Businesses may dial large volumes of numbers daily for a variety of legitimate purposes. These calls now appear to have become swept up and conflated with illegal robocalls, with a number of undesirable consequences. Certainly policy makers at the FCC, in reacting to understandable concerns about fraudulent and illegal calling, have been introducing more and more opportunities for voice service and app providers to apply non-transparent, subjective standards to block calls, and further muddy the water for business callers. Continue reading
The House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing entitled “Legislating to Stop the Onslaught of Annoying Robocalls” on April 30, 2019, that focused on seven bills pending before the Committee. While lawmakers and witnesses generally agreed that illegal and abusive robocalls are a problem, the fix or immediate solution in the form of new legislation was less clear.
Chairman Mike Doyle (D-PA) opened the hearing by summarizing the current state of pervasive robocalls and calling for voice service providers to make available call-blocking services to all customers free of charge. Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) shared this sentiment, emphasizing the need for a bipartisan solution with wide support. As Walden observed, robocalling is a topic that comes up at every single town hall meeting held in recent months. Several bill sponsors made opening statements regarding their respective bills, which we summarize briefly below. Continue reading
A two-year legal battle in the federal courts has come to an end, the Supreme Court announced last week. On April 15, 2019, it declined to review the Soundboard Association’s challenge to the legality of a Federal Trade Commission decision in 2016 that outbound telemarketing calls made through soundboard technology are robocalls.
Soundboard technology allows call center agents to interact and converse with consumers on a real-time basis using a combination of audio clips and the agent’s own voice. It may involve reading a pre-determined script, responding to queries and interjections from consumers by playing a pre-recorded audio clip, using “response keys” to generate common interactive conversational responses (such as “I understand,” “exactly,” “yeah,” or a recorded statement that the agent is a real person using audio clips to communicate with the consumer), or giving the consumer the option to speak with a live operator’s own voice for the duration of the call. It has been widely used by call centers in the last two decades. Continue reading
Yesterday, the FCC’s adopted Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) to amend its Truth in Caller ID Rules was published in the Federal Register, triggering the commenting period deadlines. We previously compared the adopted NPRM with the draft document here and provided an overview of the proposed key provisions here. Comments on this NPRM are due by Wednesday, April 3, 2019, and reply comments are due by Friday, May 3, 2019. Commenters should follow the filing instructions provided in paragraph 40 of the NPRM. Drinker Biddle’s TCPA team will continue to monitor this docket and related developments as they become available.
On February 14, 2019, the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau released its first report on illegal robocalls (“the Robocall Report”) to address the “onslaught of unwanted calls that has led a lot of consumers to stop answering the phone altogether.” This report is compiled based on data points from more than forty comments submitted by voice service providers, trade associations, analytics companies, and consumers. The Robocall Report provided summary analysis on the following issues:
Since Chairman Ajit Pai took office, combatting illegal robocalls and malicious spoofing has become the FCC’s top consumer protection priority. In anticipation of yesterday’s Open Commission Meeting, Chairman Pai issued another press release on Wednesday, calling for “a robust caller authentication system to combat illegal caller ID spoofing” and criticizing carriers that lacked commitment to deploy the SHAKEN/STIR framework by the end of 2019. Between Chairman Pai’s 2018 demands that the FCC make real progress in call authentication and yesterday’s Open Meeting to vote on its draft Proposed Rulemaking to amend existing Truth in Caller ID Rules, Chairman Pai solicited details from several large telecommunications carriers about their caller ID authentication plans. These carriers’ submissions are available here.
The FCC has announced its intention to take another step in combatting fraudulent robocalls by amending its Truth in Caller ID rules to extend to communications originating from outside the United States, as well as expanding the scope of covered communications services to include text messages and additional voice services. Specifically, in anticipation of its scheduled January 30, 2019 Open Meeting, the FCC, just prior to its shutdown on January 3, 2019, released a draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which would implement new FCC rules and definitions designed to deter malicious caller identification spoofing. The proposed rules are intended to update current FCC Truth in Caller ID rules to reflect Congress’ recent enactment of Section 503 of the RAY BAUM’S Act that modified section 227(e) of the Communications Act as well as to “expand and clarify the prohibition on misleading or inaccurate caller identification information.” Continue reading