Late last year, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) released a long-awaited decision regarding the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Despite all the acronyms, continue reading – the ruling impacts a variety of business and debt collections communications that may reach you!
The FCC decision has several major points. First, the FCC clarified what it means to be an “autodialer” under the statute. The TCPA was enacted in 1991, so the language of the law must be updated to reflect modern communications methods and practices.
After its passage, many advertisers and debt collectors purposefully tried to avoid the TCPA by creating or using technology that did not fit the statutory definition of “autodial.” Even the FCC has admitted that “little or no modern dialing equipment would fit the statutory definition of an autodialer” as defined.
Accordingly, the FCC has now expanded the definition of “autodialer” to include any technology that has the capacity—either now or in the future—to automatically generate, store, and call phone numbers.
Providing guidance to the courts, the FCC has stated that whether or not certain technology is considered an autodialer may need to be determined on a case-by-case basis. However, the government also advised that the primary function of an autodialer is to either dial thousands of phone numbers without human intervention and/or to do so in a relatively short period of time. The TCPA regulates the technology capable of performing these tasks, which in most cases, cannot be used to reach consumers without consent.
Second, the FCC refused to provide protections to debt collectors and advertisers who reached the wrong consumers. The consumer credit and debt collection industries have been lobbying for a “wrong number” exception, which would release a company from TCPA liability if they called the wrong individual. Rather, the FCC concluded that when a consumer’s consent is required by law, debt collectors and other entities must actually receive consent from the subscriber to the phone number or person who owns and uses the phone.
Moreover, the FCC also stated that businesses will face TCPA liability if they have actual knowledge, or should have actual knowledge, that their agents are contacting an incorrect phone number.
Lastly, the FCC proclaimed that any individual consensually receiving calls or texts may revoke or terminate their consent at any time, by way of any reasonable means. This means that creditors and debt collectors can no longer that you will only stop receiving communications if you revoke your consent in writing, or some other specified way. In fact, the FCC stated that consumers may terminate consent orally, in writing, or in-person at a business location.
In sum, the FCC’s decision further protects consumers’ rights to be left alone and not harassed by unwanted communications. All consumers will benefit from these stricter guidelines.
If you are being harassed by a debt collector about an account that isn’t yours or have any other issue with creditors, you need the help of an experienced debtor rights attorney—like those at Fitzgerald Campbell—to review your case and discuss your options with you. Our attorneys have decades of experience representing clients in all types of consumer defense cases and we are here to help you!