Companion Legislation Introduced in Congress to Expand TCPA’s Definition of ATDS

U.S. Sen. Ed Markey and U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone introduce legislation that would expand the scope of the TCPA to cover predictive dialers.

6/11/2018 3:30 PM

Companion Legislation Introduced in Congress to Expand TCPA’s Definition of ATDS

The “Stopping Bad Robocalls Act,” H.R. 6026, introduced by U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., June 7 is in response to the recent U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit case striking down the Federal Communications Commission’s definition of an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS.)

H.R. 6026 would amend the Telephone Consumer Protection Act to define a “robocall” as a call or text message made using equipment that makes a series of calls to stored telephone numbers, including telephone numbers stored on a list or to telephone numbers produced using a random or sequential number generator; or call made using an artificial or prerecorded voice.

It also includes a requirement for verified caller identification information and extends the statute of limitations from one year to four years for callers violating robocall prohibitions.  The legislation requires the FCC, after consultation with the Federal Trade Commission, to submit an annual report to Congress detailing the commission’s progress in stopping robocalls.

Furthermore, the legislation would create a nationwide reassigned numbers database. All telephone providers would be required to report to the database. The bill also includes a safe harbor in the event that there is an error in the reassigned numbers database.

A reassigned numbers database is also under review by the FCC through its Second Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) Advanced Methods to Target and Eliminate Unlawful Robocalls.

In March, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit noted in its decision for the landmark case, ACA International v. Federal Communications Commission, et al. that the FCC  “is already on its way to designing a regime to avoid” it by creating a database to identify reassigned numbers.

The FCC recently issued a Public Notice seeking feedback on key questions from ACA’s lawsuit including how it should define autodialer and what should be considered for a reassigned numbers database.

ACA International supports efforts to stop unlawful robocalls and the association has long advocated that all legitimate businesses making non-solicitation, informational calls to consumers should be able to use modern dialing technology to reach consumers in the way they want to be contacted.

However, there are aspects of H.R. 6026 that go beyond addressing unlawful telemarketing calls and instead could threaten communications from legitimate businesses.

The FCC recently published its second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on creating a reassigned numbers database in the Federal Register adding language seeking comment on the impact of the D.C. Circuit Court’s decision on safe harbor for callers choosing to use a reassigned numbers database. It also continues to review creating a Caller ID Authentication System to stop unwanted and illegal robocalls.

ACA International on June 5 filed comments with the FCC 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 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.

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