ACA to FCC: Focus on Onerous TCPA Interpretations Before Reassigned Numbers Database

While a reassigned numbers database, if developed thoughtfully, could benefit callers and consumers, the industry needs clarification on the FCC’s interpretations of the TCPA first.

6/6/2018 1:00 PM

ACA to FCC: Focus on Onerous TCPA Interpretations Before Reassigned Numbers Database

ACA International on June 5 filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission in support of its efforts to combat illegal and fraudulent calls while reiterating the need for clear interpretations of the TCPA and a concise, thoughtful plan to develop a reassigned numbers database.

ACA International is working to improve clarity for TCPA compliance in ongoing advocacy efforts and is encouraged the FCC also recognizes the problems with the status quo for consumers and legitimate businesses, as outlined in comments on the FCC’s Second Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) Advanced Methods to Target and Eliminate Unlawful Robocalls.

In the NPRM, the FCC is assessing the impact of the decision in ACA International v. Federal Communications Commission, et al. when it comes to safe harbor from liability under the TCPA, especially if a reassigned numbers database is created.

“We remain unconvinced that a reassigned numbers database is the most pressing, or only, solution to solving the many problems associated with illegal robocallers and the lack of clarity surrounding TCPA compliance,” said Leah Dempsey, ACA International’s vice president and senior counsel, federal advocacy. “However, we do believe there could be benefits to using one centralized database if it is developed thoughtfully.”

ACA International overall believes the concept of a reassigned numbers database that provides safe harbors to those acting responsibly could be beneficial and provide much-needed relief from highly predatory and frivolous TCPA related class action litigation.

“However, we remain apprehensive that there are many outstanding questions about how it could be used effectively and in a cost efficient manner,” Dempsey said.

In particular, a reassigned numbers database alone does not address the FCC’s onerous interpretations of the TCPA or pertinent issues identified by the D.C. Circuit Court in its ruling.

In its comments, ACA highlights that:

  • The FCC must provide a safe harbor from liability under the TCPA, particularly to protect legitimate businesses from predatory TCPA litigation.
  • Information for callers using a reassigned numbers database should be easily accessible, accurate and provided for a nominal or zero cost. The FCC must be able to define clear standards for when it considers a number to be disconnected.
  • Callers should have several options for checking numbers in a database, since there could be manual errors if only names or only phone numbers are used to identify a consumer with a reassigned number, while balancing consumer protection and privacy concerns.
  • If there are significant costs and compliance burdens for callers associated with using the database, it should be clear that use is voluntary to avoid a burden on small businesses. And, the Commission should keep in mind that it could become a de facto requirement through judicial decisions.
  • The FCC should address larger TCPA concerns first, such as the definition of an autodialer and broad interpretations of the 1991 statute.

“While the proposed reassigned numbers database could be a helpful part of the solution, we feel that there are many outstanding issues with how the database will operate that need to be addressed before moving forward with it,” Dempsey said. “Most importantly, the FCC needs to determine how using the database can provide much needed safe harbor from excessive TCPA related litigation and how it can operate efficiently without passing on problematic costs to small businesses.”

ACA International plans to submit additional comments to the FCC based on requests focused on larger issues surrounding interpretation of the TCPA in light of the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in ACA v. FCC et. al. due June 13.

Related content from ACA International:

FCC Seeks Comment on Effect of Ruling in ACA v. FCC Case on Safe Harbor Language

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