The Regulatory Mix, TMI’s daily blog of regulatory activities, is a snapshot of PUC, FCC, legislative, and occasionally court, issues that our regulatory monitoring team uncovers each day. Depending on their significance, some items may be the subject of a TMI Regulatory Bulletin.
The FCC seeks comment on a Petition filed by Crown Mortgage Company (Crown) requesting a declaratory ruling clarifying that FCC rule §64.1200(a)(4)(iv) (which requires fax advertisements sent to a consumer who has provided prior express invitation or permission to include an opt-out notice) does not apply to fax advertisements sent with the prior express consent or permission of the recipient. Crown argues that: (1) such faxes constitute “solicited” faxes that are not required to include opt-out notices; and (2) application of the opt-out requirements to solicited faxes exceeds the FCC’s statutory authority and violates the First Amendment. If the FCC declines the request for declaratory ruling, Crown seeks a retroactive waiver. Comments are due April 11, 2014; reply comments are due April 18, 2014.
The FCC issued two orders clarifying that specific kinds of messages do not violate the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). First, the FCC said that package delivery companies could alert wireless consumers about their packages as long as the consumers were not charged for the text and could easily opt out of future messages. The FCC adopted several conditions for this exemption from the TCPA, including that the notification: be sent only to the telephone number for the package recipient; identify the name of the delivery company and include its contact information; not include any telemarketing, solicitation, or advertising; be concise, generally one minute or less in length for voice calls and one message of 160 characters or less in length for text message.
In the second Order, the FCC said that text-based social networks can send administrative texts confirming consumers’ interest in joining such groups without violating the TCPA. The FCC found that when consumers give express consent to participate in the group such texts are among the types of expected and desired communications the TCPA was not designed to prohibit, even when the consent is conveyed to the social network by an intermediary. The FCC emphasized that social networks that rely on third party representations regarding consent remain liable for TCPA violations when a consumer’s consent was not obtained.
The PUC finalized regulation changes that provide electric shopping customers with greater, uniform detail in electric supplier disclosure statements and more timely information on “contract renewal” and “change in terms” notices. The regulations require EGSs to display key contractual terms and conditions more prominently, especially for customers on variable-priced products; provide historical pricing data on their products; and mark prominently customer notices prior to contract expiration or changes in terms. The changes are designed to provide additional information and greater protections for residential and small business customers choosing a competitive supplier for their electric generation.
“Today’s action was about how do we be more transparent? How do we require suppliers to be more practical on educating their customers on potential price fluctuations?” said PUC Chairman Robert F. Powelson in a video news release. “More importantly, it’s called truth in advertising – making sure that the disclaimers are approved and affirmatively signed off by the customer, that they knowingly understand those terms, and we think today’s actions really set the stage for greater notification to customers. In the age of transparency, we think that’s a good thing.”