Do B2C Telephone Communications Now Need to Win the Popularity Contest to Not Be Preemptively Blocked?

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   »

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   »

FTC’s Decision Treating Soundboard Calls as Robocalls Remains Undisturbed. What Comes Next?

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   »

Comment Cycle Begins for the FCC’s Proposed Amendment to Truth in Caller ID Rules

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.

FCC First Report on Illegal Robocalls

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:

Continue reading   »

As the 115th Congress Winds Down, a New Senate Bill Proposes Stiffer Penalties for Illegal Robocalling

Reflecting the nearly universal sense by constituents that call spoofing and other illegal forms of robocalls are annoying and unwelcome, on November 15, a bipartisan team of United States senators, Senators Markey, Thune and Wicker, introduced a bill titled the “Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act” also known as the TRACED Act. The bill is designed to provide the FCC and other federal agencies acting in concert with the FCC with additional tools to combat spoofing and other illegal robocalling operations by amending Section 227 of the Communications Act to provide for enhanced civil penalties for violation of TCPA rules. Specifically, the bill would provide the FCC going forward with forfeiture authority to assess civil penalties of up to $10,000 per illegal robocall violation and extend the current FCC statute of limitations to investigate TCPA violations from the current one year to three years. The bill also creates new criminal fines of up to $10,000 per violation that can be trebled if the activity was intentional. The FCC would have 270 days following enactment to develop implementing regulations. The bill does not introduce any changes to the current private right of action provisions of Section 227 of the Act. Continue reading   »

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   »

FCC and FTC to Co-Host Technology Expo Aimed at Combatting Illegal Robocalls

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:

  • AT&T
  • Call Control
  • Comcast Corporation
  • Digitone Communications
  • First Orion Corp.
  • Hiya
  • Neustar Communications
  • Nomorobo
  • Reverd LLC
  • Scammer Jammer
  • South Coast Telecom Inc.
  • T-Mobile
  • TNS
  • Verizon
  • VTech Communications, Inc.
  • YouMail

Additional information on the Stop Illegal Robocalls Expo is available here.

FCC and FTC Announce Two Upcoming Joint Events Aimed at Combatting Illegal Robocalls

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.

FTC Issues Biennial Report on the National Do-Not-Call Registry

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   »