Removing Barriers Blog

FCC Declaratory Ruling Exempts Federal Government and their Contractors from TCPA
Posted July 08, 2016 by CUNA Advocacy

This week the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a declaratory ruling, which in line with a recent Supreme Court ruling, exempts calls made by, or on behalf of, the federal government from the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) when conducting official government business, except when a call made by a contractor does not comply with the government’s instructions. The Declaratory Ruling was issued in response to three petitions filed by Broadnet Teleservices LLC, National Employment Network Association, and RTI International. 

The Supreme Court held in Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gomez that the United States and its Agencies . . . are not subject to the TCPA’s prohibitions because no statute lifts their immunity. The Court further indicated that a government contractor may be eligible for “derivative immunity” when it acts under authority validly conferred on it by the federal government. 

As Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel noted in her dissent, this Ruling could conflict with the recent Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) implementing the exemption in the Budget Act for debts owed to or guaranteed by the federal government. Her dissent states, “This rulemaking began last month. It is still ongoing. So our actions here have an odd result. In effect, we prejudge the outcome of our narrower proceeding under the Bipartisan Budget Act by here providing a blanket exemption from the Telephone Consumer Protection Act to the federal government and its agents. Moreover, I am concerned that our decision risks trampling on the will of Congress. After all, if the federal government is truly outside the scope of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, it is unclear why Congress would need to have specifically provided a debt-related exception to the law in the first place.” 

It is still not entirely clear how this week’s Declaratory Ruling impacts the recent NPRM, but it appears on its face to grant a blanket exemption to the federal government and federal government contractors. 

We recently filed a comment letter in response to an NPRM implementing the Budget Act, which urged the FCC to include both mortgage debt and Small Business Administration (SBA) loans in its consideration of debt owed to or guaranteed by the federal government. We will continue to pressure the FCC to provide greater TCPA relief to financial institutions, who have had to curtail important communications with consumers since the July 2015 TCPA Order.