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  • Oklahoma establishes telephone solicitation restrictions

    State Issues

    On May 20, the Oklahoma governor signed HB 3168, which establishes the Telephone Solicitation Act of 2022. The bill, among other things, prohibits (i) certain sales calls without the prior express written consent of the called party; (ii) commercial telephone sellers or salespersons from using certain technology to conceal their true identity; and (iii) commercial telephone sellers or salespersons from using automated dialing or recorded messages to make certain commercial telephone solicitation phone calls. The bill also establishes a time frame during which a commercial telephone seller or salesperson may make commercial solicitation phone calls. The bill is effective November 1.

    State Issues State Legislation Oklahoma Robocalls Consumer Protection

  • FTC proposes TSR amendments to extend robocall protections

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On April 28, the FTC proposed rulemakings to extend protections for small businesses against telemarketing business-to-business schemes and strengthen safeguards to protect consumers from other telemarking scams. Both the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPR) and advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) stem from the FTC’s regulatory review of the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) and address public comments received as part of the review.

    The NPR proposes to amend TSR recordkeeping requirements to require telemarketers to retain seven new categories of information related to their telemarketing activities, including records concerning each unique prerecorded message, records sufficient to show the established business relationship between a seller and a consumer, records of the service providers used by a telemarketer to deliver outbound calls, and records of the FTC’s Do Not Call Registry that were used to ensure compliance with this rule. Additionally, the NPR seeks comments on whether the FTC should amend the TSR to prohibit material misrepresentations and false or misleading statements in business-to-business telemarketing transactions to prevent harm caused by deceptive telemarketing, and proposes adding a definition of “previous donor” related to charitable donation solicitations.

    The ANPRM seeks comments on a range of issues related to whether calls related to tech-support scams should be covered by the TSR, whether telemarketers should be required to provide consumers with a simple click-to-cancel process when they sign up for subscription plans, and whether the TSR should stop treating telemarketing calls made to businesses differently from those made to consumers. According to the FTC, robocalls made to businesses are generally exempt from certain TSR provisions.

    Comments on both proposed rulemakings are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Federal Issues FTC Small Business Telemarketing Telemarketing Sales Rule Robocalls

  • FCC signs robocall enforcement partnerships with states

    Federal Issues

    On March 28, the FCC announced it launched formal robocall investigation partnerships with the Connecticut, District of Columbia, Idaho, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Wyoming state attorneys general, bringing the total number of state-federal partnerships to 22. According to the FCC, the seven AGs entered into a Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with state robocall investigators and the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, which establishes critical information sharing and cooperation structures to investigate spoofing and robocall scam campaigns. The FCC also noted that it expanded existing MOUs in Michigan and West Virginia with robocall investigations. According to the press release, the MOUs help facilitate relationships with other actors, including other federal agencies and robocall blocking companies, and provide support for and expertise with critical investigative tools, including subpoenas and confidential response letters from suspected robocallers. The FCC also noted that “[d]uring investigations, both the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau and state investigators seek records, talk to witnesses, interview targets, examine consumer complaints, and take other critical steps to build a record against possible bad actors,” which “can provide critical resources for building cases and preventing duplicative efforts in protecting consumers and businesses nationwide.”

    Federal Issues FCC Robocalls State Attorney General State Issues Enforcement

  • FCC proposes record $45 million fine against robocaller

    Federal Issues

    On February 18, the FCC released a proposed $45 million fine against a lead generator accused of conducting an illegal robocall campaign that made false claims about the Covid-19 pandemic to induce consumers into purchasing health insurance. This is the FCC’s largest ever proposed robocall fine to date. According to the FCC, the lead generator violated the TCPA by placing 514,467 robocalls to cellphones and landlines without subscribers’ prior express consent or an emergency purpose. The Florida-based lead generator allegedly purchased lists of phone numbers from third-party vendors and acquired phone numbers from consumers seeking health insurance quotes online, “without clearly disclosing that, by providing contact information, the consumers would be subject to robocalls.” It then left prerecorded voice messages marketing insurance plans sold by companies that had hired the lead generator. Many of these robocalls, the FTC claimed, were also unlawfully made to consumers on the Do Not Call Registry. FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel issued a statement announcing that, in addition to the record fine, the Commission also established a new partnership with 16 state attorneys general in order to share information and resources to mitigate robocalls.

    Federal Issues FCC Enforcement Robocalls TCPA Lead Generation State Attorney General State Issues

  • Courts order VoIP providers to give information to FTC

    Federal Issues

    On February 14, the FTC announced that two federal courts in California ordered two Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) service providers to produce information that the agency is seeking as part of a continuing investigation into possible illegal robocalls. According to the first order, the VoIP service provider is required to comply with a CID as part of an FTC investigation. According to the FTC, “[a]lthough the CID directed [the respondent] to produce selected information and documents by the end of February 2021, the company produced only a small fraction of the required information, even after receiving an extension of the response deadline from Commission staff.” The FTC filed a petition in federal court seeking to compel compliance with the CID when further efforts to cooperate with the respondent were “unsuccessful.” The assigned magistrate judge issued a report and recommendation in December 2021, finding “that the FTC is entitled to enforcement of the remainder of the CID,” and recommending that the district judge enter an order requiring the respondent to comply. The court accepted that recommendation, and issued an order compelling the respondent’s compliance with the CID. The second VoIP service provider was likewise ordered to turn over information required under an FTC CID, issued to in January 2021. After failing to respond to the CID, the FTC filed suit to enforce compliance and claimed that “neither the company nor its principals had responded to the CID, which ‘materially impeded the FTC’s investigation.’” According to the FTC, the court granted the FTC’s petition, and in response, the respondent turned over the required information.

