FCC Outlines New TCPA Rules

By Denise Johnson | July 27, 2015

On July 10, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a Declaratory Ruling revising the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) that became effective immediately. The ruling included the definition of automated dialer and a one call “safe harbor” rule for reassigned numbers.

Gryphon Networks, a phone-based marketing compliance and sales intelligence provider announced the details of the update during a webinar last week.

“These revisions to the TCPA have been called ‘one of the most significant FCC consumer protection actions’ since the Do-Not-Call Registry was instated in 2003,” said Melissa Bateman Fitzgerald, vice president of Privacy Consulting and Legal Counsel, Gryphon Networks. “As the FCC’s laws continue to evolve, it’s more important than ever for organizations to understand the rules and stay compliant in order to avoid potentially enormous fines and debilitating class action suits.”

According to Fitzgerald, the declaratory ruling added clarity and was the agency’s response to the more than 215,000 complaints it received in 2014.

Besides providing a definition of an auto dialer, the ruling addresses calls to reassigned telephone numbers and adds the ability to revoke consent to robocalls. The new ruling also outlines that the TCPA applies to text messages and includes Internet to phone technology.

According to the ruling, an automated telephone dialing system is defined as any equipment that can dial random or sequential numbers, even if this potential capacity requires additional software. It includes predictive dialers, but a phone’s redial function does not meet this standard.

Fitzgerald explained that the FCC was “trying to keep up with ever evolving technology.”

The ruling emphasized that “express written permission is required to call wireless telephone numbers,” Fitzgerald said.

It also creates a one call “safe harbor” rule – allowing a single call to a phone number that has been reassigned.

“The class action suits were significant in this area,” said Fitzgerald.

Despite the changes, Gail Gottehrer, a law partner with Axinn, Veltrop & Harkrider, doesn’t think there will be a significant downturn in the number of lawsuits related to TCPA complaints.

A big change for both carriers and consumers is that each can now use robocall blocking technology.

“For the first time, we clarify that there is no legal reason carriers shouldn’t offer their customers popular robocall-blocking solutions, so that consumers can use market-based approaches to stop unwanted calls,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler stated.

In addition, the ruling outlined a limited exemption that allows alerts for urgent circumstances like the possibility of fraud via a credit card. This limited exemption allows three calls over three days per event, but consumers can still opt out if they wish.

Another important aspect of the revision is that the same consent requirements that apply to wireless phone calls now apply to text messages.

No changes were made to the Do-Not-Call Registry.

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