At its June 18, 2015, Open Meeting, the FCC adopted a Declaratory Ruling and Order resolving 21 requests for FCC action about the application of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act to various scenarios. The TCPA requires prior express consent for non-emergency autodialed, prerecorded, or artificial voice calls to wireless phone numbers, as well as for prerecorded telemarketing calls to residential wireline numbers. The FCC’s order is intended to protect consumers against unwanted robocalls and spam texts.
Among other things, the FCC said that:
- Service providers can offer robocall blocking technologies to consumers and implement market-based solutions that consumers can use to stop unwanted robocalls. This includes wireline carriers, wireless carriers, and VoIP providers.
- Consumers have the right to revoke their consent to receive robocalls and robotexts in any reasonable way at any time.
- The actual called party or subscriber to a telephone number or the number’s customary user, not the recipient of the call, is the person that must provide consent to receive robocalls.
- Consent survives porting from wireline to wireless carriers.
- Prerecorded call set-up information provided by collect calling services, including inmate collect calling services, are not separate robocalls requiring consent.
- If a phone number has been reassigned, companies must stop calling the number after one call.
- A consumer whose name is in the contacts list of an acquaintance’s phone does not consent to receive robocalls from third-party applications downloaded by the acquaintance.
- Consumers are entitled to the same consent-based protections for texts as they are for voice calls to wireless numbers.
- Equipment used to send Internet-to-phone text messages is an autodialer, so the caller must have consumer consent before calling.
- Free calls or texts to alert consumers to possible fraud on their bank accounts or remind them of important medication refills, among other financial alerts or healthcare messages, are allowed without prior consent, but other types of financial or healthcare calls, such as marketing or debt collection calls, are not allowed under these limited and very specific exemptions. Also, consumers have the right to opt out from these permitted calls and texts at any time.
The FCC also clarified that an autodialer is technology with the capacity to dial random or sequential numbers. This definition ensures that robocallers cannot skirt consumer consent requirements through changes in calling technology design or by calling from a list of numbers.