Legislation Looking Likely on a Number of TCPA “Hot-Button” Issues

Senate Bill 151, now called “the Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act” (the “TRACED Act”), has been reconciled with the House of Representatives’ bipartisan bill House Bill 3375 and was passed in the House on December 4, 2019. This revised amendment has been returned to the Senate for a final vote and is expected to become final legislation “if not this week, then next week,” according to the bill’s sponsor, Representative John Thune. Thus, the prospects for passage of TCPA legislation currently look quite positive.

As drafted, the legislation will kick off a number of activities by the FCC, and may, as a practical matter, require the agency to take prompt actions on long-awaited rulings on critical statutory definitions. We highlight below some of the most notable revisions in the TRACED Act made since July 2019.

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TCPA Legislation on the Horizon?

While the FCC has a record open to adopt guidance and a new definition for what it considers as an “automatic telephone dialing system” (ATDS) and related TCPA matters, there appears to be growing consensus on “Robocall” legislation in the two houses of Congress that may be moving TCPA legislation closer to reality. On the heels of the Senate passing Senate Bill 151 (entitled “Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act”)Senate Bill 151 (entitled “Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act”), the House of Representatives yesterday introduced a new bipartisan bill – House Bill 3375 – that would bolster the prospects that Congress may be able to pass legislation this year.

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Seven Robocall-Related Bills Examined at the House Energy and Commerce Committee Hearing

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   »

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act: Calling for a Re-Do

TCPA Blog contributors Laura Phillips, Justin Kay, and Marsha Indych will discuss the Telephone Consumer Protection Act at the Coalition of Higher Education Assistance Organizations (COHEAO) Annual Conference on January 28, 2019, in Washington, D.C.

With the D.C. Circuit’s decisions in ACA International and Bais Yaakov and the FCC’s December 2018 order kicking off the creation a national reassigned phone numbers database, businesses are understandably happy with the recent direction in TCPA litigation and regulations and optimistic that the FCC will soon issue an order addressing other issues presented in the ACA International decision, once the partial government shutdown ends. Nevertheless, litigation continues, and as discussed at our November conference (The TCPA in 2018: There and Back Again), significant challenges remain: the 9th Circuit’s decision in Marks, the potential for the Supreme Court to upend the regulatory landscape via PDR Network, and the political difficulties of amending the TCPA.  Laura, Justin, and Marsha will discuss these topics and more.

For more information about the conference, please visit the COHEAO website.

Senators Urge FCC to Act in the Face of ACA Int’l

On April 18, 2018, a group of fifteen Democratic senators addressed a letter to FCC Chairman Pai related to the D.C. Circuit’s recent decision in ACA Int’l v. Fed. Commc’ns Comm’n, 885 F.3d 687 (D.C. Cir. 2018). The letter notes that the ACA decision “struck down portions of a 2015 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Omnibus Declaratory Ruling and Order limiting the definition of automatic telephone dialing systems (auto dialers), which are technologies that can be used to rapidly call and text large groups of consumers,” and expresses concern that “[w]hile the Court maintained the right to revoke consent, the Court’s ruling could be interpreted to suggest that callers could limit consumers’ method to revoke consent to receive robocalls and robotexts through provisions buried in contracts or service agreements,” which would “upend the meaning and the goals of the TCPA.” The senators ask Chairman Pai and the FCC to take the following actions: Continue reading   »

House Judiciary Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Abusive TCPA Litigation

On Tuesday, June 13, 2017, the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice held a hearing on “Lawsuit Abuse and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.”

Based on the testimony, statements, and questions at the hearing, it seems that the Subcommittee is in the very early stages of considering possible reforms to the TCPA. Although there is no draft legislation yet, nor even an agreement in principle of what changes to pursue, several members of the Subcommittee—including Subcommittee chairman Steve King and Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte—seem committed to find a way to rein in the statute’s disproportionately high social costs while maintaining its core purpose of protecting consumer privacy. Indeed, both Representatives expressed significant concern regarding the concrete harms that the current wave of TCPA litigation is having—injuring businesses trying in good faith to comply with the law; depriving consumers of desired (and, in some cases, sorely needed) communications; and enriching a small cohort in the legal profession who are pursuing their personal profit rather than the welfare of the American consumer. Continue reading   »

House Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Modernizing the TCPA

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, convened a hearing yesterday titled “Modernizing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.” Chairman Walden opened the hearing with the following observations:

We all share the goal of preventing harmful phone calls, but it is increasingly clear that the law is outdated and in many cases, counterproductive. The attempts to strengthen the TCPA rules have actually resulted in a decline in legitimate, informational calls that consumers want and need.

The four witnesses at the one and a half hour hearing were Michelle Turano from WellCare Health Plans, Inc., Shaun W. Mock from Snapping Shoals Electric Membership Corporation, Spencer W. Waller from Loyola University Chicago, and Richard D. Shockey from Shockey Consulting. Continue reading   »

House Subcommittee to Hold Hearing on Modernizing the TCPA

Today at 11:00 a.m., the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will be holding a hearing entitled “Modernizing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.”  The purpose of the hearing is for the Subcommittee to “consider the challenges faced by consumers and companies in a world where technology and consumer behavior may have outpaced the language of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991.” Continue reading   »

Time For A Timeout In TCPA Litigation

In TCPA Blog’s latest Law360 column, Mike Daly, Meredith Slawe, and Dan Brewer discuss why courts should temporarily stay TCPA cases pending the regulatory appeal of the FCC’s July 10, 2015 Order, which is set for oral argument before the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on October 19, 2016. The article addresses the flaw in plaintiffs’ argument that they are prejudiced while awaiting a decision: Continue reading   »

Senate Commerce Committee Holds Hearing On TCPA’s Effects On Consumers And Businesses

U.S. Senator John Thune (R-S.D.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, convened a full committee hearing yesterday titled “The Telephone Consumer Protection Act at 25: Effects on Consumers and Business.”  Witnesses at the two-hour hearing included the Attorney General of Indiana and representatives of the U.S. Chamber Institute of Legal Reform, the National Consumer Law Center, and the American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management.  Chairman Thune opened the hearing with the following observations: Continue reading   »