Removing Barriers Blog

FCC Commissioners Questioned about the TCPA at Oversight Hearing
Posted March 23, 2016 by CUNA Advocacy

At the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Oversight Hearing in the House Energy and Commerce Committee this week, several Commissioners were asked about the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), and its impact on the ability of businesses to adequately communicate with customers. 

Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) asked several questions about the problems the FCC’s recent TCPA Order has created for communicating with consumers. Specifically, he asked about emergency situations in Florida. In response to his questioning, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel noted that the TCPA statute is painfully out of date. She also stated that the FCC addressed the autodialer capacity in summer of 2015. (Rosenworcel voted partially in favor of approving, and partially against. Rosenworcel’s dissent was in protest to the exemption granted for financial institutions and healthcare providers, which we at CUNA supported). 

She also made a plea to Congress to understand the antiquity of the law, noting that it is from 1991, and needs updating. Further, she added that the FCC has to figure out how to fit new technologies into and old law, and, acknowledged that the TCPA creates challenging lawsuits for companies that never intended to be on wrong side of it. 

Rep. Bilirakis also asked Commissioner Ajit Pai whether the FCC could revisit the definition of autodialer to give businesses more clarity. Commissioner Pai said yes, but acknowledged that it would be helpful for Congress to update the TCPA. He further added that it is, “strange now that we have to pervert definition of autodialer to include everything that’s not a rotary phone, so many industries seeking waivers/exemption.” He added, “At the same time the Administration is exempting favored industries like government debt collectors and prison phone companies. They get a pass while legitimate businesses don’t.” 

Commissioner Michael OReilly also agreed that the definition of autodialer is too broad and the FCC needs to clarify it.  

We have repeatedly engaged with the FCC about our concerns that the TCPA order from last summer will detrimentally impact credit unions and other financial institutions. We also filed an amicus brief in the litigation challenging the order, saying that it “severely restricts the ability of financial institutions and other callers to engage in useful, and often urgent, communications with their customers and members.”