Today, the FCC ruled on 21 long-standing petitions and letters seeking clarifications of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposed rules were approved with a 3-2 vote. The new rules, which will be released today or tomorrow, are mostly bad for businesses which use automatic telephone dialing technology.
The majority of the Commission did not distinguish scammers from legitimate businesses. Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel cited scammer calls from “Rachel” of the mysterious “Card Member Services” as support for her decision to approve the new rules. Chairman Wheeler cited the 214,000 consumer complaints about robocalls, but gave no breakdown as to how many of these complaints involved con artists and how many related to businesses calling, for example, to collect debt.
The new rules provide:
The rule provides for some limited and specific exceptions for “urgent circumstances,” which include free calls or text messages to wireless devices that alert consumers of potential fraud or that remind them of urgent medication refills. Consumers will still have an opportunity to opt-out of these types of calls and texts.
The new proposal reaffirms many of the existing FCC and court interpretations of the TCPA:
These new rules will significantly restrict business’s use of autodialing technologies. The devil will be in the details.
A couple things are certain about these new rules. They will not stop scammers who use spoofed Caller IDs and originate calls from outside of the United States and, therefore, outside of the jurisdiction of the FCC and/or FTC. They will just make it harder and more expensive for legitimate businesses to reach their customers. By the way, not all businesses are going to disapprove of the ruling; the TCPA class action bar will love it.