Subscribe to our InfoBytes Blog weekly newsletter and other publications for news affecting the financial services industry.
FCC announces July 20 as compliance date for amended TCPA rules
On January 23, the FCC announced that July 20 is the compliance date for amended telephone consumer protection act rules on prerecorded calls. As previously covered by InfoBytes, President Trump signed S. 151, the Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act (TRACED Act), which granted the FCC authority to promulgate rules to combat illegal robocalls and requires voice service providers to develop call authentication technologies. On December 30, 2020, the Commission released the TCPA Exemptions Order to implement section 8 of the TRACED Act. In that rulemaking, the Commission amended the TCPA rules related to exemptions for non-commercial calls to residential numbers and commercial calls to residential numbers that do not include an advertisement or constitute telemarketing, among other things. Specifically, the Commission adopted numerical limits on exempted artificial or prerecorded voice calls to residential lines and also required callers making such exempt calls to allow consumers to opt out of any future calls that they do not wish to receive. The Commission explained in the TCPA Exemptions Order that it would publish in the Federal Register a compliance date for the amended rules, which would be six months after publication.
FCC affirms three-call limit but permits oral consent
On December 21, the FCC issued an order on reconsideration and declaratory ruling under the TCPA, affirming a three-call limit and opt-out requirements for exempted residential calls. According to the FCC, the ruling is in response to requests from industry trade groups related to a 2020 order implementing portions of the Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act (TRACED Act). The ruling upheld the three-call-limit for exempt calls made using automated telephone dialing systems to residential lines but revised the 2020 order’s requirement for “prior express written consent” to allow callers to obtain consent orally or in writing if they wish to make more calls than allowed. The FCC also granted a request to confirm that “prior express consent” for calls made by utility companies to wireless phones applies equally to residential landlines. The FCC noted that “limiting the number of calls that can be made to a particular residential line to three artificial or prerecorded voice calls within any consecutive thirty-day period strikes the appropriate balance between these callers reaching consumers with valuable information and reducing the number of unexpected and unwanted calls consumers currently receive.”
FCC orders companies to block student loan scam calls
On December 8, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau ordered voice service providers to cease carrying robocalls related to known student loan scams and specifically designated a service believed to account for more than 40 percent of student loan robocalls in October. The FCC’s order provides written notice to all voice service providers regarding suspected illegal robocalls that have been made in violation of the TCPA, the Truth In Caller ID Act of 2009, or the TRACED Act. Specifically, the order “directs all U.S.-based voice service providers to take immediate steps to mitigate suspected illegal student loan-related robocall traffic.” The order further noted that if a provider fails to “take all necessary steps” to avoid carrying suspected illegal robocall traffic, the provider may be “deemed to have knowingly and willfully engaged in transmitting unlawful robocalls.” According to FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, the Commission is “cutting these scammers off so they can't use efforts to provide student loan debt relief as cover for fraud.”
FCC seeks comment on TCPA exemptions
On October 1, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), seeking comment on exemptions already granted under the TCPA allowing certain entities and types of calls to be made using an automatic telephone dialing system. The FCC is required by Section 8 of The Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act (TRACED Act) to ensure that any exemption granted under the TCPA “includes requirements with respect to: (i) the classes of parties that may make such calls; (ii) the classes of parties that may be called; and (iii) the number of such calls that may be made to a particular called party.” Section 8 of the TRACED Act requires the FCC to prescribe new regulations or amend existing regulations with regard to the TCPA exemptions no later than December 30, 2020. The FCC is seeking comment on the current nine exemptions, which include, among other things, financial-institution calls to a wireless number. The FCC notes that the current conditions under the financial institution exemption “appear to satisfy section 8 of the TRACED Act” because there are limitations on the class of calling parties, the class of called parties, and the number of calls (no more than three calls per event over a three-day period for each affected account).
Additionally, the FCC seeks comment on the exemption allowing commercial calls to residences that do not constitute telemarketing. The FCC notes that the current exemption does not appear to satisfy Section 8’s requirements, as there is not enough specificity of the class of party that makes the calls, nor is there a limit on the number of calls that can be made. The FCC proposes to alter this exemption into two types of classes of parties: informational and transactional callers and seeks comment on whether to limit the number of calls that can be made under this exemption.
Comments will be due 15 days after publication in the Federal Register.
FCC provides safe harbors for blocking illegal robocalls
On July 16, the FCC issued an order adopting rules to further encourage phone companies to block illegal and unwanted robocalls and to continue the Commission’s implementation of the TRACED Act (covered by InfoBytes here). The rule establishes two safe harbors from liability for the unintended or inadvertent blocking of wanted calls: (i) voice service providers will not be held liable under the Communications Act and FCC rules on terminating voice service providers that block calls, provided “reasonable analytics,” such as caller ID authentication information, are used to identify and block illegal or unwanted calls; and (ii) voice service providers will not be held liable for blocking calls from “bad-actor upstream voice service providers that continue to allow unwanted calls to traverse their networks.” The FCC’s order also includes a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comments on, among other things, “whether to obligate originating and intermediate providers to better police their networks against illegal calls,” whether the “reasonable analytics” safe harbor should be expanded “to include network-based blocking without consumer opt-out,” and whether the Commission should adopt more extensive redress requirements, and require terminating providers to provide consumers information about blocked calls.
State AGs emphasize the importance of robocall traceback work
On June 4, 52 state attorneys general, through the National Association of Attorneys General, submitted reply comments to the FCC in support of an April final rule, which amends and adopts its rules in accordance with Section 13(d) of the Pallone–Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act (TRACED Act) to create a single registered consortium that serves as a neutral third party to manage the private-led efforts to trace back the origin of unlawful robocalls. In the letter, the attorneys general emphasized the importance of traceback efforts to assist law enforcement in identifying and investigating illegal robocallers more efficiently. Moreover, the attorneys general note that traceback investigations help “shed light” on other actors in the “telecommunication ecosystem” that may support robocall scammers. Similarly, in May, the attorneys general, also through the National Association of Attorneys General, published a letter to industry groups asserting their intention to intensify enforcement efforts against illegal robocallers, and urged the US Telecom and the Industry Traceback Group to expand capabilities related to tracebacks in anticipation of growth in the need for data analysis and the number of civil investigative demands and subpoenas that will be issued directly to the Industry Traceback Group (covered by InfoBytes here).
FCC changes TCPA enforcement under TRACED Act
On May 1, the FCC issued an order announcing the Commission will no longer send entities outside its jurisdiction warnings prior to commencing an enforcement action related to TCPA robocall violations. Specifically, the order, as mandated under Section 3 of the TRACED Act (covered by InfoBytes here), (i) removes provisions that previously required the FCC to issue a warning prior to imposing penalties for making robocalls; (ii) increases the maximum fine that the FCC can assess for robocall violations to $10,000 per intentional unlawful call, in addition to a forfeiture penalty amount; and (iii) extends the statute of limitations to four years for the FCC to investigate and take enforcement action against an entity that violates the TCPA. The order takes effect 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.
- Keisha Whitehall Wolfe to discuss “Tips for successfully engaging your state regulator” at the MBA's State and Local Workshop
- Max Bonici to discuss “Enforcement risk and trends for crypto and digital assets (Part 2)” at ABA’s 2023 Business Law Section Hybrid Spring Meeting
- Jedd R. Bellman to present “An insider’s look at handling regulatory investigations” at the Maryland State Bar Association Legal Summit