The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) is under attack. Enacted in 1991 for the express purpose of protecting consumers from telemarketer harassment and so-called “robocalls,” the Act has become a powerful tool for consumer-protection attorneys to discipline those industries that rely on robocalling. However, through shifts in technology and clever equipment settings, robocall-reliant industries continually attempt to evade the TCPA’s definition of an automated telephone dialing system (ATDS). Thankfully, the Federal Communication Communications Commission (FCC) and the courts have taken a broad view of what constitutes an ATDS in order to ensure that the TCPA’s intents and purposes are upheld even in the face of technological change. Now the FCC is being pressured by industry groups into eviscerating the Act’s definition of an ATDS, thus opening the door for a tidal wave of telephone and SMS text message harassment.
It gets worse. On top of limiting the definition of an ATDS to the point where the Act loses applicability, industry advocates are also looking for the FCC to do the following:
- A rule that once consent is provided in a contract (which is the way that consent to be called is generally provided) that it can never be revoked.
- A rule that if the caller has the consent of the person they are trying to call, that this is sufficient, even if they reach the wrong person—time and time again.
- Student loan servicers are saying that there should be no revocation for debt collection calls—ever.
- The health care industry wants a complete exemption for all of their calls.
The National Consumer Law Center, along with a handful of other consumer-advocacy groups, has submitted comments opposing the current proceedings, but they need your help. The Maul Law Group’s consumer-protection attorney, Gabriel Sanchez, has also submitted comments. What is needed now is for both attorneys and their clients, particularly those who have been adversely affected by TCPA violations, to submit comments to the FCC and let the Commission know first and foremost that the TCPA was enacted to protect consumers, not shield industries that rely on consumer harassment in their business models.
Here is how you can help:
- File your own comments about how people will be hurt (with examples if you can supply them) if the FCC bows to the industry’s wishes and eviscerates the protections of the TCPA. Point out that the TCPA is a consumer protection statute that the FCC is required to interpret for the benefit and protection of consumers.
- Notify all of your friends, relatives and clients, and have them file express comments saying that the FCC should not loosen the protections of the TCPA, that this will only unleash tens of billions of more robocalls on the American public.
- The deadline is this Thursday (June 28, 2018) at midnight.
- Share this message on all of your social media and everywhere else you can.
- File online here at the FCC online portal. Make sure to file under the TCPA proceeding 02-278. That is the only proceeding number that is important.