New TCPA Rules Protect Consumers From Robocalls — Analysis Of Statement Of Chairman Tom Wheeler


New TCPA Rules Protect Consumers From Robocalls — Analysis Of Statement Of Chairman Tom Wheeler

New TCPA Rules Protect Consumers From Robocalls -- Analysis Of Statement Of Chairman Tom WheelerWell, the collection industry and telemarketing folks are having a complete come apart over the losses they suffered at the FCC when they didn’t get everything they asked for, thankfully.

The official order will be out soon and we’ll analyze it then but for now here is the statement by Chairman Tom Wheeler with our analysis in bold and italics.



Commission Responds to Requests from Businesses and Attorneys General for Guidance on Robocall Blocking, Autodialers, Recycled Phone Numbers and More

WASHINGTON, June 18, 2015 – The Federal Communications Commission today adopted a proposal to protect consumers against unwanted robocalls and spam texts. In a package of declaratory rulings, the Commission affirmed consumers’ rights to control the calls they receive. As part of this package, the Commission also made clear that telephone companies face no legal barriers to allowing consumers to choose to use robocall-blocking technology.

While this opening paragraph doesn’t give details, the critical part is this:  consumers have the right to control the calls they receive.  Seems pretty common sense but its amazing how the companies we sue take the position (and some judges around the nation bought this) that once you give consent to get calls, you can never, ever, ever, revoke that consent.  Imagine that being the rule in any other context and you will shudder.


The rulings were informed by thousands of consumer complaints about robocalls the FCC receives each month. Complaints related to unwanted calls are the largest category of complaints received by the Commission, numbering more than 215,000 in 2014.

The collection and telemarketing industries say there are no problems — its all just lawyers wanting to sue.  Well, it appears there are more than 215,000 reasons why they are out of touch with reality.


Today’s action addresses almost two dozen petitions and other requests that sought clarity on how the Commission interprets the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), closing loopholes and strengthening consumer protections already on the books. The TCPA requires prior express consent for non-emergency autodialed, prerecorded, or artificial voice calls to wireless phone numbers, as well as for prerecorded telemarketing calls to residential wireline numbers.

The last sentence is significant as it tells you what this whole law is about:

The TCPA requires prior express consent for non-emergency autodialed, prerecorded, or artificial voice calls to wireless phone numbers, as well as for prerecorded telemarketing calls to residential wireline numbers.

Prior express consent” — pretty simple.  Get permission before you blow up someone’s phone.  Reasonable, eh?

Autodialed, prerecorded, or artificial voice calls” — again, pretty simple.  Not a human being but a computer doing or assisting in the call.  Why?  Because when a computer dials, you end up trying to talk to a computer.  Not much fun.  You get annoying voicemails saying “press 2 to be unsubscribed” — well, I can’t do that from a voicemail, can I?

Prerecorded telemarketing calls to residential wireline numbers” — there is more freedom (unfortunately) for annoying calls to your landline number but even this protection is simple — no prerecorded calls.  If you are going to annoy me with a call (and you can use the Do Not Call List to stop these), at least have the decency to be a human being I can tell over the phone to never call me again.


The rulings provide much needed clarity for consumers and businesses. Highlights for consumers who use either landline or wireless phones include:

  • Green Light for ‘Do Not Disturb’ Technology – Service providers can offer robocall-blocking technologies to consumers and implement market-based solutions that consumers can use to stop unwanted robocalls.  Why was this even an issue?  Oh, because the industry claimed it was illegal to block their illegal calls.  Irony at its best!


  • 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.  Can you believe companies took the position, even in court, that you have NO right to revoke consent.  And some tried to extend your “consent” to any family member.  Idiots.


  • Reassigned Numbers Aren’t Loopholes – If a phone number has been reassigned, companies must stop calling the number after one call.  When we have sued on this the companies go crazy.  I ask them, if you had a key to a friend’s house from a year or five or ten years ago, would you feel comfortable just strolling into their house?  Would you complain if the person who sold your house to you gave a key out ten years ago and someone came into your house?  We call that trespassing — its illegal.  The response from defense lawyers is to mutter, “Well, that’s different.”  Nope, it’s not.


  • 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.  Who possibly imagined that a friend of mine can download an app and now I can be bombarded with text messages?  And going back to the last point, that I can never revoke that consent (that I never even gave).  This is why the industry is losing so badly — they are being hogs and hogs get slaughtered.


Additional highlights for wireless consumers include:

  • 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.  There is a major industry now in still using auto dialers but disabling one little feature to then claim that they are not, in fact, autodialers.  This order will say “Stop playing games — if you are using an autodialer then own up to it and follow the laws.”  You see the industry thought it could completely get around the TCPA by this — they were very proud of their “cheat” and now they are complaining because they are going to be punished for cheating.  Yeah, that’s what happens when you cheat.


  • 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.  Amazing that the industry argued against this — that somehow it is ok to blow up your phone with text messages without your permission.  I’m not sure what to say….


  • 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.  Again, this is simply saying if you develop a new way to break the law, it is still breaking the law.  Not sure why this had the industry up in arms other than it thought it had found a way to gut the TCPA.


  • 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.  I think it would be better to get prior express consent but I think the Commission’s thought process was to reward legitimate seeming texts and calls.  The battle will be the companies will send these, and add marketing pitches or collection demands to them.  Then they will try to hide behind this.  I doubt that will work.  And I’m pleased even with these the consumer is allowed to stop getting these calls and texts.

Today’s actions make no changes to the Do-Not-Call Registry, which restricts unwanted telemarketing calls, but are intended to build on the Registry’s effectiveness by closing loopholes and ensuring that consumers are fully protected from unwanted calls, including those not covered by the Registry.

Excellent — the Do-Not-Call Registry has helped.  It’s not perfect but it is something.  So let’s keep that and improve upon it.


By taking action today, the Commission is embracing the opportunity afforded by the 21 requests for clarification of the law to clearly stand with consumers against unwanted calls.

I thank the Commission for doing this — now the Commission has to work to make sure this happens.  Consumers have to be vigilant as companies will seek to “get around” the law to gain an unfair competitive advantage over those honorable companies obeying the law.  Ultimately the only thing that will stop dishonorable companies from breaking the law and putting good companies out of business is the bad companies have to pay a price.  

A price high enough that they decide it is not worth it to break the law.

This ruling is a good first step…

Thanks for reading this and whether you agree or not, please feel free to leave a comment or get in touch with me.

John G. Watts

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