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.
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.
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
As we previously reported, the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission recently issued a joint announcement regarding two events “aimed at furthering the fight against illegal robocalls and caller ID spoofing.” The first event was a joint policy forum that was held on March 23, 2018. The second event, which will be held on April 23, 2018, is an expo that will “showcase technologies, devices, and applications to minimize or eliminate the illegal robocalls consumers receive.”
The free and public expo will feature brief remarks from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and acting FTC Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen, as well as demonstrations from the following companies:
- Call Control
- Comcast Corporation
- Digitone Communications
- First Orion Corp.
- Neustar Communications
- Reverd LLC
- Scammer Jammer
- South Coast Telecom Inc.
- VTech Communications, Inc.
Additional information on the Stop Illegal Robocalls Expo is available here.
On March 7, 2018, the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission issued a joint announcement regarding two upcoming events “aimed at furthering the fight against illegal robocalls and caller ID spoofing.” The announcement states that the events will “highlight cooperative efforts by the two agencies to combat illegal calls and promote innovative solutions to protect consumers.” The first event is a policy forum the two agencies will be co-hosting on March 23, 2018. The agencies intend to discuss “the regulatory challenges posed by illegal robocalls and what the FCC and FTC are doing to both protect consumers and encourage the development of private-sector solutions” at the forum. Additional information on the forum is available here. The second event is an expo the two agencies will be co-hosting on April 23, 2018. The Stop Illegal Robocalls Expo will showcase “technologies, devices, and applications to minimize or eliminate the illegal robocalls consumers receive.” Additional information on the expo, including how to participate in the expo, is available here.
On February 15, 2018, leaders from the government and private practice came together to discuss the current TCPA and TSR legal and compliance landscape, as well as where the FCC and FTC are likely to direct their efforts going forward. The Federal Communications Bar Association’s Privacy and Data Security Committee assembled two tremendous panels to discuss these hot-button issues. Continue reading
On December 22, 2017, the FTC issued its Biennial Report to Congress on the National Do-Not-Call Registry, which lists the telephone numbers at which individuals have requested that they not be called by telemarketers. The report provides an overview of the Registry’s operations for 2016 and 2017 and guidance for continued compliance with the Registry in 2018 and beyond. The key takeaways from the Report are discussed below. Continue reading
On December 9th, the Federal Trade Commission released its annual National Do Not Call Registry Data Book for Fiscal Year 2016, which spans from October 1, 2015 through September 30, 2016. The Data Book contains statistical information regarding the number of telephone numbers registered on the Do Not Call Registry, the number of entities that access phone numbers on the Do Not Call Registry, and the number of complaints submitted to the FTC about companies allegedly violating the do-not-call rules. Statistics regarding numbers registered and complaints submitted are also categorized by state and area code in the appendix. Some highlights from the Data Book include:
- There were 226,001,288 telephone numbers on the Do Not Call Registry compared to 222,841,484 telephone numbers the year before;
- There were 5,340,234 consumer complaints compared to 3,578,711 consumer complaints the year before; and
- There were 2,353 entities who paid fees to access the Do Not Call Registry, 17,634 entities who accessed five or fewer area codes from the Do Not Call Registry at no charge, and 503 exempt entities that engaged in calls that either did not involve the sale of goods or services or were directed to persons whom they have an established business relationship with or whom they have obtained express written agreement to call.
This is the eighth year that the FTC has released a National Do Not Call Registry Data Book.
On August 11, 2016, the FCC released a Report and Order implementing Section 301 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (the “Budget Act”), which exempts autodialed and prerecorded calls “made solely to collect a debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States” from the TCPA’s prior express consent requirement. The Budget Act provision also authorizes the FCC to adopt rules to “restrict or limit the number and duration” of any wireless calls made to collect debts owed to or guaranteed by the federal government. Continue reading
The FCC is not the only federal agency tasked with regulating telephone calls. The FTC also regulates telephone calls pursuant to the Telemarketing Sales Rule (“TSR”) (16 C.F.R. § 310 et seq.). And while the scope of the TCPA and the TSR differs, the two sets of regulations overlap in a key area—prerecorded calls. See 47 C.F.R. § 227(b)(1); 16 C.F.R. § 310(b)(iv). As we have noted in a previous post, these regulations are not entirely consistent.