According to a blog post made by Federal Communications Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, immediate changes are needed to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act to address the flood of litigation caused by its own “complex and unclear” rules.
Citing changes in business models and methods of communications he notes that the FCC’s rules have become “complex and unclear” and suggests that clarification would benefit all parties impacted by the TCPA. Another concern voiced by the Commissioner is the fact that TCPA complaints have increased by 30 percent in the past year and that there is a growing backlog of petitions to the FCC seeking guidance under the TCPA.
O’Rielly identified the following specific issues that need to be addressed:
- What it means to initiate a call
- Whether there is liability for calls made to reassigned phone numbers
- Whether consent can be obtained through intermediaries
- Whether consent can be inferred from consumer behavior or social norms
- Whether certain devices, including smartphones, could be considered automatic telephone dialing systems
The post further indicates that the FCC needs to look at its own precedents which, while well meaning, may have contributed to the complexity of the situation by enlarging the scope of potential violations. Finally, he notes that while they must hold bad actors responsible when they violate the law it is important to insure that good actors and innovators are not needlessly subjected to enforcement actions or lawsuits.
O’Rielly appears to appreciate the difficulties encountered by businesses as a result of the often strained interpretations of the TCPA. O’Rielly wrote
It is very troubling that legitimate companies feel they have to ask the government for its blessing every time they need to make a business decision in order to avoid litigation.
The FCC will now begin to take action on the “inventory of petitions” it has received seeking TCPA clarification, O’Rielly added.