to its work on behalf of the government. Each of the petitioners provide, or have members that provide, calling services on behalf of federal government entities; Broadnet offers teletown hall calling services for state and local governments as well and RTI performs social science survey work for entities such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). NENA represents providers of employment services to beneficiaries of Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income. These providers are required to contact program-eligible beneficiaries to provide information about potential programs and services.
Last week, the FCC released a notice of proposed rulemaking (“NPRM”) detailing its proposals to implement the provisions of the 2015 Bipartisan Budget Act that allow greater flexibility under the TCPA for calls placed relating to federally-held debt. Rules and Regulations Implementing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, CG Docket No. 02-278, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (May 06, 2016). This Act specifically “excepts from the Telephone Consumer Protection Act’s consent requirement robocalls made solely to collect a debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States.” Id. at ¶ 1. The Act set a nine-month deadline for the FCC to adopt rules implementing this exception, which gives the agency until August to adopt these rules. With this NPRM, the FCC sought to “balance the importance of collecting debt owed to the United States and the consumer protections inherent in the TCPA.” Id. The FCC’s rulemaking proceeding will apply to calls and text messages. As has been the case with a number of TCPA matters over the last few years, the FCC Commissioners were deeply divided on the proposals contained in the NPRM. Continue reading
With the TCPA dockets remaining active going into 2016, we decided to put together a list of notable petitions pending at the FCC. The following list provides details on most petitions that the FCC has yet to rule on, including links to the petition and, where applicable, the public notice, some background on the issues implicated by the petitions, and details on important dates associated with the proceeding. Continue reading
On March 31, 2016, the FCC released a public notice (“Public Notice”) seeking comment on a petition for declaratory ruling filed by Todd C. Bank (“Petition”), an attorney who maintains a home-based law practice. As Bank’s Petition notes, the TCPA includes a number of restrictions that apply to residential lines. For example, among them, the TCPA provides that “[i]t shall be unlawful for any person . . . to initiate any telephone call to any residential telephone line using an artificial or prerecorded voice to deliver a message without the prior express consent of the called party . . .” See 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1)(B). In his Petition, Bank argues that these calling restrictions apply to any line registered as a residential telephone line, including those that are in fact used for business purposes by the subscriber. The resolution of this question could have wide-reaching implications for telemarketers, who might as a result have another screen to apply to potential calls as to whether a number held out as a business line is actually a residential line as classified by the telephone service provider. Continue reading
Following up on our March 9 reminder, and just in time for Super Tuesday II, the Federal Communications Commission’s Enforcement Bureau issued an Enforcement Advisory on March 14 titled, “Biennial Reminder for Political Campaigns about Robocall and Text Abuse.” The advisory (similar to past advisories) is a reminder to “political campaigns and calling services that there are clear limits on the use of autodialed calls or texts (known as ‘robocalls’) and prerecorded voice calls.” The advisory summarizes the TCPA’s regulations on (1) calls to cell phones, (2) calls to landlines, (3) identification requirements for prerecorded voice messages, and (4) “line seizure” restrictions. The advisory also includes an “At a Glance” summary of regulations as applied to Political Calls and a series of Frequently Asked Questions with contact information for the Enforcement Bureau for those who have unanswered questions or lingering concerns. Continue reading
In TCPA Blog’s latest Law360 column, contributors Eduardo Guzmán, Michael Daly and Anthony Glosson discuss the Fourth Circuit’s opinion in Lynn v. Monarch Recovery Management Inc. They explain that the opinion has analytical gaps, leaves unanswered questions, and does not mean that calls to residential VoIP-based telephony services should necessarily be treated differently than calls to other residential:
In short, unpublished opinion in Lynn v. Monarch Recovery Management Inc., the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit stated that the “call-charged provision” of the TCPA applied to debt collection calls made to a residential VoIP-based line. The plaintiffs’ bar responded by suggesting that the TCPA applies differently to so-called “VoIP calls,” and telemarketing vendors responded by marketing services that scrub all numbers assigned to VoIP carriers — a move that, given VoIP’s increasing popularity, could end up eliminating a substantial percentage of residential numbers. However, a more objective analysis of the opinion and the issues suggests that these reactions may be overstated, if not altogether misplaced.
They go on to explain that predictions about the decision’s consequences may be wrong because it: (1) is unpublished and nonprecedential; (2) involved a highly unusual fact pattern; and (3) has serious gaps in its interpretation of the scope and application of the “call-charged provision.
The FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau has issued a public notice seeking comment on a December 11, 2015 petition by Lifetime Entertainment Services, LLC (“Lifetime”). The petition asked the FCC to clarify that the TCPA’s limitations on prerecorded calls do not apply to calls by cable operators and networks that merely inform subscribers about content that they are already entitled to watch. In the alternative, Lifetime sought a grant of retroactive waiver for a call that it had allegedly placed to inform subscribers that a reality television program had moved to Lifetime, and was accordingly available under the subscriber’s current plan. Lifetime argued that, because it was not urging the subscriber to make a new purchase, and indeed, provided no information on how to make any purchase, the call should be viewed as informational, not telemarketing. In support of this conclusion, Lifetime cited Sandusky Wellness Center, LLC v. Medco Health Solutions, which deemed informational several faxes that were “not sent with hopes to make a profit.” 788 F.3d 218, 221 (6th Cir. 2015). The FCC has set the deadlines for comments and reply comments on this petition at March 7, 2016 and March 21, 2016, respectively.
The FCC continues to dispose of pending petitions or requests for waiver of its TCPA rules. One slightly unusual request was the petition filed last February by National Grid USA, Inc. (“National Grid”) requesting a limited waiver of section 64.1200(b)(1) of the Commission’s rules to allow it to satisfy its TCPA caller identification requirements by providing a “doing business as” (“DBA”) name it had registered with state utility commissions when placing prerecorded voice calls rather than its legal name. See In the Matter of Rules and Regulations Implementing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, Petition for Declaratory Ruling and/or Waiver submitted by National Grid USA, Inc., CG Docket No. 02-278, filed Feb. 18, 2014 (“National Grid Petition”).