ACA Continues Push for TCPA Clarity on Capitol Hill
ACA International asks for consideration of protecting modern technology communication with consumers from legitimate businesses at April 30 House subcommittee hearing on robocall legislation.
4/29/2019 1:30 PM
ACA International asked members of a House subcommittee to consider clarifying vague issues related to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act as they discuss legislation to mitigate robocalls in hearing scheduled April 30.
In a letter to members of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, ACA CEO Mark Neeb outlined specific areas that slow the industry’s ability to connect with consumers for legitimate business purposes.
“We ask that the subcommittee, in addition to considering the problems created by illegal actors making robocalls, also consider the importance of legitimate business calls currently impeded by onerous TCPA requirements,” ACA International CEO Mark Neeb said in a letter to subcommittee chairman U.S. Rep. Michael Doyle, D-Pa., and Ranking Member U.S. Rep. Robert Latta, R-Ohio.
Neeb asked the subcommittee to consider these specific points as it reviews legislation, including the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, H.R. 946:
- TCPA interpretations remain onerous and create unclear compliance expectations that leave businesses vulnerable to frivolous class action litigation. The FCC must act to clarify its interpretations of the TCPA as directed by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals (D.C. Circuit) after the decision in ACA Int’l v. FCC;
- New call blocking and labeling technologies are unfairly impeding calls from credit and collection professionals and other legitimate businesses, in some instances in deceptive ways, or ways that engage in slanderous labeling of legitimate calls; and
- Several other regulators including the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy; and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have recognized the importance of legitimate businesses having the ability to communicate with consumers.
The subcommittee will also discuss the HANGUP Act, H.R. 1421, to rescind the exemption in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 to allow automated calls to consumers about government-backed debts during the hearing. The exemption was also recently struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
Additional legislation slated for discussion focuses on establishing more regulations and enforcement of illegal robocalls at the FCC, a working group to study the enforcement of the TCPA, and requiring phone carriers to enable technology for consumers to verify callers and block calls without verified caller ID information, according to a memo on the hearing.
“Unfortunately, through certain sweeping efforts to stop bad actors some policymakers are either intentionally or unintentionally impeding legitimate calls that include important information such as account updates, school closings, loss of utilities, and other exigent information for consumer,” Neeb said. “H.R. 946, the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, misses the mark in targeting those harming consumers. Instead, the outcome of the legislation will have a negative impact on consumers’ ability to receive information they need from legitimate businesses.”
Witnesses scheduled for the hearing include:
Aaron Foss, founder of Nomorobo; Dave Summitt, chief information security officer, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute Fellow for the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology; Margot Saunders, senior counsel, National Consumer Law Center; and Patrick Halley, senior vice president, Advocacy and Regulatory Affairs US Telecom—The Broadband Association.
In advance of the hearing, ACA International also joined several organizations representing a diverse group of industry sectors throughout the economy in a letter urging the subcommittee to support the FCC’s unprecedented work to bring enforcement actions against illegal actors, while facilitating the ability of legitimate businesses to place valued and important calls to their customers using modern communications technologies.
ACA International encourages subcommittee members and hearing witnesses to consider the consumer’s need to receive critical information from legitimate businesses using modern technology while enforcing actions of bad actors in their discussions.
The information that ACA International members provide to consumers via telephone is essential to maintain their financial health.
“The use of modern technology is critical for the ability to contact consumers in a timely and efficient matter, and often the sooner in the collection process that a consumer is put on notice of a debt, the better off they are,” Neeb said.
Regulators, such as the U.S. Department of the Treasury and U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy have also stressed the need for clarity concerning the TCPA.
“While illegal actors certainly deserve scrutiny from Congress and the FCC, as highlighted, multiple regulatory agencies have also recognized there are significant benefits to consumers when they can communicate with legitimate businesses and institutions. The D.C. Circuit Court, as previously noted, struck down the FCC’s previous interpretation of the TCPA, finding parts of it arbitrary and capricious including the broad definition of autodialer,” Neeb said.
As part of our larger ongoing advocacy efforts surrounding TCPA reform, ACA International will continue to work with the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Congress to help them understand the importance of calls about a consumer’s financial situation that they often want and need.
ACA International members interested in discussing these issues on Capitol Hill should join advocacy staff for the Washington Insights Fly-In, coming up May 14-16 at The Phoenix Park Hotel.
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