Removing Barriers Blog

TCPA Order Opponent Ajit Pai Expected to Lead FCC

It was widely reported on Friday that President Trump plans to tap Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Ajit Pai to lead the agency in the new Administration. Commissioner Pai has been a strong opponent of the FCC’s July 2015 Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) Order, which continues to plague credit unions.

Since Pai had already been confirmed by the Senate, he can assume the role of Chairman immediately. He will be joined at the FCC by Republican Commissioner O’Rielly and Democrat Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. One Republican seat and one Democrat seat remain open to fill.

In 2015, Commissioner Pai published an op-ed strongly critiquing the TCPA Order, writing,

 “This is not an uncommon story; the TCPA has become a fertile ground for lawsuit abuse. While only 14 TCPA cases were filed in 2008, lawyers filed 1,908 such suits during just the first nine months of 2014. And unfortunately, the Federal Communications Commission is set to give the trial bar another boost later this week.

Congress enacted the TCPA in order to crack down on intrusive telemarketers and over-the-phone scam artists. The TCPA prohibits these businesses from initiating phone calls for commercial purposes without the prior consent of the called party. Each violation comes with a $500 penalty. But trial lawyers have twisted the law’s words to target useful communications between legitimate businesses and their customers. And thanks to the $500 penalty, the TCPA has become their ATM.”

He also filed a strong dissenting statement to the Order. In addition to listing a number of concerns such as whether a smartphone or tablet could now be considered to be an autodialer, he stated,

“The common thread here is that in practice the TCPA has strayed far from its original purpose.

And the FCC has the power to fix that. We could be taking aggressive enforcement action against those who violate the federal Do-Not-Call rules. We could be establishing a safe harbor so that carriers could

block spoofed calls from overseas without fear of liability. And we could be shutting down the abusive lawsuits by closing the legal loopholes that trial lawyer”

CUNA has previously met with Commissioner Pai’s staff to discuss the TCPA Order. There is also ongoing litigation challenging the Order, in which CUNA is an Amici.