Removing Barriers Blog

Senate Commerce Committee Hearing Focuses on TCPA Problems
Posted May 18, 2016 by Chandler Schuette
This week, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing entitled, “The Telephone Consumer Protection Act at 25: Effects on Consumers and Business."

We were glad to see this hearing cover the TCPA and address a recent FCC Order that affects credit unions. We have serious concerns about this problematic Omnibus Declaratory Ruling and Order (“Order”) because it has impacted credit unions’ ability to communicate with their members about pertinent account information. The ability to freely communicate with credit union members can help prevent identity theft and stolen data, mitigate the harm once such events have occurred, and give consumers the chance to receive other important information about their accounts such as overdue payments.  

Committee Chair Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), members of the committee and several witnesses expressed some of our of concerns. Thune quoted CFPB Richard Cordray’s recent statements about how credit unions and other financial institutions are using emails, text messages and phone calls to keep consumers up-to-date on important account information, and how it was a positive development for consumers. 

“How can banks, credit unions and other financial institutions increase communications with consumers if they have the threat an attorney TCPA litigation hanging over their heads?” Thune asked.

Witness Monica Desai, a partner at Squire Paton Boggs and former senior official at the FCC, said that credit unions and other financial institutions need to be able to contact consumers in a number of ways on time-sensitive matters, such as low balance and high-purchase alerts using modern technology such as texting.

“[These companies] are running a significant cost for the additional risk that any time-sensitive communication they make runs the risk of being sent to a reassigned number, and that’s a factor they cannot fully control,” she said. “As a result, many of my clients are choosing to decrease beneficial, elective communications through cell phone or text because they know that every single one of those communications does carry that risk.”

In addition, Thune brought up a number of CUNA-suggested clarifications needed in the TCPA, including the definition of “autodialer”, and what businesses should do when a number has been reassigned.

Our team had raised these questions to the committee in our letter for the hearing’s record, and previously raised them in letters to lawmakers, the NCUA and in filing an amici brief asking for the TCPA ruling to be vacated.