Removing Barriers Blog

CUNA Urges Congress to Hold Hearing on Recent TCPA Ruling
Posted September 14, 2015 by CUNA Advocacy

Last Friday, CUNA and other trade associations wrote a letter urging the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee to hold a hearing to review an Omnibus Declaratory Ruling and Order (“Order”) from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) about the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). 

In the letter, we expressed our support for consumers’ rights, stating, “Our members strongly support the spirit of the TCPA, and go to great lengths to guard the privacy of consumers. However, this Order goes far beyond the scope or purpose of the statute and the disastrous consequences can only be corrected by Congress. Enacted in 1991, the TCPA was passed at a time when cell phones were considered a luxury item and smartphones were still years away from production.”

We noted that this Order is detrimentally impacting consumers by limiting their ability to receive important communications from financial institutions via telephone or text message. This Order created an immense amount of uncertainty and potential liability for financial institutions on:

• What might qualify as an autodialer, 
• Whether they were effectively meeting conditions for exemptions, 
• How they can communicate with consumers with reassigned numbers, 
• How consumers could revoke consent, and 
• Whether the numbers they have for consumers meet the technicalities laid out for calling the right party even within one family. 

The letter notes that while the FCC purported to recognize the importance of communications between financial institutions and customers and members, its ruling, in practicality, creates obstacles to our ability to communicate with members. The FCC’s Order must be modified so that consumers can continue to receive critically important information about their accounts-- including fraud alerts, data breaches, and foreclosure prevention options.

The letter further notes that this state of disarray is particularly harmful for small business owners and small financial institutions who may not have the resources to analyze a document that is well over 100 pages, and is filled with onerous language and unclear nuances. Our letter stated that “absent relief, our customers and members are at risk of losing valuable and desired communications and businesses are vulnerable to unnecessary, frivolous class action lawsuits—both of which are detrimental consequences surely not intended by Congress when it passed the TCPA.”

We respectfully asked Congress to update this antiquated law to reflect today’s technology. While the FCC ruling was intended to bring clarity to the TCPA provisions and its enforcement, it is actually raising more questions and increasing the potential for frivolous litigation in this area.

We also expressed concern that the FCC did not put the order out as a traditional rulemaking with an opportunity for notice and comment, which allowed it to circumvent some of the protections provided in the Administrative Procedures Act and Congressional Review Act.

The letter ended by reiterating the need to hold a hearing about this Order to ensure all sides have an opportunity to inform Congress about its impact on industry and consumers.