Getting Through: Legitimate Calls Must be Protected as Congress Considers Increased Enforcement Authority for Regulators
ACA International presents considerations for Senate subcommittee in discussions on TCPA and call blocking and labeling technologies.
4/11/2019 1:00 PM
As the discussion about illegal robocalls and legislation creating more rigid enforcement authority and preventative measures continues on Capitol Hill, ACA International applauds efforts to address bad actors, but cautions lawmakers to avoid conflating legitimate, legal communications with illegal calls.
“This confusion created a dangerous environment where some policymakers are actively seeking to impede legitimate calls that include important information such as account updates, school closings, loss of utilities such as power, and other exigent information,” ACA International CEO Mark Neeb said in a letter to Senate Majority Whip John Thune, R-S.D, chair of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet.
The letter, also addressed to the subcommittee ranking member U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, was submitted for consideration during the subcommittee’s hearing Thursday titled “Illegal Robocalls: Calling All To Stop The Scourge.”
Neeb asked the subcommittee to consider the importance of legitimate business calls impeded by onerous provisions in the TCPA in addition to problems created by illegal actors making illegal robocalls, including these specific points:
- 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 (Treasury), the Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Advocacy; and the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (CFPB or Bureau) have recognized the importance of legitimate businesses having the ability to communicate with consumers.
“The use of modern technology including predictive dialers is critical for the ability to contact consumers in a timely and efficient matter. Often if a consumer is put on notice of a debt sooner and earlier in the collection process, their chances improve of resolving that matter favorably,” Neeb said.
TRACED Act and Technology
Lawmakers discussed advancing the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act to the Senate floor as soon as possible and by unanimous consent during the April 11 hearing focused on enforcing and stopping the illegal robocalls.
Policymakers will be home for the district work period from April 13-28, making any progress on the TRACED Act, S. 151., likely to happen after the break. This is an important time to connect with lawmakers in their home district about this issues and others impacting the accounts receivable management industry.
The TRACED Act, introduced by Thune and U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., passed the Senate Commerce Committee with a unanimous vote after an April 3 markup.
“It’s important to remember that automated calls are not inherently negative; many important services are carried out via such calls and companies and call recipients have pre-established relationship,” Thune said during the hearing. “Different rules of the road apply to these types of calls and they should. Our focus today is on the unscrupulous use of robocalls, something that has earned bipartisan support.”
During Thursday’s hearing, subcommittee members asked a panel of witnesses for their views on the impact the TRACED Act could have on improving enforcement authority of regulators and opportunities for state and federal agencies to work together to stop bad actors.
Witnesses for the hearing included:
- Doug Peterson, Nebraska attorney general;
- Kevin Rupy, partner, Wiley Rein, Representing US Telecom—The Broadband Association and;
- Margot Saunders, counsel, National Consumer Law Center.
“Solving this issue is going to require a variety of stakeholders to get together,” Thune said during the hearing.
The TRACED Act, as proposed, would require call authentication and blocking adoption, among other changes, related to the FCC’s enforcement authority. It also includes stipulations for other regulators including the FTC, Department of Commerce, Department of State, Department of Homeland Security and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Peterson stressed that interagency cooperation is needed for criminal enforcement actions with the FCC and FTC during his comments at the hearing.
“I think attorneys general are empowered by state laws and frankly I think a lot of legislative bodies are challenged to stay in front of this type of technology, I’m a proponent of state solutions, but I also think a partnership with federal authorities is important here,” he said.
As part of our larger ongoing advocacy efforts surrounding TCPA reform, ACA International will continue to work with the Senate 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 also has many resources available on its Advocacy Action Center and you may visit congress.gov to plan an agency tour and find your local representatives during the April break. For additional information and resources for meetings with your member of Congress, Bevington may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 810-8899.
If you would like to discuss legislative and regulatory issues such as this with key policymakers, join ACA International’s advocacy staff May 14-16 in Washington, D.C., for the annual Washington Insights Fly-In. Registration is now open!
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