The business community is on edge awaiting the full text of the FCC’s declaratory ruling
On June 18, 2015, during the FCC’s open meeting, the Commissioners voted 3-2 (along party lines) to adopt a package of declaratory rulings that respond to a number of petitions seeking clarification on the FCC’s rules under the TCPA. Comments made by Commissioners Pai and O’Rielly (the two dissenting votes) have indicated that the rulings could be very harmful to the business community.
Highlights of the new rulings (as summarized by the FCC) include:
- Green Light for ‘Do Not Disturb’ Technology – Service providers can offer robocallblocking technologies to consumers and implement market-based solutions that consumers can use to stop unwanted robocalls.
- Empowering Consumers to Say ‘Stop’ – Consumers have the right to revoke their consent to receive robocalls and robotexts in any reasonable way at any time.
- Reassigned Numbers Aren’t Loopholes – If a phone number has been reassigned, companies must stop calling the number after one call.
- Third-Party Consent – A consumer whose name is in the contacts list of an acquaintance’s phone does not consent to receive robocalls from third-party applications downloaded by the acquaintance.
- Affirming the Law’s Definition of Autodialer – “Autodialer” is defined in the Act as any technology with the capacity to dial random or sequential numbers. This definition ensures that robocallers cannot skirt consumer consent requirements through changes in calling technology design or by calling from a list of numbers.
- Text Messages as Calls – The Commission reaffirmed that consumers are entitled to the same consent-based protections for texts as they are for voice calls to wireless numbers.
- Internet-to-Phone Text Messages – Equipment used to send Internet-to-phone text messages is an autodialer, so the caller must have consumer consent before calling.
- Very Limited and Specific Exemptions for Urgent Circumstances – Free calls or texts to alert consumers to possible fraud on their bank accounts or remind them of important medication refills, among other financial alerts or healthcare messages, are allowed without prior consent, but other types of financial or healthcare calls, such as marketing or debt collection calls, are not allowed under these limited and very specific exemptions. Also, consumers have the right to opt out from these permitted calls and texts at any time.
The fact that the full text of the declaratory ruling has not been released yet, may indicate that the Commission is still hammering out a few details, which will hopefully make them more workable for the business community. Stay tune for more developments, as the new rulings take effect as soon as the full text is released.
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