    Federal Issues FTC Enforcement CIDs Robocalls

  • FCC proposes to classify ringless voicemails as “calls” under the TCPA

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On February 2, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced a proposal that would classify technology that leaves ringless voicemails on consumers’ cell phones as “calls” under the TCPA and therefore subject to the FCC’s robocalling restrictions. If adopted by the full Commission, callers using this form of technology would be required to obtain a consumer’s consent before delivering a ringless voicemail. The announcement explained that the TCPA “prohibits making any non-emergency call using an automatic telephone dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice to a wireless telephone number without the prior express consent of the called party.” According to Chairwoman Rosenworcel, ringless voicemails should face the same consumer protection rules as other robocalls. The proposal is in response to a petition that asked the FCC to find that ringless voicemails are not calls protected by the TCPA.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance FCC Robocalls TCPA

  • District Court grants class certification in robocall TCPA suit

    Courts

    On January 27, the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona granted a plaintiff’s renewed motion for class certification in an action against a national bank defendant for allegedly contacting noncustomers with unauthorized robocalls, in violation of the TCPA. According to the plaintiff’s motion for class certification, the defendant allegedly placed calls with an artificial or prerecorded voice to the plaintiff class, who were not the defendant’s customers. The plaintiffs alleged that they did not consent to the calls, which regarded overdue credit card accounts, and sought to certify a nationwide class of those who received these calls since August 2014 despite not being a customer. Among other things, the defendant argued that the common questions of fact did not predominate because individualized determinations needed to be made to determine whether the defendant had consent to call a putative class member, and whether a prerecorded message actually played. The court determined, however, that the plaintiffs’ allegations were not only “typical of the class, they are largely identical.” Additionally, though the court noted that “some persons who otherwise would be class members may have consented to receive [the defendant’s] robocalls,” the court was ultimately “persuaded based on [the plaintiffs’] argument and past caselaw” that “individualized issues of consent can be overcome without resort to a series of minitrials.” The court further noted that “the basic questions in this case are the same for all class members: Did [the defendant] call a putative class member without authorization? And, did a prerecorded or artificial voice play during the call? If the answer to both questions is yes—and all evidence indicates that it will be yes for many putative class members—recovery is appropriate. Precedent ... demonstrates these questions can be litigated as a class.”

    Courts TCPA Class Action Robocalls

  • FTC says robocall violations top consumers’ do-not-call complaints

    Federal Issues

    On January 5, the FTC issued its National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry biennial report to Congress. According to the report, more than 244 million consumers have now placed their telephone numbers on the DNC Registry over the past two years. The report also highlighted that in FY 2021, the Commission received more than five million DNC complaints, the majority of which reported robocalls violations as opposed to live telemarketing. The FTC reported that the increased number of illegal telemarketing calls correlates with advancements in technology that make it easier for telemarketers to “spoof” the caller ID information accompanying a call. “[M]any telemarketers use automated dialing technology to make calls that deliver prerecorded messages (commonly referred to as ‘robocalls’), which allow violators to make very high volumes of illegal calls without significant expense,” the FTC said. Imposters posing as government representatives or legitimate business entities topped the complaint list, followed by calls related to warranties and protection plans, debt-reduction offers, and medical and prescription issues. Last month, in response to the consistently high level of impersonator scam complaints, the FTC issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking seeking comments on a wide-range of questions related to government and business impersonation fraud (covered by InfoBytes here). The FTC noted that these scammers are looking for information that can be used to commit identity theft or seek monetary payment and often request that funds be paid through wire transfer, gift cards, or cryptocurrency. Additionally, the FTC stated that since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, it has received more than 18,000 Covid-related DNC complaints.

    Federal Issues FTC Robocalls Spoofing Covid-19 Consumer Protection Do Not Call Registry

  • Ohio enacts robocall legislation

    State Issues

    On December 1, Ohio’s governor signed into law SB 54, which, under most circumstances, prohibits companies from knowingly transmitting Caller ID information that is either misleading or inaccurate through a telecommunication service or voiceover Internet protocol service. Among other things, the bill creates additional penalties for inaccurate caller ID, provides the Ohio attorney general the authority to file civil actions in state or federal court, provides state criminal penalties in certain instances, and requires entities that use a telephone number that is identified as “unknown” or “blocked” to leave voicemail messages and include the person's identity. The law is effective March 2, 2022.

    State Issues State Legislation Ohio Robocalls State Attorney General

  • FTC releases 2021 National Do Not Call Registry Data Book

    Federal Issues

    On November 23, the FTC released the National Do Not Call Registry Data Book for Fiscal Year 2021. The Data Book provides the most recent fiscal year information available on telemarketing sales calls and robocall complaints, including the types of calls reported to the FTC and a state-by-state analysis. In FY 2021, the Commission received 3.4 million robocall complaints—an increase from the 2.8 million robocall complaints received in FY 2020 but consistent with the higher number of complaints received in prior years. Imposters posing as government representatives or legitimate business entities topped the complaint list, followed by warranties and protection plans and supposed debt-reduction offers. Other common complaints included calls related to medical and prescription issues as well as computers and technical support. The Data Book contains aggregate data about phone numbers on the Do Not Call Registry, telemarketers and sellers that access the registry, as well as DNC complaints by topic and type.

    Federal Issues FTC Consumer Protection Robocalls Do Not Call Registry

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