FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced Wednesday that the FCC will move to protect consumers from unwanted robocalls and texts like never before by proposing new standards for TCPA regulation that will be voted on next month.
Establishing new rules, closing loopholes, and simplifying the opt-out process for consumers are the three main goals of the proposal, which Wheeler calls “yet another win for consumers.” The FCC considers this proposal to be one of the most significant consumer protection actions since it helped to establish the Do-Not-Call Registry in 2003.
The crackdown on robocalls, texts, and telemarketer calls; the number one source of consumer complaints at the FCC, according to the chairman; was motivated in part by the increasing number and severity of complaints regarding unwanted and intrusive calls and texts. In 2014, the FCC saw complaints that detailed offences such as one consumer receiving 4,700 unsolicited texts over a six-month period, while another receiving 27,809 unwanted texts over 17 months, despite requests for the sender to cease.
The proposal will also seek to bring clarity to the numerous companies and businesses who petition the commission over confusion regarding the rules on consumers. If the proposal takes effect, the Commission will rule on over 20 pending petitions related to the TCPA and consumer protection. Wheeler hopes the move will send one message, “consumers have the right to control the calls and texts they receive, and the FCC is moving to enforce those rights.”
One of the biggest changes the FCC proposes would be allowing robocall-blocking technology, which may have previously violated their own call-completion rules. Not only will this solution be available to consumers, the commission urges telephone companies to offer blocking tools.
Loopholes in policy that have been previously exploited by robocallers will close with the clarification in the definition of “autodialers” to include “any technology with the potential to dial random or sequential numbers” according to the FCC. This will prevent solicitors from ignoring consent requirements due to changes in technology design. Furthermore, consumer consent will be better protected by the proposed closing of the “reassigned number” loophole. This will protect consumers who receive a phone number from robocalls or texts that may have been previously consented to by the number’s former owner.
Opt out requirements will also decrease according to the new proposal. Any “reasonable way of saying no” will be allowed and sufficient to opt out of calls and texts, rather than the consumer having to fill out a form and send it through the physical mail to cease unwanted digital communications.
Some “very limited and specific exceptions” will be allowed, according to the FCC, including banking alerts or reminders to refill medications. However, practices such as debt collection and marketing are not included in these exceptions.
The Commission will vote on the proposal at its Open Meeting on June 18.